Follow Our Turkey Brine Recipe for an Extra Juicy Turkey on Thanksgiving (2024)

Nothing's worse than a dry piece of meat, especially a dry turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. To avoid this, many people are fans of turkey brining. Here, we show you how to brine a turkey and share an easy wet brine recipe. Plus, our handy chart shows how much brining liquid you need for different cuts and quantities of turkey, chicken, and pork.

What is Brining?

Brining is the process of submerging meat in a saltwater bath, allowing any lean type of poultry or pork (like turkey, a whole chicken, or pork chops) to absorb extra moisture while raw. This way, it won't dry out during cooking. And because the water is seasoned, it flavors the meat from the inside.

If you are interested in a different kind of brine, learn the differences between dry and wet brine.

Tips Before Starting

Before brining your turkey, keep these tips in mind:

  • Brine fresh turkeys. Because most frozen turkeys are prepared with a sodium solution, if you brine the frozen turkey, you risk it becoming too salty. Look for turkeys that are not pre-salted (check the label), and avoid those labeled as kosher or enhanced.
  • Clear your fridge. Brining a turkey requires space. You'll need a large enough pot to fully submerge the turkey, but one that also fits in the refrigerator. Alternatively, some people brine their turkey in the fridge's crisper drawer—it's large, out of the way, and can be lined with a brining bag for easier cleanup.
  • Plan ahead. Because brining is a lengthy process—and the bigger the cut of meat, the longer it needs to brine—it's best to brine your turkey the day before cooking. It won't have enough time to soak up the liquid and flavors if you brine it the morning of your feast.

Do not brine a turkey in a cooler or container that doesn't fit in your refrigerator. Your turkey must be kept cool (40 degrees or below) before cooking to avoid bacteria growth and foodborne illnesses.

How Long to Brine Turkey

Depending on the size of your turkey, you should brine it for anywhere from eight to 24 hours. A 12-pound turkey needs about 12 hours of brine time. However, don't brine a turkey longer than 24 hours—it may be too salty, and the protein can start to break down, causing mushy meat. Follow the guidelines on our chart below to see how long to brine various types of meat and how much brining liquid to use.

Simple Turkey Brine Recipe

For 1 quart of brine, use this recipe. Multiply it 2, 4, or 8 times (as necessary) to make 2 quarts, 1 gallon, and 2 gallons, respectively.


  • 1 cup water
  • 3 Tbsp kosher salt (or 2 Tbsp table salt)
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 bay leaf
  • 1/4 tsp black peppercorns


  1. Combine ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir until the salt and sugar have completely dissolved.
  2. Turn off the heat. Add 3 cups of cold water to the mixture and cover.
  3. Allow the brine to cool to room temperature.

For extra flavor, add citrus peel, fennel, chiles, fresh herbs, and spices (like cumin, coriander, star anise, and cinnamon sticks), which can subtly flavor the meat. Add one or two of your favorites to the brine, along with the bay leaf and peppercorns.

How to Brine a Turkey

Follow these steps to easily brine your turkey before cooking.

Make the Brine

Mix the brine following the recipe above. Be sure you have enough liquid to adequately cover your turkey. Let the brine cool to room temperature before adding the turkey.

Be sure to let the brine cool before using it since warm or hot liquid on a raw turkey can cause bacteria growth.

Submerge the Turkey

Place the raw whole turkey in a large pot and cover with the brine. Or, add the turkey to the same large pot used to make the brine. The important thing is to ensure the turkey is completely covered in the liquid.

If the turkey is floating, place a plate in the pot to help push it down.

Refrigerate the Turkey and Brine

Cover the pot and place in the refrigerator. Brine the turkey for about 12 hours and no more than 24 hours. (The brining time will depend on how large the turkey is.)

Rinse the Turkey

Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse it in a sink full of cold water. (You could also submerge it in a large pot of water.) Rinse the outside of the turkey and the cavity to help remove excess salt. Discard the brine—do not reuse it.

Thoroughly clean your sink after rinsing the turkey to avoid cross-contamination.

Dry the Turkey

After rinsing, pat the turkey dry using paper towels. Optional: For crispier skin, place the turkey on a rack or pan in the refrigerator and allow it to dry overnight.

Roast the Turkey

Cook the turkey using your standard roasting method. It's OK to roast it right after finishing the brining process.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can you mix the brine ahead of time?

    Yes, you can make your turkey brine a few days before you're ready to brine the turkey. Store it in the refrigerator until ready to use.

  • Do you rinse a turkey after brining it?

    Though we generally advise against washing raw meat (of any kind) due to food safety, we do recommend rinsing a turkey that's been brined. It helps remove excess salt, so you don't end up with an overly-salted bird. Carefully rinse the cavity and outside of the turkey and thoroughly clean the sink and kitchen surfaces afterward.

  • Does turkey need to be seasoned after brining?

    It's not necessary to season your turkey after brining it. The salted brining liquid has penetrated the turkey from the inside. Though no additional salt is needed and could create a salty bird, feel free to coat the turkey in herbs or other spices for added flavor.

How Much Turkey Per Person Is Enough? A Guide for Serving Turkey

Follow Our Turkey Brine Recipe for an Extra Juicy Turkey on Thanksgiving (2024)
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