Learning how to brine is the simple secret to serving a moist, tender turkey (plus, it enhances the bird's flavor). For most turkey brine recipes, start with a stir-together saltwater solution and be sure to plan ahead, since marinating takes eight to 12 hours.
Step 1: Buy and Prep Your Bird
For this turkey brine recipe, fresh turkey works especially well, but a frozen bird will do as long as it is not self-basting or enhanced with a salt solution. The added solution in these birds would make the meat too salty if also brined. If the bird is frozen, thaw it in the refrigerator (plan ahead, as this may take a couple of days). Rinse the turkey inside and out; if desired, pat dry with paper towels. You can also brine meaty turkey pieces.
Turkey Brine Tip: When purchasing a turkey, keep in mind that an 8- to 12-pound turkey makes about 10 to 12 servings.
Step 2: Put Together the Turkey Brine Recipe
The brine recipe is a saltwater solution that penetrates the meat while marinating, adding moisture and flavor. If you've ever experienced dry turkey breast, you'll appreciate why this technique is so popular. In addition to salt and water, you can also flavor the brine with sugar, brown sugar, maple syrup, fruit juice, beer, peppercorns, herbs, and/or garlic.
For an 8- to 12-pound turkey, you will need a 10-quart pot that is tall and deep. If a large pot won't fit in your refrigerator, substitute a turkey-brining bag. In the pot, combine 5 quarts hot water and 1-1/2 cups kosher salt or 3/4 cup table salt. To flavor the brine, add 1-1/2 cups sugar (or substitute part maple syrup and part packed brown sugar), one bunch fresh thyme, five bay leaves, and 45 black peppercorns. Add 3 quarts ice and let the brine stand until the ice melts.
Turkey Brine Tip: The key to making a turkey brine recipe is the salt-liquid ratio. Too little salt won't produce an effective brine, and too much will make the turkey salty. If you add beer or juice, substitute it for some of the ice.
Step 3: Start Brining
Add the turkey to the cold brine in the pot. Press and weigh down the turkey with a clean plate or two. This allows all of the bird to be submerged in the turkey brine. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 8 to 12 hours.
Turkey Brine Tip: Keep an eye on the marinating time, since overbrining can cause the turkey to get mushy and overly salty.
Turkey Brine Tip: For a bird larger than 12 pounds, increase the amount of the brine recipe so the turkey will be totally submerged when weighed down with the plates. Marinate for at least 12 hours.
Step 4: Drain the Turkey
Remove the turkey from the brine and discard the brine. It is too salty to cook the turkey in. Pat the turkey dry with paper towels. Now your turkey is ready for roasting.
Try These Turkey Brine Recipes:
-I'm Lauren from the Bette Homes and Gardens Test Kitchen. To max out the flavor of your next holiday turkey, consider the secret to success brining. At its simplest brining is a technique where meat or poultry is soaked in a salt solution for several hours before cooking that's add incredible flavor and moisture to the meet. Just make sure that your turkey hasn't been enhanced by salts already and isn't self-pasting. This will make the meat way too salty. First, dissolve half cup kosher salt and 1 quart of hot water. In the test kitchen, we always make our brine with kosher salt. It dissolves easily and doesn't have the harsh taste of table salt. At this point you can also add flavorings like maple syrup, brown sugar, fresh herbs or whole spices. You can even use a can or two of cola. Once the salt and any sugar have dissolved, add 3 more quart of ice water to cool down the temperature of the brine then pour the brine over your thud turkey in a large resealable plastic container or largest bowl or brining bag. Now, store the turkey in the refrigerator. And here's an insider test kitchen secret. One of our favorite tips is to use a small, clean cooler with a little extra ice in the brine to keep the mixture cold. No refrigeration necessary which is a good think at Thanksgiving. After all, who has enough room in the fridge whatever container you use, brine the turkey overnight for 8 to 12 hours. When ready to roast, remove the turkey from the brine and pat it dry with paper towels. If it's nice and dry before roasting, you'll end up with a browner, crispier skin. Trust me, you'll be amazed at how much flavor this Better Homes and Gardens Brining secret can bring to your holiday turkey.