How to brine a turkey – an easy turkey brine recipe for the most succulent bird

This is how to brine a turkey like a pro, to ensure your Thanksgiving bird is tender, moist and simply delicious

turkey
(Image credit: Unsplash)

Learning how to brine a turkey is a simple step to ensure that your Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas feast, is one to remember – for all the right reasons! It's been done for years, you probably saw Grandma doing it, and now, it's your turn!

Because contrary to popular belief (usually after sad turkey dinner experiences) turkey is delicious, succulent and NOT dry. But, cook it badly, and you'll beg to differ. So, to ensure that it really is succulent, takes a little elbow grease. It starts with brining the turkey, then knowing how how to cook turkey perfectly. That's the thing with turkey: it's a lean, healthy meat, so it s prone to drying out in the oven, and just needs a little love!

Back to brining, we've included the EASIEST turkey brine recipe out there below, which will help this beautiful bird – that makes all Holiday feasts so great – retain heaps of moisture and to enhance its natural flavor. There are a couple of different methods to choose from, but they essentially do the same thing. So keep scrolling, and happy brining!

Why brine a turkey? 

Just about as many people swear by brining their turkeys, as those that say it makes no difference. However, it's important to note that unless you have a fail safe succulent Thanksgiving turkey recipe at hand, that you've successfully mastered before – without brining – then brining your turkey will simply give you peace of mind for Thanksgiving or Christmas day, as it will ensure you get the juicy results you want. 

When you brine a turkey, the salt in the water both helps to drive water into the flesh and seasons it. Think about it as a very simple (and cheap) marinade of sorts, which won't interfere with the flavor of the meat. 

How to brine turkey

Brine is basically a solution of salt and water – it really is that simple. There are a couple of different ways to do it. Some brine it in the pan directly, then refrigerate it, while you can also prepare your turkey brine separately, then submerge your turkey and let it sit in the liquid overnight.

How long should you brine turkey?

We would say the minimum amount of time to brine your turkey is 8 hours, and maximum 24 hours. 

Turkey brine recipe – method 1

Ingredients:

  • A gallon of water
  • A large pinch of kosher salt
  • A stock cube, or carrot and other vegetable or fruit scraps like squash for added flavor 
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar (optional)

You'll need a large pan and a large sealable food bag like Ziploc.

Method:

1. Add all the ingredients to the pan and bring to the boil.

2. Reduce the heat and simmer for about half an hour.

3. Strain the brine and leave it to cool, before transferring it to the refrigerator. 

Note: Usually you'd make your turkey brine about two days ahead of time, but you can still brine your turkey a little last minute – i.e. the day before roasting it! 

4. To actually brine the turkey. Put your turkey in your sealable food bag, pour in the stock and top it up with cold water until completely submerged.

5. Zip it up, back in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours if you can. Then, remove the turkey from the brine, rinse a little and it's ready for roasting!

How to brine a turkey – method 2

Note: you can use the same ingredients as above, or sub out the stock cube and/or sugar if you prefer.

Method:

1. Add a cup of table salt to a large pot of warm water (it needs to be large enough to hold your turkey). Don't overfill the pot, as the turkey will push the water level up.

2. Gently submerge the turkey in the brine. Refrigerate for 12-24 hours, depending on the size of your turkey. 

A word of caution – don't brine turkeys that have been pre-salted, as the result will be inedibly salty. 

How to cook a turkey that's been brined

In exactly the same way you would any other turkey – except you don't need to worry so much about overcooking it? A brined turkey is less likely to overdry, so a few minutes extra won't do it any harm. Simply cover with your favorite spice mix, add butter, and roast.

Find more recipes at our dedicated hub page.