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Turkey Brining Recipe

Wet Brine Method

The turkey brining recipe and methods discussed on this page will make all the difference in the texture and flavor of your birds.

Brining can be a key first step for preparing your turkey - as taste tests often show.

Basic Wet - Turkey Brining Recipe:

2 gallons (256 oz) water (use enough water to completely cover the bird)

1 1/2 cups Morton Kosher salt* (add enough salt to create between a 3% and a 6% solution by weight)

1/2 cup brown sugar (sugar can be added to offset some of the saltiness)

4 bay leaves (herbs and spices and other aromatics can be added for flavor)
1 Tablespoon peppercorns
1 bunch sage
1 bunch thyme

The above recipe gives the proportions for a simple turkey brine. Increase or decrease the amounts proportionally to the liquid volume you will need to cover your turkey.

* There has been some confusion about the dry volume measure of salt needed in a turkey brining recipe because the equivalent weight will vary depending on the type or brand being used. Weight and volume relationships are not the same. The difference is caused by the shape of the salt crystals which change the density. When substituting one type of salt for another, remember that the volumes listed in the following table are equivalent.

Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt 2 cups
Morton Kosher Salt 1-1/2 cups
Table Salt 1 cup

To obtain the same amount of salt by weight, you need to use the volume measure listed in the second column. In other words, the weight of one (1) cup of ordinary table salt is equivalent to two (2) cups of Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt.

A brine works at about a 3% solution so you do not want to reduce salt much below that. A 6% solution is about the most salt you want to add.

Turkey Brining Recipe - Mixing the Brine:

Figure out the volume of wet brine you will need by placing the turkey in the brining container and completely covering it with water. (If the container is not "food grade" it should be lined with a food grade brining bag.) Remove the turkey and measure the volume of water.

Using the proportions in the above basic wet turkey brining recipe, calculate how much of each dry ingredient should be added to the volume of water needed for your turkey.

Example: If the water required to cover the turkey measures 1 and 1/2 gallons, the proportions for the other ingredients will be: 1 1/8 cup Morton kosher salt; 3/8 cup brown sugar; 3 bay leaves; 2 1/4 teaspoons peppercorns; 3/4 bunch sage; and, 3/4 bunch thyme.

Mix the salt and sugar in a pot with some of the water (1 quart) over heat. Stir while heating until the salt crystals are dissolved.

How much liquid brine did you need? Subtract the quart of hot water with the dissolved salt and sugar, subtract one quart of water that you will add in the form of ice, and pour the remaining volume of water into the brining container.

Add the hot liquid to the brining container, add the herbs, add ice to make up the rest of the liquid. (Two pounds of ice equals one quart of water.)

Your salt solution is the critical part of the brine. A little more or less of the herbs will not really make much of a difference.

Herbs going into brine

Turkey Brining Recipe - Soaking the Turkey:

Make sure that the brine is cold. Place the thawed turkey in the brining liquid and add a weight, if necessary, to make sure it stays submerged.

Important: Never place a turkey in a warm brining solution; it invites bacteria to begin growing.

Place the brining container with the turkey in the refrigerator. Soak the turkey in the wet brine for 24 hours, or at least overnight. Brining turkey pieces can be done in as little as two hours.

At the end of the soaking time rinse the turkey inside and out, then pat the turkey dry inside and out with a clean dish towel. (Put the dishtowel in the laundry - it's contaminated.)

You can roast or deep fry the turkey directly after brining.

turkey going into brine

Barbequed Brined Turkey

If you are going to barbeque (hot-smoke) the turkey, you should remove it from the brining solution the night before you are ready to barbecue. This will allow the turkey to dry.

Place the turkey, unwrapped, on a tray on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator to be sure no drippings from the turkey can contaminate other food in the refrigerator. This uncovered rest in the refrigerator gives the turkey's skin a chance to dry out and form what is called a pellicle (a hardened outer layer). The pellicle is necessary to seal in juices as the turkey is barbequed (or hot-smoked) and it also gives the smoke and flavor something to adhere to.

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