How to Brine a Turkey

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Things You'll Need

  • Kosher salt

  • Sugar

  • Herbs

Brining a turkey before roasting it results in a juicy, tender bird. Unless you go overboard on the salt, or leave the turkey in the brine too long, you needn't worry about it tasting too salty. You do need to plan ahead -- the turkey must be thawed or fresh, and the brining process takes at least 8 hours. You also need room in your fridge for the pot you brine the turkey in, or an alternative method to keep it cold as it soaks.


Step 1

Combine water with kosher salt in a proportion of about 8 to 1, or 2 gallons of water to 4 cups of salt. Add a full cup of sugar if you use 2 gallons of water. Otherwise, adjust the proportion of sugar accordingly. Stir until the salt and sugar dissolve. Add fresh herbs, if desired.

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Step 2

Place the turkey in the brine, breast side down. Cover and place it in the refrigerator, or in a cooler with enough ice packs to keep the temperature below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Leave the turkey undisturbed for about 8 hours.


Step 3

Take the turkey out of the brine and discard the liquid. Rinse the bird inside and out, and pat it dry. Set it in a roasting pan and return it to the refrigerator overnight to dry out the skin.


You can speed up the process of dissolving the sugar and salt by adding them to boiling water, but you need to cool the water before adding the turkey.

Placing the turkey in the refrigerator after brining it allows the skin to dry so it crisps when it cooks. Leave this step out if you’re short on time.

To cook the turkey, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Place the turkey, breast side up, in a roasting pan; rub the skin with butter or olive oil and cover the turkey with foil. Bake until the internal temperature of the breast reaches 165 degrees F as measured with a meat thermometer. Remove the foil for the last hour so the breast browns. It takes about 3 hours and 15 minutes to cook a 12-pound bird.


Remember to remove the giblet pack from the turkey’s cavity before brining.


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