How to Brine a Turkey and Recipes

Turkey Recipes

This holiday season, you may consider brining your turkey. The unique ability of salt to break down the proteins and change its structure also allows other flavors and seasonings to take hold in the meat. Brining helps bring moisture and flavor to your holiday turkey feast. Always treat brining recipes as guidelines since many people are sensitive to salt. Any amount of salt that is used will have an effect on the turkey. The first thing you need to do is choose the type of turkey you will need for your brining. Kosher turkeys are already pre-salted and do not need to be brined. Any turkey with “water added” of any sodium solution or an “enhanced” turkey should not be brined.

Once you have decided on what turkey to purchase, make sure that you buy a fresh one so that you don’t have to deal with thawing out an entire frozen turkey. One day before roasting, remove the giblets and turkey neck and rinse out the entire turkey. The brine then needs to be prepared according to either the recipe on the package you have purchased or something similar to this one:


Makes enough brine for one 16 to 20 pound turkey

  • 7 quarts (28 cups) water
  • 1 1/2 cups coarse salt
  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon dried juniper berries
  • 2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 1 bottle dry Riesling
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon black or brown mustard seeds

Making the brine

One day prior to roasting, you will need to prepare the brine mixture. You will need to bring 1 quart water, the salt, spices, and bay leaves to a simmer. Keep stirring until the salt has dissolved. Once cool, the brine is ready for use.

Preparing the Turkey

The turkey, thawed remember, should be placed breast down in a large container, preferably a brining or oven-roasting bag lined five gallon container. Add the brine and the rest of the ingredients to the mixture along with 6 quarts of water. Make sure that the container can fit in your refrigerator or a cooler. If you are using a cooler, keep it covered in enough ice to keep the temperature under 40 degrees for the duration of the brining, replenishing as needed. The turkey needs to be completely submerged, so either the bag needs to be tied or something heavy, like a dinner plate, needs to be placed on top of the turkey to keep it below the brine. Halfway through the brining process you may want to flip the turkey once.

Time to Roast!

The turkey needs to be removed from the brine at least one hour prior to roasting. The bird needs patted dry on the inside and out. Proceed to roast the turkey to your own specifications. Due to the high salt content of the turkey, it is not a good idea to make stuffing inside the turkey or to use it for gravy. Those are better prepared on the side in separate dishes.

Have yourself a wonderful holiday season!

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