The Best Turkey Brine Recipe
The Best Turkey Brine Recipe – A simple blend of salt, sugar, and spices will create the moistest and most flavorful turkey you’ve ever made. Give our easy brine and roasting recipes a try for your Thanksgiving turkey!
It’s Brine Time!
Every year around this time I get questions about turkey brining. You ask…
- Should I brine my Thanksgiving turkey?
- Does brining really make that much of a difference? What does it do to the turkey?
- How do you make a turkey brine?
- How long should I brine a turkey before cooking?
- What’s the easiest and cleanest way to brine a turkey?
- Does the turkey need any seasoning after brining?
- Can I take the turkey straight out of the brine and put it in the oven?
- What happens if you brine a turkey too long?
As you can see, it’s high time I wrote a post about turkey brine.
Today I will try to answer all these questions as thoroughly as I can and offer simple roasting steps, so this year you can serve the plumpest, most flavorful turkey you’ve ever roasted. Perfect for Thanksgiving or any holiday gathering!
Should I Brine My Thanksgiving Turkey?
In short, YES you should always brine your turkey. It makes a huge difference in taste and texture.
I have heard many arguments over the years that brining isn’t worth the time and effort. Or that it doesn’t really enhance the flavor of the bird. But after roasting well over 50 turkeys in my lifetime, I can firmly state, brining makes all the difference.
In fact, every time I try a different method of preparing my turkey, I’m always disappointed. Always.
In my opinion, a simple brined turkey, without any extra seasoning, stuffing, or glamor is always the ultimate winner at any holiday gathering.
What Does Brining Do To Turkey?
Soaking poultry in brine does three things that improve the overall dining experience.
- Brining seasons the meat all the way through, not just on the surface, for the best possible flavor.
- Brining locks in moisture, plumps the poultry, and lightens the color of the meat, for the most tender juicy bite.
- The salt alters the skin quality, so it bakes to a crispy golden brown.
Pretty good results, don’t you think?
How Do You Make A Turkey Brine?
Brine in its simplest form is just water and salt. However, our Best Turkey Brine Recipe offers a little more flavor from sugar, herbs, and spices.
You simply mix the salt with warm water so it dissolves into the water. Then add in any additional ingredients.
- Gallon Warm Water – more as needed
- Brown Sugar
- Sea Salt – or kosher salt
- Shallots – roughly chopped, or sweet onion
- Garlic Cloves – smashed
- Whole Peppercorns
- Dried Juniper Berries – optional (or allspice berries)
- Fresh Rosemary – roughly chopped
- Fresh Thyme
What’s The Easiest And Cleanest Way To Brine A Turkey?
Honestly, I find brining a turkey to be a life-saver several days before Thanksgiving or Christmas. After all, refrigerator space is limited, so I want to move the turkey out for other items.
Therefore I always brine the turkey in a cooler. I wash the cooler. Mix the brine in it. Then submerge the turkey in the brine and cover it with ice. It can stay in the cooler for several days, leaving more room in the fridge for pies and side dishes.
You can even dry the turkey in the cooler, resting on ice.
When I’m done with the cooler, I simply dump the brine in the garden, spray the cooler with a disinfectant kitchen cleaner, and spray the cooler out with the hose. Simple.
How To Make The Best Turkey Brine Recipe Ever
- Mix – Pour a gallon of warm water in a clean cooler or large 3-5 gallon bucket. Add the brown sugar, salt, shallots, garlic, herbs and spices. Stir the mixture to dissolve the salt and sugar.
- Dunk – Lower the turkey in the brine. Add additional water to make sure the brine covers the whole turkey entirely, so you don’t have to flip in.
- Soak – Determined brine-time based on the size of your turkey. For a turkey 15 pounds or under, brine for just 24 to 36 hours. For a turkey larger than 15 pounds, brine for up to 3 days.
- Dry – Before you roast the turkey, take it out of the brine water and place on a rack to dry. Use paper towels to pat the turkey dry if needed. You can place the roasting pan in the refrigerator (or back in the cooler) if you want to give the bird a longer time to dry. For the best results, allow the turkey to dry overnight.
- Roast – Rub the turkey skin all over with butter. This helps create that perfect golden exterior. Roast the turkey at a low temperature for 15 minutes per pound.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Long Should I Brine A Turkey Before Cooking?
This depends on the size of the turkey, and how much salt you add to the brine.
The general rule is 1 cup of salt for each gallon of water. Then brine the turkey overnight.
However, I find if you add a bit more water you can brine the turkey longer for a better overall bird. I like to brine a large turkey for 3 days.
What Happens If You Brine A Turkey Too Long?
If a turkey is left in the brine too long it will absorb too much salt. Therefore, I usually make sure I add more water than traditionally recommended.
Does Turkey Need Any Seasoning After Brining?
No additional seasoning is needed after brining! It’s perfectly seasoned from the skin down to the bone.
Can I Take The Turkey Straight Out Of The Brine And Put It In The Oven?
Technically, yes. However, for the best golden-brown crispy skin, you should allow the turkey to dry thoroughly before placing it in the oven.
Then butter or oil the skin to improve the texture even more.
What Are The Pros and Cons of a Brine?
The greatest benefits of brining are juicy meat, enhanced flavor, and golden crispy skin. A con would be having to think ahead 2-3 days before cooking your turkey, and having to clean a bucket or cooler, twice. However, we believe the pros far outway the cons of brining.
Dry Brine vs Wet Brine?
Dry brining is a method of covering a turkey (or chicken) in a thick layer of salt, without the water. With this preparation, the salt pulls the turkey juices to the surface, fuses with them, and releases them back into the turkey. Yes, a dry brine does offer a little less clean-up than wet brining, and gives the turkey greater flavor and moisture than no brining at all. But in my humble opinion, it is still not as effective as a traditional wet brine.
Wet brines allow you to infuse much more flavor than just salt. You’re flavoring the turkey with a touch of sweetness, fragrant herbs, and spices. Plus, the liquid is able to work its way inside all the nooks and crannies of the turkey much better than a dry brine.
We’ve tried both methods, and although a dry brine is better than no brine, I would go with a wet brine every single time! You can also brine a whole chicken for amazing flavor.
More Delicious Recipes For The Holidays
- Garlic Butter Scalloped Sweet Potatoes
- Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Beer
- Asian Spiced Thanksgiving Turkey – How to Cook Turkey in the Oven
- Apple Cider Turkey Gravy Recipe
- Sausage Mushroom Thanksgiving Stuffing
- The Best Creamed Spinach Recipe
- Cranberry Jalapeno Honey Baked Turkey Breast
- Best Mashed Potatoes
- Turkey Meatball with Orange Marmalade
- Low Country Boil
- Southern Butter Beans with Bay Leaves
- Harry Potter Pumpkin Juice Recipe
- Moist and Fluffy Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread Recipe
- Best Southern Sweet Potato Casserole Recipe (with Marshmallows and Pecans)
Check out the printable recipe card below for the nutrition information including calories, protein, sodium, and fiber percentages.
Best Turkey Brine Recipe
- Place a gallon of warm water in a clean bucket or cooler. Add the brown sugar, salt, shallots, garlic, herbs and spices. Stir to dissolve the salt and sugar.
- Carefully submerge the turkey in the brine. Add an additional 1/2 gallon of water to make sure the brine covers the turkey entirely. (Or more water!)
- If using a bucket, cover the bucket with plastic and place in the refrigerator for 1 to 3 days. If using a cooler, filled it with ice to keep the turkey cold for up to 3 days.
- The brine time should be determined based on the size of turkey. For a turkey 15 pounds or under, brine for just 24 to 36 hours. For a turkey larger than 15 pounds, brine for up to 3 days. *If you want to brine a smaller turkey for a longer period of time, reduce the salt to 1/2-3/4 cup, so it is not overly seasoned.
- Before roasting, take the turkey out of the brine water and place on a rack for at least a couple hours. Allow the turkey skin to dry thoroughly. Use paper towels to pat it dry if needed. You can place the roasting pan in the refrigerator (or back in the cooler over ice) if you want to give the bird longer to dry. (The dryer the skin, the better it browns. Drying it overnight is best.)
- Once dry, rub the turkey skin thoroughly with butter. Sometimes I stuff the turkey with herbs, but this is not necessary.
- Roast the turkey at 325° F for 15 minutes per pound. Roast uncovered for the first couple hours, then tent with foil the last hour to make sure the breast meat doesn’t overcook. When using a meat thermometer, the breast meat should be 165° F.
- Allow the turkey for rest for at least 25 minutes before serving to allow the juices to redistribute.
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