How to Brine a Turkey

By Good Life Eats
Created March 8, 2017
Anyone who's ever eaten my turkey says it's the best they've ever had. Here is my twist on the brine recipe my mother-in-law gave me, as well some great tips for roasting a flavorful turkey. MORE+ LESS-

I'm lucky that as a young bride, my mother-in-law gave me some excellent tips when it was time for me to host my first Thanksgiving. I especially appreciated her tips on how to roast a turkey. She introduced me to brining, something I had never before heard of, but I knew that the turkey I had eaten at her home was the best I'd ever had, so I followed her advice.

Here is my twist on the brine recipe she first gave me as well some great tips for roasting a flavorful turkey. Anyone who's ever eaten my turkey says it's the best they've ever had. And it's all thanks to my mother-in-law. I'm lucky to have such a sweet one!

If you’ve ever experienced a dry, tasteless Thanksgiving turkey you’ve surely been disappointed. All those hours preparing and cooking to have something come out not quite right can be pretty disappointing.

Using a brine, like my Herbed Turkey Brine, is an easy way to guarantee that you won’t experience that disappointment! Brining consists of preparing a salt water solution in a 1:8 cup ratio of salt to water. The bird is then soaked in the brine for a period of time, much like a marinade. To put it scientifically, the brine hydrates the muscle tissues allowing them to retain moisture during cooking which helps the meat stay moist.

The simple 1:8 cup ratio if salt to water can be enhanced by steeping fresh herbs in the liquid to infuse the meat not just with moisture, but flavor as well. Additionally, you can substitute part of the water for other liquids, such as apple cider.

You must keep the salt to liquid ratio the same, but you can increase or decrease the full amount in order to accommodate the size of what you plan to brine.

Brining Tips:

1.  Brining should only be used on turkeys that have not previously been soaked in a salt water solution. Fresh, unfrozen turkeys are prime candidates for brining. If you plan to use a previously frozen turkey, check the label first to see if it was soaked in a salt water solution. If unsure, call the phone number listed on your turkey’s packaging to speak to a company representative.

2.  Use KOSHER salt only.

3.  I usually soak my turkey in the brine for 45-60 minutes per pound. So a 12 pound turkey would soak in the brine for 9-12 hours.

4.  The turkey and the brine solution must remain a minimum of 40 degrees F. If it is cold enough – but not too cold – you can leave the turkey outside on your porch or in the garage. Otherwise you will need to supplement with ice packs or bagged ice, or refrigerate.

5.  After the brining process, transfer the turkey to a roasting pan, pat dry, discard the brine and prepare for roasting as you usually do. You will not need to salt the bird when preparing it for roasting. Stuff with herbs, quartered onion, carrot, celery, and rub with butter.

Click here for the Herbed Turkey Brine Recipe!

Katie Goodman believes that part of the goodness in life is sharing good food with friends and family. She's a work-at-home mom determined to make family meal time a priority while providing a variety of healthy and delicious food choices. She blogs at goodLife {eats}, where she shares what she finds good in the kitchen and in life.