Take your Thanksgiving turkey to a whole new level with this best turkey brine recipe! Made with whole spices and garlic, this easy turkey brine is a no-muss, no-fuss Thanksgiving tradition that creates a super tender and juicy turkey.
Why You’ll Love This Best Turkey Brine Recipe
Looking for an amazingly easy recipe for brining your Thanksgiving turkey? After years of being in charge of our family’s turkey, I have refined this turkey brine to perfection!
- Quick and Easy: Brining a turkey isn’t complicated and this turkey brine recipe is here to prove it. You need just a handful of ingredients to prepare it and it’s simple to use too.
- Boosts Flavor: The best reason for bringing a turkey is to make the most juicy and flavorful Thanksgiving turkey. We amp up the flavor with simple ingredients like garlic, dark brown sugar, and allspice.
- Customizable: This particular recipe provides a great base to then add your preferences such as: citrus, herbs, onions, or southwestern spices.
At the simplest level, brine can be made with just two ingredients: water, and salt. My recipe adds some extra goodies for flavor, while still keeping it simple. Check the recipe card at the bottom of the post for exact amounts.
- Salt: I use kosher salt, but regular table salt or sea salt would be fine.
- Dark Brown Sugar: A touch of sweetness brings out the flavor of the turkey.
- Vegetable Stock: Try store-bought or homemade, whichever you have. You can also use chicken broth or turkey broth.
- Black Peppercorns: Whole peppercorns add flavor and are easy to work with.
- Allspice Berries: You’ll want the whole all spice, not ground, just like the peppercorns.
- Garlic: Smash a few garlic cloves, no need to chop.
- Ice Water: Go heavy on the ice, so the turkey stays cold.
How To Brine A Turkey
This quick and easy brine comes together in just minutes. It might be the easiest thing to prepare for the whole Thanksgiving meal! Here’s how to make a brine for turkey:
- Boil: Combine all ingredients in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Stir to mix, bring to a rolling boil for 2 minutes, and then remove from heat.
- Cool: Cool the brine to room temperature, and then pour it and the cold water and ice into an extra large pot, a clean 5-gallon bucket, or a plastic bag lined cooler large enough to hold your bird.
- Brine: Place the thawed turkey into the brine, breast-side-down. If necessary, weigh down the bird with something heavy to make sure it’s fully submerged. Cover the container or close cooler lid and refrigerate for 6 to 8 hours, turning the turkey over halfway through.
How Long to Brine a Turkey
6 to 8 hours is the minimum time needed to brine a turkey. If you want to be exact, brine for 1 hour per pound of turkey. I brine my turkey overnight, so I usually leave mine in the brine for about 12 hours. I do not recommend leaving a turkey in the brine for any longer than 48 hours.
Do I Rinse the Turkey After Brining?
It’s a good idea to rinse away excess salt before roasting the turkey. Make sure to sanitize the sink and counters before and after rinsing to best eliminate any cross contamination with raw, poultry juice. Pat it dry with plenty of clean paper towels before seasoning and roasting the turkey.
Tips for Success
If this is your first time making a turkey brine, here are a few things to keep in mind.
- Don’t Brine Salted Turkey: If your turkey has already been treated with salt, skip brining or you risk over-salting the meat. For example, Kosher turkey is already salted, and turkeys labeled basted, self-basting or enhanced have usually been injected with a salt solution.
- Check Your Fridge: If your turkey hangs out in the refrigerator while it’s brining, make sure you have room before starting the process. Adjust shelving and racks as necessary.
- No Room in Fridge? Consider using a high quality cooler (or an affordable cooler, just keep checking the ice levels) that will maintain a safe temperature. Sanitize the cooler and line with a large plastic or brining bag. Add the turkey and brine to bag and tie to seal. Pack ice around the outside of the bag. This is a great hack; especially if you want to brine for 24 hours or more. Keep an eye on the ice and add more as needed. Be sure to sanitize the cooler after removing the turkey.
- Weigh Down: To keep turkey completely submersed in brine, wrap a couple of clean bricks in foil and place inside a cast iron skillet. Place on top of the turkey to keep it covered with brine.
Turkey Brine Variations
This truly is the best turkey brine recipe, but can you can absolutely customize it to your tastes. Try these variations:
- Apples and Oranges: Replace some of the water with apple cider, and a sliced orange, along with a few whole cloves.
- Garlic and Rosemary: Double the amount of garlic, and add sprigs of fresh rosemary.
- Lemon Pepper: Cut onions in quarters and add them to the brine, along with slices of fresh lemon.
- Wine and Herb: Replace some of the water with a dry white wine, and add bay leaves, sprigs of sage, rosemary, and thyme.
More Must Make Thanksgiving Recipes
The Best Turkey Brine Recipe
- 1 cup kosher salt
- ½ cup dark brown sugar
- 1 gallon vegetable stock, chicken stock or turkey stock
- 3 tablespoons black peppercorns
- 2 teaspoons allspice berries
- 5 garlic cloves, smashed
- 1 gallon heavily iced water
- Combine the vegetable stock, salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, allspice berries, and garlic cloves in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Stir to combine and bring mixture to a boil. Let boil for 2 minutes and then remove the brine from the heat.
- Cool the brine and then combine the brine mixture and iced water together in an extra large pot or 5-gallon bucket (if you have the room in your fridge).
- Place the thawed turkey breast side down in the brine. If necessary, weigh down the bird with something heavy to ensure it is fully immersed in the brine.
- Cover and refrigerate the turkey for 6 to 8 hours, turning the bird once halfway through brining.
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