Turkey Brine Recipe
This bright citrus and herb-infused turkey brine recipe guarantees juicy turkey every time. It’ll easily become your holiday go-to!
Say Goodbye to Dry Turkey With This Fab Turkey Brine Recipe.
There’s no better way to guarantee yourself a tender and juicy turkey than to give it a soak in a salt bath. Poultry lacks the fat that pork and beef have, and that fat adds a lot of flavor. It also locks in juices during the cooking process. So turkey needs help, and marinating isn’t the answer. (America’s Test Kitchen confirmed that marinating poultry does nothing.) But a good turkey brine recipe is our friend! A brine breaks down the strands of protein in the meat over time which makes it incredibly tender. It also increases flavor absorption and moisture retention. There are two ways to brine a turkey: with a wet brine or a dry brine. In this post, I’m going to tell you how to brine a turkey with a wet brine.
How to Brine a Turkey.
Brining a turkey is incredibly easy, it’s just a matter of having all the right things and the right ratios. Here’s a breakdown on how to brine a turkey.
- Choose a good container. You want a large non-corrosive container that is big enough to fit your turkey, but small enough to fit in your fridge. I like to use a large stainless steel stock pot. You could also use a large plastic container or brining bag.
- Make your brining solution. One cup of coarse salt per one gallon of water (1:1) is the key ratio for your brining solution. Bring the water/cider and salt to a boil and let it simmer until the salt has completely dissolved. Let it cool completely before you transfer the turkey to the brine. You can speed up the cooling process by adding ice to the brine.
- Refrigerate the turkey. Cover your container with a lid and place the container in the refrigerator for the proper amount of time (one hour per pound). I recommend placing the container on the lowest shelf to prevent the brine from spilling on any other food items. Once the raw poultry hits that brine, it’s contaminated.
- Remove the turkey and dry it. About 30 minutes before you plan to cook the turkey, carefully remove it from the brine and rinse it under cold water. Place it onto a roasting pan or plate and gently pat it dry with paper towels. I carefully drain my brine into the sink since this is the easiest way to get rid of it, just be sure to disinfect the sink and surrounding area to avoid any cross-contamination. afterward.
How to Brine a Turkey Breast.
If you’re feeding a small crowd, a turkey breast makes the most sense. When it comes to brining a turkey breast, follow the same process as for a large turkey, but cut the ingredient amounts in half. You’ll also want to brine same-day since most breasts are 3-5 lbs, leaving you with just a few hours of brining time. (Remember, one hour per pound!)
Ingredients Used in This Turkey Brine Recipe.
- Apple cider. I use this instead of water, but you could also do half water and half apple cider.
- Fresh herbs. I like to use the prepackaged “poultry blend” when I can, which includes fresh sprigs of rosemary, thyme, and parsley. You can also throw in some sage, oregano, and a few bay leaves!
- Citrus fruit. I’m pretty devoted to oranges and lemons when it comes to brining turkey. Depending on the recipe and how you’ll be seasoning it, limes could also work. Make sure to use the fruits in their entirety! Squeeze the juices from the fruit and then plop the remains into the brine. This really brightens up the flavors.
- Garlic. I use a lot of garlic. I smash a bunch of cloves of garlic before dropping them into the brine because it releases a stronger flavor.
- Spices. Other than salt, I like to add whole peppercorns to the brine. You could also throw in cinnamon sticks, anise, cardamom pods, or cloves, depending on what you’re going for.
- Sugar. Adding sugar is important. Again, it balances out the saltiness. I always go for brown sugar because I think the deeper flavor really jives with the apple cider.
- Other liquids. I love cooking with apple cider throughout the cooler months, and this is the perfect opportunity to do it. Most brine recipes that I’ve stumbled upon that use cider use a pretty minimal amount. I’ve gone as far as to use an entire gallon before, and it was fantastic! So don’t be shy. You can also use a splash of Worcestershire sauce or a bit of wine.
How to Make Turkey Brine for a 12-16 Pound Turkey.
- Transfer 2 gallons of apple cider (or water if you go that route) to a large stock pot.
- Add 2 cups of salt and 1 cup of brown sugar to the liquid. Bring it to a rolling boil, then lower it to a simmer until the salt and sugar have dissolved.
- Remove the stock pot from the stove and let it cool completely before you transfer the turkey to the brine. If you want to speed up the cooling process, add some ice!
- Once cooled, transfer the turkey to the brining container, descending it into the liquid slowly to avoid any spilling. Add the herbs, smashed garlic cloves, and spices to the brine; squeeze citrus juice into the brine and then put the citrus halves into the brine as well.
- Cover, and pop the container in the fridge.
How Long to Brine a Turkey.
This question gets asked so often, I feel like I can’t repeat it enough. After all, it’s crucial to get it right! The rule is one hour per pound. If you’ve got a big 12-16 lb bird, you can get away with brining overnight, up to 18 hours. A turkey breast, however, will be a same-day brine. If your turkey breast is 3 lbs, brine it for 3 hours; if it’s 5 lbs, brine it for 5 hours, etc.
Useful Tools for This Recipe:
- Sharp knife
- Cutting board
- Juice reamer
- Container for brining (large stainless steel stockpot, large plastic container, or brining bag)
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Liner bags (optional, but handy)
Brining Tips + Tricks.
- Instead of using a container, you can use a brining bag.
- For easier cleanup when using a container, use a liner bag.
- If your turkey is not fully submerged in its container, be sure to rotate it every once in a while so that the entire bird is infused with the brine.
Have You Made This Recipe?
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Here Are Some of My Recipes I Like to Use a Brine For:
Get the Recipe:
Turkey Brine Recipe
For a 12-16 lb turkey (see notes for brining a turkey breast).
- 2 gallons water (or 1 gallon of water and 1 gallon of apple cider)
- 2 cups coarse kosher salt or coarse sea salt
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 8 cloves of garlic, smashed
- 2 oranges, juiced and halved
- 2 lemons, juiced and halved
- 4 TBSP peppercorns
- 4 bay leaves
- Handful of fresh herbs like rosemary, thyme, sage, and parsley.
- Transfer the cider or water to a small saucepan; add the salt and sugar. Bring it to a boil and lower to a simmer. Let it go, stirring occasionally, until the salt and sugar have dissolved. When done, set it aside and let the liquid cool completely. (You can speed this up by adding ice.)
- Once the brine has cooled, transfer it to your brining container and add the smashed garlic cloves, herbs, and peppercorns. Then squeeze the juice from the oranges and lemons into the pot (don't worry about the pits), and place the squeezed orange and lemon into the pot as well.
- Slowly and carefully submerge the turkey into the brine (careful, the liquid level will rise).
- Cover (optional), and refrigerate for at least 12 hours, but no longer than 18 hours (this time is based on a 12-16 lb turkey. Use the hour per pound rule.)
- When the bird is finished brining, carefully transfer the turkey from the brine to a large platter or cooking vessel. Rinse it under cold water and pat it dry with paper towels. Season it as you wish, but keep in mind that the turkey is pretty salty now, so go lightly.
104 Comments on “Turkey Brine Recipe”
Absolutely amazing super easy I did add a few extras but this was a amazing recipe to do and to help get started.
I’m so glad, Jason!
How could you possibly go wrong with those wonderful flavors? I could drink that brine!!
This is such an amazing turkey brine recipe! Thanks for sharing!! Saved it!
This marvelous turkey brine has great flavors and really helps to keep the turkey tender. Your turkey looks marvelous.
Looks like the perfect way to prepare the holiday turkey. Juicy and delicious results.
It really is!
yum! I love how citrusy this brine is! such a great flavor for the turkey
It’s so pretty to look at! I would never have thought to use apple cider as the liquid. Definitely using your recipe next time I fix a turkey breast. Thanks!
Will never use another brine again!
No one likes dry turkey! Thank you for this delicious and flavorful brine to save the holidays!
So many delicious flavors coming together in this turkey brine. Sometimes our holiday turkey is a little dry, so I love how this prevents that from happening and adds flavor.
Thanks for sharing such a detailed informative post on making the Turkey roast Turkey.
Nobody likes dry turkey! This brine looks amazing. Can’t wait to try it for our next big gathering.
Your Turkey Brine recipe is definitely a keeper! Thanks for sharing!
I used this to bring our Thanksgiving turkey and it was wonderful! Definitely using this every year!
With boiling, we can’t get the salt & sugar to dissolve in the Apple cider either. Googled the chemistry and 1 cup of near-boiling water should only be able to dissolve 0.4 cups of salt. Plus there’s the sugar to dissolve. After 3 cups of near boiling cider and 5 cups of near boiling water, it’s finally dissolved. I hope others find this helpful.
I hope so too! I’ve never had an issue, so I appreciate you chiming in with this for anyone having issues. Thanks, Brianna!
I used coarse sea salt and it’s not dissolving. Is that ok and normal?
Most of it should dissolve when you heat it up on the stove. Did you boil the water with the salt in it?
I’m having the same problem! 2 cups water + 2 cups salt & 1 cup brown sugar — about a cup of the salt didn’t dissolve after a good 20 minutes of boiling & stirring. I’m just assuming the brine has absorbed as much salt as it could & going with that. (PS – second year using this brine recipe, it was so good last year. I can’t remember what I did differently with the salt though! Maybe I boiled all 2 gallons of liquid with the salt..)
Hi Lindsay! I’m so sorry! I’ve not had this issue but it seems to be common so I’m going to revisit this—I appreciate people popping in so I can help and improve the method. I’m so glad you loved this recipe last year! Hope it was just as much a hit this year.
Can I use table salt?
This brine sounds amazing and I want to try it but I wonder would it pair well with a Cajun rub and Cajun injection or should I use something different I plan on smoking the bird as well on my pellet grill. Thanks
Hi Kyle! Sounds like you have a delicious plan. I think this brine would go swimmingly with what you’ve got in store. Please let me know how it goes :)
I have 24lb Turkey, how much should I increase the ingredients by? Or should I just add more water/cider? I am so excited for this brine!
As long as your whole turkey is submerged, you’ll be good at that point. I’d stick with the amounts from this recipe and if you need to add a bit more water and cider to cover the bird, go for it. But you should be just fine with the same amount of salt! Keep me posted, if you don’t mind :)
I love the idea of using citrus in a brine. Definitely keeping this in mind for the holidays.
This brine is so flavorful, and I love how juicy and tender the turkey turns out from this recipe!! It’s a keeper!
Excellent recipe – can’t wait to use again this year for Thanksgiving.
This is one amazing turkey brine recipe. Looking forward to trying it.
This was so informative – your detailed instructions helped my turkey turn out juicy and delicious. I’ll be using this recipe again over the holidays. Thank you for a fantastic recipe!
Great brine recipe! Used this for turkey breast before doing your air fryer turkey breast recipe and it was so juicy and flavorful. Thanks for all the tips.
SO happy to hear it!
Omg! The best ever! I have never written a review, but this WAS the best and worth every keystroke!!!!! T. Y.!!!!!!!
I’m so glad, Dana! Thanks for taking the time to drop in with feedback :)
Bookmarking this recipe for November! It’s exactly what I was looking for.
Great! Let me know how it goes.
This sounds so tasty! Just bookmarked to make over the holidays! Thank you.
Excellent. Let me know how you like it!
What a flavorful looking brine! I’ll definitely be trying this out in the next few weeks and hopefully again for the holidays. Thanks for the recipe!
You’re so welcome! Can’t wait to hear what you think.
This brine is amazing and your detailed instructions are so helpful. Our turkey was incredibly juicy and delicious. I’ll be using this recipe again for Thanksgiving. Thank you!
So happy to hear this, Colleen. Thanks for the feedback! I appreciate it.
This is my family’s favorite turkey brine recipe. It’s so flavorful and makes the juiciest turkey!
Awesome to hear!
I’ve used this brine several years in a row and it always makes the most flavorful turkey! Using again this year.
So happy to hear this!
This sounds like such a flavourful brine for turkey!
Thanks! It is SO good.
My whole family loved it! Thanks for this recipe!
No problem, Toni!
I have tested this out and it’s so easy. I will definitely be using it at Christmas.
That’s awesome! I’m so glad it worked out well for you.
I love the taste of citrus in this recipe. Thanks for sharing :)
Isn’t it nice? I’m so glad you like it!
This brine makes my turkey breast extra delicious. I never have dry turkey!
Isn’t it awesome?
I can’t wait to try this! I love brining turkey. It makes it so tender and juicy. I’ve never used a brine with so much flavor in it before, though.
Oh, you’re in for a treat then!
What a great brine recipe! I love the combination of sweetness and acid, which perfectly compliments the rich flavor of turkey. Another winner from Killing Thyme!
This is such a perfect brine!! Everyone at my house loved it!
Awesome to hear, Toni!
I am definitely going to brine my turkey for Thanksgiving this year, and this is the recipe that I am using. It looks amazing!
This brine is definitely a unique one! Saving this for Thanksgiving!!
I’m glad! Keep me posted.
Thanks for so much of detailing to this amazing and flavorful recipe. This sounds like a perfect festive dish. My next weekend meal could get special too.
Definitely something you can use away from holidays!
What a flavorful holiday recipe. Pinned to try this holiday.
Delish brine I like to use year round!
Love to hear it!
What a flavor packed brine. I will use this again this year when I make Turkey breasts.
Happy to hear it!
This brine sounds so flavourful! Bookmarking this to use for Thanksgiving this year.
Can’t wait to hear what you think!
Such a fantastic and easy brine for turkey! I love all that bright flavor. Definitely perfect for the holidays.
There’s so much packed into this turkey brine, so I’ll be trying this recipe this year. Really looking forward to it!
I am always in charge of cooking the turkey every year for Thanksgiving. I love the addition of apple cider. This brine made the best turkey with tenderness in every bite.
That’s awesome, Jeanne!
Is it 1, 2, or 3 lemons and oranges? Both are listed 2 times in the ingredient list
Woops! Fixed it: 2 lemons and 2 oranges for a large turkey.
I Have been using this recipe for at least 5 years now. Perfect turkey every time!
That’s amazing, Michelle! So glad to hear it. We never skip the brining!
I love the flavor of the brown sugar and all the citrus in the brine! It’s such a wonderful combination with turkey!
I’m so glad you think so!
I have read for years how wonderful it is to brine this year I am trying this I love the ingredients you used thank you
This looks really simple to do and I love the sound of the orange and garlic.
It’s a great combo of flavors!
Thank you for these great tips! I ‘ll put them to good use this coming week!
Hope you loved it!
This sounds like an excellent brine! Adding this to my Thanksgiving menu; can’t wait to see how the bird turns out! Looks too good to pass up, indeed!
Hope it was a hit!
Have tried this recipe twice and it was phonomenal. Thank you. Blanca
I’m so happy, Blanca! We swear by it!
I’ve used several recipe for brining. This is my favorite. Thank you! Priscilla
Hi Priscilla! I’m so glad to hear this :)