Brining a turkey before roasting it is one way to get a tender, moist and flavorful bird.  Here are some steps for successful brining.

Apple Cider-Brined Turkey with Savory Herb Gravy
Credit: Becky Luigart-Stayner; Melanie J. Clarke

What is Brining?

Brining turkeys is a technique where the turkey (or other meat) is soaked in a saltwater mixture in order to tenderize, moisturize, and flavor the meat. It’s method that comes in and out of style and there are debates about the pros and cons of brining. Some cooks claim that it’s the only way to get a moist and juicy bird; other claim that it doesn’t make a difference and you can get a juicy bird without brining.

Steps for Brining

Prepare the brining mixture according to your recipe directions.

Use two turkey-size oven bags, one placed inside the other, or buy a food-grade resealable brining bag in order to prevent leaks. (You can buy these bags at places such as Williams-Sonoma, Bed, Bath, and Beyond, or other types of cooking stores.) Fold down the sides of the bag for a contamination-free seal, then place the turkey in the bag, breast side up.

Transfer the bag to a large cooler filled halfway with ice, snuggling the bag down into the ice. Spread open the top of the folded bag, then pour the brine over the turkey.

Fold up the sides, press out any excess air, the seal the bag. Fold over the top of the bag and completely cover bag with ice. You can brine a turkey in a large bucket, stockpot, or other large container, but it needs to stay in the refrigerator. Since most people don’t have that kind of room in the refrigerator, we recommend using a cooler. Also, you can just pour the cooled brine mixture over the turkey, seal the bags, and place the bags directly in the refrigerator instead of covering the bird in ice.

Check the temperature of the ice with a thermometer to make sure it registers 40 degrees or lower at all times so that bacteria can’t grown. Keep the cooler shut, and refill with ice as necessary.

Soak the turkey in the brining mixture 12-24 hours.

Remove the turkey from the brining mixture and discard the brining mixture.

Cook the turkey according to your recipe directions.

Brining Tips

Pay attention to the balance of salt in the brining mixture because too little salt won’t do any good and too much salt will make the turkey taste too salty.

Kosher salt works well for the brine because it dissolves more easily than table salt.

Use a fresh turkey instead of a frozen for brining because many of the frozen turkeys have already been injected with salty solutions.

For more recipes, see our collection of Turkey Recipes.