Turkey Brine

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This easy turkey brine recipe infuses turkey (or any poultry) with flavors of lemon, herbs, and garlic. Brine your turkey 1 hour per pound, or up to 24 hours.

turkey brine
Photo:

Rob Culpepper, Food Stylist: Chelsea Zimmer, Assistant Prop Stylist: Josh Hoggle

Active Time:
15 mins
Total Time:
15 mins
Servings:
1 brine
Yield:
1 brine

Everyone wants a moist and juicy turkey, but roasting a turkey can be a challenge. Often roast turkey is dry and bland. A brine is a solution of seasoned liquid that flavors and adds moisture to meat before roasting. 

What Is Turkey Brine? 

Turkey brine is a solution of salt, sugar, and flavorings designed to add flavor and moisture to turkey. During the brining process, salt draws out moisture from the turkey before returning it, along with other flavors of the brine.

Turkey Brine Ingredients 

A turkey brine solution is typically made with salt, sugar, and a base of apple cider and water. This recipe includes lemon and apple cider vinegar as well as a variety of fresh aromatics—black peppercorns, sage, thyme, bay leaves and garlic. 

How to Make and Use Turkey Brine

The key to making turkey brine is to dissolve the salt and sugar completely, then let it cool completely before using it. Never put a raw turkey in hot brine.

In order to use the cooled turkey brine, place the turkey in brine, and place a plate upside down on top of the turkey to submerge it completely. Chill for at least 12 hours and up to 24 hours, or about 1 hour per pound.

You do not need to rinse the turkey after brining; simply pat dry with paper towels. You do not need to season the exterior either.

We recommend letting the turkey air dry overnight to dry out the skin. You can do this by placing the brined turkey on a platter in the refrigerator, with no covering. Drying the turkey overnight helps seal in the moisture and create a crispy skin once the turkey is in the oven.

Because of the large amount of sugar between the cider and brown sugar in the brine, you may need to tent the turkey with foil as it finishes cooking to prevent the skin from overbrowning.

Editorial contributions by Amy Sherman.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups kosher salt

  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar

  • 1 large (5 oz.) lemon, sliced

  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

  • 2 Tbsp. black peppercorns

  • 5 (5-in.) sage sprigs

  • 5 (5-in.) thyme sprigs

  • 4 fresh bay leaves

  • 2 garlic heads (4 oz. total), halved horizontally

  • 8 cups apple cider, divided

  • 2 gal. very cold water

Directions

  1. Place salt, sugar, lemon slices, vinegar, peppercorns, sage, thyme, bay leaves, garlic, and 4 cups of the apple cider in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over high, whisking occasionally to dissolve salt and sugar. Boil over high, whisking occasionally, until very fragrant, about 1 minute.

    turkey brine in pan

    Rob Culpepper, Food Stylist: Chelsea Zimmer, Assistant Prop Stylist: Josh Hoggle

    Pour hot cider mixture into a very large stockpot or other large heatproof container; stir in very cold water and remaining 4 cups apple cider. Use immediately, or store, covered, in refrigerator up to 3 days. 

    turkey brine

    Rob Culpepper, Food Stylist: Chelsea Zimmer, Assistant Prop Stylist: Josh Hoggle

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