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What are the Secrets to Turkey Brining?

What are the Secrets to Turkey Brining?

To be honest, I have never brined a turkey, but only because I didn't know how. I thought it would be complicated and time consuming. This year I decided to do some research on if brining was the best way to season my bird and determine if I should try this technique or just make the same roasted turkey I do every year. I've previously figured out the Secret to Marinating Your Turkey and wanted to try something new.

What is Turkey Brining?

Brining is a process in which the turkey is infused with flavorful spices by soaking the turkey in a mixture of salt, sugar and a variety of spices before roasting. The brining process actually draws water and the dissolved spices into the turkey to produce a moist, tender and flavorful bird. The salt in the brine alters the protein structure of the turkey making it tender and moist.

What Kind of Turkey Can be Brined?

Avoid turkeys that are self-basted or flavor injected, as these meats have already been through the brining process. Kosher turkeys have a salty stock added that will produce a very salty turkey if brined. A natural turkey that has not been infused with additives or an organic or fresh turkey is generally good for the brining process. This gives you the ability to control the amount of additives and flavorings that are added and to use fresh savory spices to achieve the best taste. The turkey should be completely defrosted before beginning the brining process.

How Long Does It Take to Brine A Turkey?

Generally, once you have prepared the brine and are ready to soak the turkey, it is recommended that you allow 1 hour per pound of turkey to complete the brining process. Too long in the brining solution can produce a salty or mushy turkey.

Where Do I Brine My Turkey?

There are many different ways to actually submerge the turkey for the brining process; however, the most important thing to remember is that the turkey must stay refrigerated (40 degrees or cooler) during the entire process. Some people use a food grade container and brine the turkey in the refrigerator. You can submerge the turkey in a 5 gallon bucket, although it may be difficult to keep the turkey from 'floating' and your common 5 gallon container from the home store is probably not food grade. The safest method, if you do not have room in the fridge is to put the turkey and the brine is a large brining bag and put the sealed bag in a cooler filled with ice, making sure that the temperature around the turkey stays at 40 degrees or cooler during the brining process.

What Ingredients Do I Use in the Brine?

This, to me, is the most exciting part of the process as there are many different combinations of spices and liquids to create a festive and tasty turkey. Most recipes call for a combination of water and/or juice, salt, sugar and spices. Depending on the taste you are going for will determine what type of recipe will work for you.

Brining Directions:

  1. Mix 1 cup of salt in 1 gallon of water - bring to a boil until salt is dissolved.
  2. Remove brine from heat and add 1 cup of sugar and brine seasonings. Stir until sugar is dissolved.
  3. Cool brine and add 1 gallon cold water, apple juice or apple cider. You can experiment with many types of juices to compliment your recipe.
  4. Once brine has cooled completely (you can add ice to the brine to speed this process) place the turkey in the brining bag and add the brining mixture. Make sure the entire turkey can be submerged in the mixture. Seal the bag.
  5. Add a layer of ice to a cooler bigger than the turkey and place the sealed turkey bag on the ice and fill the remainder of the cooler with ice, completely covering the turkey.
  6. Allow the turkey to remain in the brining solution for a recommended 1 hour per pound of meat.
  7. Remove the turkey from the brine, rinse the entire turkey and pat dry. Discard brine mixture.
  8. Let turkey set in refrigerator, uncovered for about an hour before roasting.
  9. Follow directions for your preferred roasting method.

I am looking forward to trying this process this year and I am confident that I will prepare a turkey that will be flavorful, and delicious. I hope this information helps you decide to incorporate the brining process into the traditional method of preparing your holiday turkey.

Good Spices to Use for Your Turkey Brine

There is a wide range of spices and seasoning blends you can use to give you bird an extra little kick. We have a handful of useful Turkey Rubs and we also recommend these spices:

Read More

19 Turkey Brines, Marinades and Rubs
Marinating Your Turkey
Using Turkey Rubs


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