How to Brine a Turkey - Mise en Place

How to Brine a Turkey, Start Today!

Friends, I’d like to warn you that due to the nature of this post it will be in progress and updated with additional pictures over the next 4 days.

This year I have opted to brine a turkey. This process involves soaking the turkey in a salt water solution that can also include other adjunct flavorings. The result is an incredibly flavorful and moist bird.

How to Brine a Turkey - large container
Seven gallon stock pot doubles as a turkey brining container.
How to Brine a Turkey - dissolve salt in half gallon warm water
Dissolve salt in half gallon warm water

Brining is, by no means, a new thing, but it is most certainly very cool, especially if you have elementary school aged kids who may be learning about osmosis in science class.

How to Brine a Turkey - dissolve sugar and other ingredients
Add sugar, ginger, sage, rosemary, allspice berries, black peppercorns.

A lot of cool things happen when you brine meat. The salt in the brine will disrupt the structure of the proteins in the meat. This will make the meat very tender after roasting. Additionally, the natural salinity level of the meat is lower than the salinity level of the liquid which means your bird will absorb about 10% of it’s weight in water as well as all of the flavors added to the water making it very  moist and flavorful after roasting.

How to Brine a Turkey - Remaining Liquids
Add 1/2 gallon vegetable stock, 1/2 gallon beer, 1 gallon ice water

The really amazing and convenient aspect of brining your turkey is that you can thaw your turkey as it brines! If you have a frozen turkey the frozen bird will act like a big ice cube and will regulate the temperature of the salt solution it brines in keeping it at a safe 40 degrees if kept covered in a cool place (Ex. garage, basement).

How to Brine a Turkey
Submerge turkey in brine liquid. Add more water to cover.

However, if your turkey is already thawed you will want to brine in a container in your refrigerator or add ice to keep the water at 40 degrees. You can use a probe thermometer to keep track of the temperature as your turkey brines.

How to Brine a Turkey
Use something clean and heavy to hold the turkey submerged.

My turkey is somewhat thawed so I have added ice to keep the temperature at 40 degrees. This might not have been necessary if I had remembered to chill my vegetable stock, homebrew, and water for my brine. Also, my digital probe thermometer has decided it would like to increase it’s reading to 170 degrees F when plunged into ice water, so I am using an analog thermometer (It’s ok probe thermometer, we all have our moments).

How to Brine a Turkey - Temperature 40 Degrees
Maintain 40 degrees to keep meat in the safe zone.

How to Brine a Turkey

  • 1/2 Gallon hot water
  • 1 C. Kosher salt
  • 1/2 C. light brown sugar
  • 5-6 Sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 3-4 Sprigs fresh sage
  • 1 TSP. black peppercorns
  • 2 TSP. chopped candied ginger
  • 2 TSP. allspice berries
  • 1/2 Gallon vegetable stock, cold
  • 1/2 Gallon Belgian Specialty Ale, or other sweet homebrew
  • 1 Gallon iced water
  • 1 11-16 Pound turkey, removed from wrapping
  1. Begin brining turkey 3-4 days ahead of time of service.
  2. In a large container (such as a large stock pot), dissolve salt and brown sugar in 1/2 Gallon of hot water. Add rosemary, sage, black peppercorns, ginger, and allspice. Stir to soak all ingredients and allow to steep for about 10 minutes.
  3. Add vegetable stock, beer, and ice water.
  4. Submerge turkey, breast side down, use a clean growler filled with water (or some other clean weighting-down-device) to keep turkey submerged. Use a digital probe thermometer or calibrated analog thermometer to monitor temperature. Maintain constant temperature of 40 degrees by either adding ice to container or storing in refrigerator. Store covered, checking occasionally until the day you plan to roast your turkey.

Heads up! I will write a secondary post on How to Roast a Brined Turkey! Both of these posts will be updated with new pictures as we proceed.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!

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