Turkey Brine is a basic solution of liquid and salt that is the answer to a tender, juicy, and seasoned turkey every time. Try this method before you cook my Herb Butter Roast Turkey.
What exactly is turkey brine? Turkey Brine is a solution that a turkey will soak in for 12-24 hours to keep the turkey moist and flavorful. You can still follow your favorite turkey roasting recipe, but doing this prep work helps the meat stay tender and not dry out.
Turkey Brine Recipe
You will need a large bucket, plenty of refrigerator space, and the following ingredients to get your turkey brined. Again, this is just the prep work before you follow your favorite recipe for roasting a turkey. This brine recipe is enough for a 10-18 pound turkey.
Ingredients (full recipe is below in the recipe card)
- Vegetable broth
- Sea salt
- Ice water
Why Brine a Turkey?
You may question whether the prep work of brining a turkey is worth it. Well, if you want a juicy, tender turkey, then this method is the way to go. The salt gives it just enough seasoning to make a difference, but not overpowering, as well as breaks down some of the proteins to make the meat more tender. The liquid saturates the turkey, adding in more moisture.
And, if you need another reason to brine a turkey, think about the leftover turkey sandwiches…you will be thankful for the juicy, tender meat for sure!
How to Brine a Turkey
To get started with the brining process, make sure you have a large pot/bucket (I used about a five-gallon pot) with a lid, space in your refrigerator to store the pot, and your thawed turkey.
First, add the vegetable broth, sea salt, rosemary, sage, and thyme to a large, heavy-duty pot. Bring this to a boil, stirring frequently, until the salt has dissolved. Remove from heat to let the brine come to room temperature.
After the brine has come to room temperature, pour it into your large bucket and stir in the ice water. Remove the innards from the turkey and place it, breast-side down, into the brine. Be sure the cavity gets filled and the turkey is completely submerged. If the turkey is floating, place a sealed bag of ice on top of it to keep it cold and submerged. Put the lid on the bucket and store it in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours.
How to Cook a Brined Turkey
Carefully remove the turkey from the brine and rinse it under cold water. Then, pat dry the turkey with paper towels. Discard the excess brine and follow the roasted turkey recipe as written. Be aware that after brining a turkey, it tends to cook faster than an unbrined turkey. So, I recommend checking the internal temperature up to an hour before the instructed cooking time. The turkey is fully cooked when a meat thermometer reads 165°F.
Can I Brine a Frozen Turkey?
It’s happened to the best of us…a couple of days before Thanksgiving or your holiday meal and the turkey is still in the freezer. The good news is you can both thaw and brine a turkey at the same time! And, you won’t even need to take up space in the refrigerator.
Follow the brining recipe up to storing the turkey in the refrigerator. The submerged frozen turkey will keep the liquid cold enough to keep the meat out of the ‘danger zone’. (You want to make sure the water stays at a temperature of about 40°F. I like to use a probe thermometer to keep track of the water temperature.)
After about 12-14 hours, you can remove any innards from the turkey and continue brining and thawing. Within a couple of days, the turkey should be thawed and brined, which means it is ready to cook!
How to Make Gravy from Drippings
Once you have roasted your turkey, don’t forget to make some gravy out of the drippings. To make gravy, you will need:
- 2 cups turkey drippings
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
To make the gravy, add butter to a saucepan and melt over medium heat. To the butter add the flour and whisk well, creating a roux, or paste. Gradually pour the turkey drippings into the roux and whisk vigorously. Add in the salt and pepper, whisk again, and then simmer over medium-low to medium heat until the gravy is thickened. Serve hot.
- 1 gallon vegetable broth
- 1/2 cup sea salt
- 1 tablespoon dried rosemary, crushed
- 1 tablespoon dried sage
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme
- 1 gallon ice water
- In a large, heavy-duty pot, add the vegetable broth, sea salt, rosemary, sage, and thyme. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently, until salt is dissolved. Remove from heat and let it cool to room temperature.
- When the broth mixture has come to room temperature, pour it into a large bucket (5 gallons, or a bucket large enough to keep the turkey fully submerged). Pour in the ice water. NOTE: I did not have a brining bucket so I made everything right in the pot I boiled the broth in.
- Remove the giblets (heart, neck, liver, heart) of your turkey and place it breast-side down into the brine. Be sure the cavity gets filled and the turkey is completely submerged. (If the turkey is floating, keep it down with a zipped bag full of ice.)
- Cover the bucket and place it in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours.
- Carefully remove the turkey from the brine, rinse it with cold water, and pat dry with paper towels. Discard the remaining brine.
- Cook the turkey following your desired recipe. Reserve the drippings for gravy. (Please note: A brined turkey tends to cook more quickly, so begin checking the internal temperature of the turkey about an hour before the end of the original cooking time.)
Did you make this recipe?
You can tag me at @iamhomesteader.
I don’t have any vegetable broth. Can I just use water or make chicken broth for the brine instead?
Yes, you can use chicken broth.
I thought brine has to have sugar along with the salt.
Can u use chicken broth for the brin thanks
Can u use chicken broth for the be on thanks
I’ve heard that cooking a turkey breast side down makes it come out juicier even if you don’t brine it, is that true?
I have not done that, but have heard the same things. I find that with brining you still get a beautifully moist turkey without having to cook breast down.
Can I brine a turkey breast as well?
A great article! Unless you have a sizeable refrigerator, you might want to rethink brining in the fridge. That’s an awful lot of weight (turkey + brine) and standard refrigerators may not accommodate a five-gallon bucket. I use a 28 qt. cooler and put the bird in a strong white garbage bag, add the cold brine in the bag with the bird, and tie the bag securely with a strong knot or zip tie (a twist tie isn’t strong enough.) Add ice all around the bird @ 1 hour per pound of turkey. Incidentally, I put the turkey in the bag breast-side down in case the brine doesn’t quite cover the entire bird.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!