How to Brine a Turkey in an Ice Chest

If you want a moist turkey, then consider brining it in an ice chest. The salt in brine breaks down the proteins and allows the turkey to absorb seasonings and water. Many brine recipes exist for brining a turkey, but the basic ingredients needed for the solution are water, salt and sugar. An ice cooler allows the turkey to submerge in the brine solution, and it helps maintain the necessary temperature needed for the brining process.

Things You'll Need

  • One whole turkey
  • Sharp knife
  • 2 gallons water
  • 2 cups salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • Stockpot
  • Ice chest
  • Ice
  • Brining bag
  • Thermometer
  • Vegetable oil

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Step 1

Defrost the turkey if it is frozen. The recommended method for defrosting a turkey is placing it in the refrigerator. It needs to defrost 24 hours for every 5 lbs.

Step 2

Prepare the turkey for the brine mixture. Remove the neck and giblets from the turkey’s cavity. Place the neck and giblets in the refrigerator if you plan to use them later, or dispose of them in your trashcan.

Step 3

Use a sharp knife to make a cut through the skin of the turkey’s breast. Make the cut 3 inches wide on both breasts.

Step 4

Combine 1 gallon of water, 2 cups of salt and 2 cups of sugar in a stockpot over medium-high heat.

Step 5

Stir the ingredients until they dissolve. Do not bring the brine mixture to a boil. Remove the stockpot from the heat, and allow it to cool for 15 minutes.

Step 6

Ensure that the ice chest is clean. Add a thick layer of ice to the bottom of the cooler. Place the turkey in a brining bag and place it in the ice chest, with the breast side facing down.

Step 7

Pour the brine over the turkey once it is finished cooling. Add 1 gallon of water to the brine mixture.

Step 8

Place an additional two scoops of ice in the brine. Seal the brine bag, making sure to release any air.

Step 9

Continue to add ice to the cooler to maintain a temperature of 40 degrees F; use your thermometer to be accurate. The turkey will need to brine 1 hour for every pound of turkey.

Step 10

Remove the turkey from the brine. Brush the turkey with vegetable oil or melted butter. Cook the turkey using your desired method.

Tips & Warnings

  • Add 1 gallon of juice instead of water to the ice chest for additional flavor. Orange juice and apple cider are two favorite brining juices.
  • Combine seasoning with the brine to add more flavors to the turkey. Add dried herbs such as cinnamon, basil, bay leaves and oregano.
  • Do not over-brine the turkey.


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