How to Brine a Turkey (Whole)
How to Brine a Whole Turkey
This time of year, there are many turkey recipes and how to articles that describe best methods of cooking turkey. Brining is becoming a popular preparation for turkey and other game or pork. During the holiday season, you may be thinking about brining turkey breast or a whole turkey.
The method of brining turkey depends in part on whether you are merely cooking breast of turkey or preparing an entire bird. Whether you plan on roasting turkey in the oven, cooking it over the grill, or even frying a turkey whole, brining is an excellent method of seasoning and helps retain moisture in the meat. After all, no one likes a dry tasting turkey!
In this hub, I'll show you how to brine a turkey (whole). We've followed these instructions year after year at Thanksgiving, and have never been disappointed.
To brine a turkey, leave yourself least 12-24 hours ahead of cooking time, depending on the size of your bird. You will need the following:
1. Large Brine Bag: The entire turkey will need to fit in the bag, with ample room for 5-8 quarts of liquid to be added. A brine bag must be sealable;
2. Large container or refrigerator in which to place the turkey while it is brining;
3. Brining seasonings, depending on your taste (described below);
4. 1/2 - 1 cup Vinegar or Bourbon;
5. 1/2 - 2 cups granulated sugar; and
6. Ice water
Brine Your Turkey for a Juicy, Tasty Bird
In order to brine a turkey (or chicken, other game or pork), salt and seasonings are the main ingredients. With a liquid brine, flavor is imparted to your meat before cooking, and the salt in the mixture helps retain moisture to ensure that you have flavorful, juicy cuts to enjoy.
Once you know how to brine a turkey, you may never go back to plain roasting or grilling again!
Brining should be considered the first step in preparing your turkey or other meat. After brining, you can grill, roast, fry or otherwise cook your turkey as desired.
Several words of caution: be sure to brine poultry or pork that has not already been pre-seasoned, and start with meat that is 100% thawed.
Once you are finished brining, you will want to be sure to completely rinse off the brining solution so that your bird is not too salty. Also, watch to be sure the meat does not stay in the brine too long. When you brine a turkey, you can expect to use less seasoning or salt when its fully cooked.
As noted above, you'll need one hour per pound of turkey/meat. Don't leave a 20-25 pound bird in the brine for longer than a 24-hour period.
How to Brine a Thanksgiving Turkey
How to Brine a Whole Turkey
1. Remove thoroughly thawed turkey from wrapping, rinse and pat dry. Remove giblets and set aside. (NOTE: any size whole turkey is appropriate for this recipe, from 10-30 pounds )
2. Dissolve sugar in 3 quarts (12 cups) water over medium heat. Add brining seasonings, as desired, whether you purchase pre-packaged brine, or make your own (see suggestions below).
3. Remove brining solution and allow to completely cool.
4. Place brining bag into a roasting pan and carefully add whole turkey, breast side down.
5. Add 5 quarts ice water into brining bag, then add cooled brining solution and 3/4-1 cup apple cider vinegar or bourbon
6. Seal brining bag completely, removing any air
7. Place turkey in a refrigerator or cooler for 1 hour per pound of turkey (therefore, a 24 pound turkey should be allowed to brine for 24 hours).
8. After brining, remove promptly from solution - do not overbrine - and rinse thoroughly to remove all salt and seasonings. You do not want an excessively salty turkey!
9. Cook turkey as desired, whether roasting, grilling or frying.
Brining a Turkey (Whole)
Recipes for Brining Turkey
With four kids, I'm looking for easy brining recipes. So, I've usually considering pre-made brining spices to use for my turkey. There are a number of kits you can purchase, which include the spices, brining bag and directions. But, you can save money by making your own brining solution.
The base for any homemade brine is to mix 1/2 - 1 cup of iodized salt with 1 gallon of water. From there, you can add other spices, provided that they do not include salt!
Here are a few of my favorite brining recipes:
- 6 quarts tap water
- 1 pound kosher salt
- 1 cup molasses
- 2 cups honey
- 1 cup soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon dried sage
- Large bunch fresh thyme
- 2 heads garlic broken into individual cloves, unpeeled
Dissolve salt in water, then add other seasonings. Whisk together, then add to the turkey in a brining bag. Remove after 1 hour per pound of poultry, rinse and cook bird.
- 1 gallon cold water
- 2 quarts apple juice
- 2 quarts orange juice
- 2 cup salt (3 cups Kosher or coarse salt)
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 10 whole cloves
- 1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
Dissolve salt, sugar and nutmeg in 2 types of juices, warmed over medium heat. Add cloves and cold water. Cool completely and then add to turkey in brining bag.
- 1/2 cup salt
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 quarts chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 tablespoon dried rosemary
- 1 tablespoon dried sage
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme
Dissolve salt, sugar and spices in water or stock, as called for above. Cool completely, then add to brining bag with turkey or other poultry.
Dry Brining Turkey
Cooking the Turkey after Brining
Remove the turkey (whole) from the brining solution and rinse completely. Afterward, prepare the turkey for cooking - whether in the oven, the grill, or fried.
You don't have to change your cooking methods if you have brined the turkey first.
If you have your own turkey brine recipes, please be sure to share in the comment section below!
Roast a Turkey
© 2011 Stephanie Hicks
More by this Author
Crab and spinach mini quiches make a quick and healthy family meal to prepare on weeknights. This quiche recipe does not require a crust, which saves time and lowers calorie content. Kids and guests love mini quiches,...
Delicious turkey burger recipes for a new taste and fewer calories and fat
Get away from the European main land and head to one of these 12 islands instead for your next vacation. Culture, beauty and a unique experience await.