Turkey Brine

I strongly believe that a brine is essential to a delicious and moist turkey.  I’ve done it twice now and will never look back.

Here’s my recipe which is definitely enough for a bird that’s in the range of 15 to 25 pounds.  The first time I used it on a 24 pound bird and the second time was on an 18 pound bird, and it worked great both times.  If you need to, just adjust the amount of water that you use for a smaller or larger bird but keep everything else the same.  You don’t have to be really precise here – the salt and liquid are the most important ingredients, the spices and everything else just add additional flavor.  If you have concerns about the salt use 1.5 cups of salt, but 2 cups is recommended.

In my experience, I saw no reason to heat all the liquid up just to cool it down again.  So, I only heat the cider with everything else, then I add the water to the cooled mixture.

And another note  – I feel that it is a two person job to pour the brine into and out of the bag.  The first year that I did it, Tim was on second shift and I had to do it by myself and I ended up with a river of brine flavored turkey juice running down my counter and onto the floor.  Needless to say, I was pissed and almost cried.  And you better believe I let the profanities fly…..and then I sanitized my whole kitchen.  This year, Tim helped me and we still laughed that it would be nice to have an extra set of hands to hold the bag open!  Good times!

Turkey Brine

source: adapted from Pioneer Woman

Ingredients {again, they are approximate, eyeball the peppercorns and cloves}:

2 cups apple cider or apple juice

1.5 to 2 cups kosher salt

2 cups brown sugar

peel of 2 whole oranges – peel only, no white part

5 dried bay leaves

1 Tbsp dried thyme

1 Tbsp dried rosemary

2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half

3 Tbsp peppercorns

2 cloves of garlic, smashed

10 whole cloves

~1 gallon of water

You’ll also need a large bag {or two if you want to be extra safe and double up to prevent leaks}.  Sometimes these are sold as oven bags, turkey bags, or brine bags.  You can usually find them in any grocery store in the Ziploc storage bag aisle.


In a large stock pot over med-high heat, combine everything but the water.  Stir to combine and bring to a boil.  Stir until the sugar and salt dissolve.  Allow to completely cool, then add the water, and store in the fridge until needed (3-5 days before is fine).

When you are ready to brine, remove all packaging from your turkey, check the cavity for the neck and giblets and remove them.  Rinse the bird and look it over for any feathers, remove any that you find. {Clean your sink well after the turkey has been in it.}  Place the turkey in the large bag and then place the bag in a cooler or other storage vessel.  Pour in the brine and add additional water to cover the bird.  Close bag, cover with ice if using a cooler and let set for 8-10 hours/overnight.  I have heard you can leave it for 12-16 hours+, but 8-10 hours has worked for me.  If possible, turn the turkey at least once during brine time.

Once brine time is up/in the morning.  Pour off and discard the brine, rinse the turkey and pat it dry, place on roasting rack.  {Clean your sink again.}  Fill cavity with aromatics – I like to add a quartered onion,  1 or 2 celery stalks cut to fit inside, 1-2 carrots cut to fit, 1 or 2 cloves of garlic, bunch of fresh herbs (sage, rosemary, thyme, and parsley), and a quartered orange &/or lemon.  Rub the turkey skin with butter if you like.

Roast as directed for the recipe you are following, a rule of thumb is 20 minutes per pound at 350 degrees or until internal temp reaches 170 degrees.

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