How To Brine a Turkey

This is the best way to roast a turkey. Called by some “foolproof roast turkey,” this method turns bland, dry turkey meat into something moist and flavorful. You might even “save” a holiday from an all-out family brawl with this recipe. Just keep everyone’s mouths satisfied, busy savoring the juicy meat, so that no one’s mouth is open long enough to say something that might hurt someone else.

If you plan to use this method, this weekend is when to start the process to be ready by Thursday. Sunday is a good target day for a frozen bird. A fresh bird will need to soak a maximum of 72 hours.

Of course, my favorite chef, Sally Schneider, has the best recipe in her A New Way to Cook. She doesn’t just make salt water, she starts with aromatic brine. Here’s her recipe: Foolproof Roast Turkey

Aromatic Brine

  • 2 gallons water
  • ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 carrot peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 celery rib, coarsely c hopped
  • 1 leek, white and light green parts only, coarsely chopped and washed
  • 3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 2 imported bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1-tablespoon coriander seeds
  • ½-teaspoon fennel seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 star anise (optional)
  • 1 12-14 pound organic free-range turkey, giblets, liver and neck reserved for another use
  • 1-tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 large rosemary branches, tied together to make a brush for basting

How to make the brine

  • In a large stockpot, bring 1 gallon of the water to a boil.
  • Stir in the salt and sugar until completely dissolved.
  • Turn off the heat and add the onions, carrot, celery, leek, thyme, bay leaves, peppercorns, coriander and fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, and star anise, if using.
  • Stir in the remaining 1-gallon cold water. Let the brine cool completely, then refrigerate until cold.
  • Rise the turkey inside and out with cold water.
  • Carefully place the turkey in the brine.
  • To keep the turkey submerged in the brine, place a weight such as a heavy plate or pot lid on top of the bird. Refrigerate for 72 hours.
  • Remove the turkey from the brine and pat dry (discard the brine).
  • Place the turkey on a rack in a large roasting pan and rub all over with olive oil.
  • Let sit for 1 hour to come to room temperature.

How to roast your brined turkey

  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  • Roast until the turkey starts to brown, about 25 minutes.
  • Turn down the oven to 350 and roast about 10 minutes per pound, for a total of 2-21/2 hours, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh reads 160 degrees F.
  • As the turkey roasts, baste frequently with the pan juices, with the rosemary brush.
  • If the bird begins to darken too much, cover loosely with foil.
  • Remove the turkey from the oven, transfer to a serving platter, and let rest for 20 minutes before carving.

My little boy says, every time we open the fridge, “Our Turkey is taking a bath.”

13 comments to “How To Brine a Turkey”
  1. love the bath comment – too cute 🙂 just wanted to say have a fab thanksgiving as i’m off to thailand on monday & will probably not be able to check blogs till after 10 dec. all the best to you & the fam!

  2. Thank you. I’m not in charge this year – in fact, never. I guess I’m not trusted to do it right…;)

    (Hey Susie – how do you make the cute little icons on your posts. I know how to create social bookmarks, but they are bulky and ugly. If you ever get a chance, I’d love to make my site all pretty-like. Thanks.)

  3. Sara, have a FABULOUS time.

    Lisa, the turkey, really is the easiest part. Getting the lumps out of the mashed potatoes — now that takes some talent.

    Those cute little icons were created by Dountiss — this is his latest plugin. This one, of course if specifically for wordpress, but I’m sure there’s one for blogger. Here’s the link:

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