How to Brine a Turkey with with Step-by-Step Instructions and Recipes

A turkey brine makes the meat moist and seasoned throughout, especially if you add herbs and spices. By placing your bird in the salt bath you end up with a delicious turkey that you may not have got, had you cooked it conventionally.
We hope you enjoy these turkey brine recipes that we have for you. We have great holiday recipes that are free for the taking. Enjoy!

Containers for your Turkey Brine

When you brine a turkey you will have to think of what you are going to place the turkey in. Whatever container you choose, you have to make sure that it is big enough for your turkey to sit in it comfortably. There should be at least 1 inch of free space around the outside of the turkey, and at least an inch to 2 inches at the top.

A large plastic tub, or a large stock pot will equally be fine for the job, as long as you have that space you need.

Secondly, you will need to see if your container will now fit into the fridge. A turkey is a big bird, and the container will be even bigger.

How to Brine a Turkey

  • When you brine a turkey, only use a fresh turkey. Frozen turkeys usually contain a basting solution in the meat.
  • A 12 -14 pound turkey will need 2 gallons of brine. For this you will need 1 cup table salt. If you use kosher salt use it at a ratio of 1 cup of kosher salt per gallon. Remember different types of salt have different strengths. They are not all the same.
  • When you brine a turkey make sure that it is completely covered with the brine.
  • Always drain the bird after removing it from the brine and pat dry with paper towels. It is not necessary to rinse the bird afterwards, but you may do, if you wish. I recommend rinsing due to the reasons below.
  • You can stuff your turkey after it has been removed from the brine. However, go easy on the seasoning because it may be more salty than usual, especially if you didn't rinse the cavity out.
  • Again, if you don't rinse the turkey under a running tap after brining, you will end up with patchy skin, so not such a great looking bird. This is why I recommend that you rinse the bird after removing it from the salt solution.

Turkey Brine Recipes

When you mix the salt with the water, and then add it to the container you need to make sure that you have enough liquid to cover the turkey once it is in the brine. If there is just a little liquid needed to make up the shortfall you can do one of 2 things.

1. Just add more plain water to the container
2. Place an object, like a full bottle of water, or something to displace the rest of the water.

If you find that you are a lot of water short, you will need to mix up a further amount of salt water. This time, only mix up half the solution needed. If you look at the recipe below, this would be 1 cup table salt and 1 gallon of water, or even half of that may be what you need.

Basic Turkey Brine Recipe for a 14 lb Turkey

This is a very basic turkey brine recipe . You take 1 cup of table salt and mix it in 2 gallons of cold water.

Remove the plastic packaging, make sure that there are no giblets in the cavity. If there are remove these and use them for making your turkey gravy. Rinse the turkey inside and out in some cold, running water. Remove any pin feathers that are still present. Now soak your bird in the turkey brine for
4-6 hours in your fridge.

If you need to soak the turkey overnight, then halve the salt amount and soak for
12 hours in your fridge .

After the allotted time, remove the bird from the brine mixture and rinse it under the tap in cold water. Pat dry with some kitchen paper toweling. Rinse and dry inside the cavity as well.

Although you can now roast your turkey, it is better to place it in the fridge overnight. This allows the skin to dry out, so that when you do roast it, you will get a crispy skin, and the flesh will still be wonderfully moist.

Herb and Honey Turkey Brine Recipe

A turkey in a pot of brine.
Photo courtesy of Chris Young

This next brine recipe is more complex, but only in ingredients, nothing else. The procedure is the same as the recipe above. This is a good brine recipe if you want to use turkey pieces, rather than brining a whole bird.

1/3 cup salt
1/4 cup honey
1 cup water
1 head of garlic, cut but not peeled
3 bay leaves
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
4 sprigs of fresh sage
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
2 teaspoons allspice berries
1/4 cup celery leaves
1 whole turkey, cut up into pieces

Take a saucepan and add the salt and the honey. Add 1 cup water and cook over a high heat. Stir until dissolved.

Remove from the heat, and add the rest of the ingredients. Allow for the herbs and spices to infuse in the honey and salt mixture for 10 minutes.

Taking a large casserole dish that will take 4 quarts of liquid, add a cup of ice cubes and 2 1/2 quarts of cold water.

Rinse the turkey parts and place in the mixture. Make sure that you cover the container with glad wrap. Place in fridge overnight.

The following day, remove the turkey parts from the brine and pat dry. Place the pieces on baking racks place in roasting pans that have 1 cup of water in each. Make sure the turkey has been placed skin side up on the racks. Dot with butter, and scatter herbs of your choice on the top. Fresh or dried will do.

Roast at 425 degrees F. for 30 minutes or until beginning to brown. Reduce heat to 400 degrees F. and continue to cook for another 15 minutes or so, until cooked.

Apple Cider Turkey Brine

2 cups kosher salt or 1 cup table salt
2 cups brown sugar
2 gallons apple cider
6 cups water
4 apples, cored, peeled and sliced thinly

Place all the ingredients into a stock pot and place on the heat. Stir to dissolve sugar. Allow the brine to come to the boil and then remove from the heat and allow to cool. When cold lower the turkey into the brine and make sure that it is fully covered.  

Place in the fridge for
6-8 hours if your bird is 8-12 pounds . Leave for 12 hours if your bird i s 12-14 pounds. Leave overnight for a bird 16-20 pounds .


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