Best Ever Turkey Brine Recipe

Best Ever Turkey Brine Recipe - Dish 'n' the Kitchen Pin image of a perfectly browned roasted, and stuffed Turkey in a black roasting pan.

Dear readers, here it is: The Best Ever Turkey Brine Recipe. Have you been waffling upon the age old turkey question…to brine or not to brine? Have you been using the same method to cook your turkey since forever and a day? Let me tell you, once you start brining your holiday turkeys, you’ll never have a dry-ass turkey again!

To Brine or Not to Brine

There are several reasons why you should brine your turkey and only one reason not to. Should I give you the bad news first? A brined turkey is higher in sodium than a non brined turkey. There, I said it. The very first time I brined a turkey for Thanksgiving, my father in law had just been diagnosed with high blood pressure. I was SO worried that I was going to kill him with my turkey. Since I didn’t know that you should RINSE the turkey off before stuffing and roasting it, the whole meal tasted like we were frolicking on the salt flats of Salar de Uyuni

Ingredients for a turkey brine laid out on a wooden board.

Salt Matters

Thankfully there are several ways to ensure you do not over-salt your dinner guests…umm your turkey. Number one is buy a fresh turkey. This is the only way to know that your turkey is free from any preservatives, etc. Following that, the first thing you should do upon releasing your turkey from the briny depths is rinse it thoroughly. This is usually enough for my family (minus grandpa). Another suggestion is to fill a sink with cold water and let the turkey lounge in it while you are getting the stuffing ready. Fifteen minutes should do it. Please, for the love of God, thoroughly sanitize the area after the turkey is safely tucked away in the oven!

Finally…The Good News!

Now for the good news…brined turkey not only tastes great, the meat stays juicy. Yes, that even includes the breast meat! Would you believe that there is a scientific reason why salting meat before cooking it leaves the meat tender and succulent? Here’s why, according to Harold McGee, author of ‘On Food and Cooking’:

Brining has two initial effects. First, salt disrupts the structure of the muscle filaments. A 3% salt solution dissolves parts of the protein structure that supports the contracting filaments, and a 5.5% solution partly dissolves the filaments themselves. Second, the interactions of salt and proteins result in a greater water-holding capacity in the muscle cells, which then absorb water from the brine… In addition, the dissolved protein can’t coagulate into normally dense aggregates, so the cooked meat seems more tender. Because the brine works its way in from the outside, it has its earliest and strongest effects on the meat region most likely to be overcooked, so even a brief, incomplete soaking can make a difference.”

A beautiful fully cooked and stuffed in a black roasting pan.

Helpful Turkey Brine Recipe Hints

As previously mentioned, my first attempt at brining a turkey was less than satisfactory. On a whim I purchased a brine mix that I found at Winners. It came in a kit along with the giant brining bag. The next year I put a bit more thought into it and created my own turkey brine recipe, basing it on this Cider Braised Pork Roast. When I boil up the brine for this turkey brine recipe, I never add all of the liquid at once. I would have to use a really HUGE stock pot to do so and it would be really heavy.

Since the main reason for heating up the brine is to dissolve the salt, all you really need to add is about half of the liquid. Don’t forget to add the other half later on as you are bagging the bird! Speaking of bagging, try and squeeze out as much air as you can before sealing the bag. This will ensure that more of your bird is surrounded by brine.

What Do You Brine a Turkey In?

For brining, not just any old bag will do. It must be strong and large enough to contain the turkey and all that brine. Where do you find a large enough bag? You can always just use a clean, food safe plastic pail. Then how does it fit in the fridge? Ziploc makes HUGE bags that are 3 feet x 3 feet (almost a metre!). They have a double ziploc closure and are really strong.

This isn’t an affiliate endorsement, but it should be! I always support the entire set up by setting it in a rectangular plastic wash basin that we use for camping. It fits into the fridge quite perfectly, ensures the turkey is surrounded by brine, and I don’t have to worry about spills. By the way, don’t be worried if you can’t get all the brine into the bag. As long as the bird is surrounded in brine everything will be okay.

A raw turkey sits in a brine bath.

Being Caught Unprepared

Sadly, this is the year I don’t get to brine a turkey for Thanksgiving. Our son and daughter-in-law are hosting this year so my job is to bring a dessert and a side dish. He caught me unprepared a few days ago when he texted to ask me how to make the turkey brine. I had all the photos ready for a turkey brine recipe post but had just never gotten around to writing one. Sort of strange when you consider that a major reason I started this blog was to pass on my cooking knowledge to my kids! So, this one’s for you Zack, even though you never read the blog. Perhaps someday you will!

Pin my handy dandy turkey roasting chart HERE.

A useful chart for roasting turkeys according to size and stuffing. #turkeychart #howtoroastaturkey #roastedturkey

Pin Best Ever Turkey Brine Recipe  HERE.

Pinterest image showing a beautiful fully cooked and stuffed in a black roasting pan.

 

Thankful for Sides from Dish ‘n’ the Kitchen

Spinach Stuffing Balls

Veggiedukken

Yield: 20 servings

Best Ever Turkey Brine Recipe

Best Ever Turkey Brine Recipe

The Best Ever Turkey Brine Recipe. Have you been waffling upon the age old turkey question…to brine or not to brine? Let me tell you, once you start brining your holiday turkeys, you’ll never have a dry-ass turkey again! *Allow 12-24 hours for brining.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Additional Time 4 hours 30 minutes
Total Time 4 hours 55 minutes

Ingredients

FOR THE BRINE

  • 3 cups Apple Cider
  • 8 quarts Cold Water (Almost 2 full 4 L milk jugs)
  • 2 Fresh Rosemary Branches (or 2 tbsp dried rosemary leaves)
  • 5 cloves Garlic; sliced
  • 1-1/2 cups Pickling Salt
  • 2 cups Brown Sugar
  • 3 tbsp Peppercorns
  • 2 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 6 Bay Leaves
  • 2 Large Oranges; use the peels (with not too much pith) and squeeze in juice
  • 1 apple; sliced
  • a handful of fresh thyme

TO ROAST

  • 1/4 cup cold butter

Instructions

FOR THE BRINE

    1. First thing in the morning, measure the liquids by adding the apple cider to a clean 4 L milk jug then top it off with cold water. Combine this with all other ingredients (except fresh herbs) in a large pot.
    2. Bring to a boil until salt has completely dissolved, then turn off heat and cover. Let cool completely (you may need to stick it outside or in the fridge).
    3. Pour the cooled brine into a large brining bag or clean food safe pail (I like to support the bag in a rectangular plastic wash basin that we use for camping). Add a second 4 L jug of cold water to the brine.
    4. Add in fresh herbs.
    5. Place uncooked turkey in brine solution breast side down, seal the bag getting rid of as much air as you can. Place in refrigerator.
    6. The next morning turn the turkey over in the brine solution and brine until you want to begin to cook the turkey.
    7. Brine for 12-24 hours.

    TO ROAST

      1. Remove turkey from brine and rinse thoroughly. Pat dry. Discard brine.
      2. Place turkey breast side up in the roasting pan (if you have a rack, place the turkey on it first).
      3. Slice butter thinly and loosen skin over turkey breasts. Place butter under the skin so that it sits between the meat and skin. Repeat until breasts are all buttered (the turkey's, not yours!)
      4. Stuff your turkey, or not.
      5. Season with pepper. You really don't need salt.
      6. Add a bit of water to the roasting pan. Maybe an inch.
      7. Completely cover the turkey with foil (or with a lid if you have one).
      8. Roast at 325° F (160° C) according to table on main post.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

20

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving:Calories: 135 Total Fat: 3g Saturated Fat: 1g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 1g Cholesterol: 6mg Sodium: 77mg Carbohydrates: 29g Net Carbohydrates: 0g Fiber: 2g Sugar: 25g Sugar Alcohols: 0g Protein: 1g
Nutritional calculation was provided by Nutritionix and is an estimation only. For special diets or medical issues please use your preferred calculator.

28 comments

  1. Lynn

    Can’t wait to try this…. I’ve eaten brined turkey before and loved it. Worried about salt, but you explain things well enough so as not to fear brining. Wish me luck!

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      Thanks for stopping by Lynn. By taking all the listed precautions, the salt content is greatly reduced. Enjoy turkey time!

      Reply

  2. Jessica

    Thank you for making this process sound so acheivable! And that turkey roasting chart is also so helpful, right in time of Thanksgiving!

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      I wish I was making one this Thanksgiving, but sometimes the torch must be passed!

      Reply

  3. Vanessa | Zest & Simmer

    Love the flavours you have in this brine! This will make for such an excellent turkey day!

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      It sure does! Thank you for stopping by Vanessa and Happy Cooking!

      Reply

  4. Kristen

    The brine sounds delicious and this is such a great how to post for those that have never tried a brine before. Our favourite way to do a turkey is to slather it in ghee, herbs and spices!

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      oh my!! That sounds amazing…I’m a big fan of butter!!

      Reply

  5. [email protected]

    This is wonderful, Bernice! I appreciate so much having recipes such as this that can be used year after year. Your Best Ever Turkey Brine sounds like a winner to me and I can’t wait to try it. Many thanks for sharing.

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      Good luck and Happy Thanksgiving Denise!

      Reply

  6. Leanne

    I’ve never brined my turkey before! I need to try that some time, perhaps for Christmas. And thanks for sharing the turkey roasting chart. So helpful!

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      Once I started brining my turkeys, I never looked back. We all just love the flavour so much. Happy Thanksgiving Leanne.

      Reply

  7. Matt - Total Feasts

    What a great little guide for turkey brining. I’m bookmarking for when I’m cooking Christmas dinner!

    Reply

  8. Terri

    I really want to try brining my turkey one day! It sounds delicious! Thanks for the excellent instructions.

    Reply

    1. Kelly

      I gathered all the ingredients to brine for the first time… A little nervous about the turkey being too salty… I have a 23# fresh turkey. Think I’ll be ok if I rinse well and soak for 15 minutes?? Very nervous

      Reply

      1. Bernice Hill

        Hi Kelly, it should be fine with that amount of rinsing. Keep in mind that if you stuff the turkey, the stuffing will be quite salty. We like it that way but if you want, do the stuffing on the side.

        Reply

  9. Katie

    Can’t wait to try this brine this year for Thanksgiving! Do you have a recipe for a stuffing to stuff the bird with?

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      Strangely enough I do not. I always make stuffing AND my Spinach stuffing balls and both seem to always disappear…here’s the link if you’re interested

      Reply

  10. Brandy S

    It’s been a few years since I’ve had to make a turkey due to working Thanksgiving every year. This year, I’m not working, and I’m hosting. So I have a couple of questions, just want to be certain. With this brine, I do not need to rinse it after brining correct? Also, you mentioned placing the turkey and brine in the refrigerator the next morning. So does that mean when you first place the turkey in the brine you leave it sitting out all night?

    The recipe sounds great, I’ve just never brined so a little nervous.

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      Oh heck!! While converting my recipe over from another card, I cut the one sentence off. It should read “6.The next morning turn the turkey over in the brine solution and brine until you want to begin to cook the turkey. ” Instead of “5. Place uncooked turkey in brine solution breast side down, seal the bag getting rid of as much air as you can. Place in refrigerator the next morning” That’s a HUGE mistake, thanks for catching that. All fixed now!! Also, YES you have to rinse the turkey well or you’ll end up with a salt bomb. It says so in the recipe. Happy Turkey-ing!!

      Reply

  11. Debbie

    Just wanted you to know that I wanna try your recipe simply because you made me laugh til I almost peed my pants. However, the recipe sounds amazing and can’t wait to try it. Thank you for the laughs and of course the recipe!!

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      Hahaha, I love to hear that. Thanks so much for sharing…I like to inject a little personality into my posts, just for fun!

      Reply

  12. Kelli

    Buttering your breasts… 🤣 Hahaha! You’re awesome!
    Going to give it a try! Thanks for the recipe!! 🤞🏻 ✌🏻

    Reply

  13. Vic

    This is my second year referring back to this recipe. We love it! Last year we smoked it, and the end result was divine. This year I will bake one tonight and smoke one tomorrow, I used apple juice and water in my roasting pan to keep the turkey moist. Thank you for this article!

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      Thank you so much for coming back and letting me know, you’ve made my day! Smoked…wow! We should give that a try as I’ve never had a smoked turkey before. Happy Thanksgiving Vic!

      Reply

  14. Molly

    Question for a rookie- do I need to tie my birds legs with twine? Don’t see that listed in the roasted steps. Thank you!

    Reply

    1. Bernice Hill

      Sure, if you like but it’s not necessary. It’s more of a presentation thing.

      Reply

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