Brining is easy. It just takes a little bit of forethought and understanding. The benefits are a juicier more flavorful turkey. Brining also buys the home cook a bit of extra time and leeway. Since moisture is retained it is harder to overcook the bird and easier to to have succulent evenly cooked white and dark meat.
I usually select a turkey in the ten point range. You want it to be be fresh or completely thawed out but not frozen. At it’s most basic, a brine is just salt water, but how salty? A friend once told me a brine should be as “salty as the the sea.” I find that to be a good rule of thumb. For those type A people out there we have a brining recipe with salt measurements.
Perfect Turkey Brine Recipe
- 1 gallon water
- 4 C ice
- 1 C Kosher salt
- 3/4C. of brown sugar
- 1/8 C peppercorns
- Handful of fresh herbs (Thyme, Rosemary, Sage)
Combine salt, sugar, herbs and spice and 1/2 gallon (8 cups) of water in a large pot and place over medium-high heat. Stir until sugar and salt are dissolved. Bring to a rolling boil, then lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Stir in remaining 1/2 gallon water and ice.
Pour brine into a container just large enough to hold the liquid and turkey. A large stock or canning pot usually works well. Remove neck and giblets from the turkey and place in your stock pot. Pour the brine over the turkey until just submerged. If needed you can add more ice water to cover, but be careful not to dilute your brine too much. Keep refrigerated for 48 hours.
The night before you roast the bird remove it from the brine and pat it dry. Leave uncovered in the fridge to allow the moisture to evaporate completely.
Other Turkey Brine Variations
- Beer brine – Replace water in the recipe with light or lager beer.
- Smoky brine – Replace Kosher salt in the recipe with a smoked sea salt.
Do not use a self basting, pre-seasoned or kosher turkey. This will result in the turkey being far too salty.