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How to Brine a Turkey the Best Way

My Recipes logo My Recipes 8/6/2020 Corey Williams
a sandwich cut in half on a plate © Photo: Victor Protasio; Food Styling: Margaret Dickey; Prop Styling: Heather Chadduck

Wondering how to brine your turkey this Thanksgiving? You’ve come to the right place! Here’s everything you need to know:

Why Do You Brine a Turkey?

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Brining is a process that originated out of necessity. Back in the olden days, before refrigeration was a thing, people preserved their food by treating it with a solution of salt and water. Conveniently, this can improve both the taste and texture of roasted meats, which can easily become dry, by infusing it with a seasoned flavor and increasing moisture levels.

Wet Brine vs. Dry Brine

WATCH: The Difference between Marinating, Curing, & Brining

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Wet brined turkey is soaked in a solution of water, salt, sugar, and various seasonings. For this method, you’ll need a large pot and lots of refrigerator space (a scarcity around the holidays). Yes, wet brined turkey is generally juicier—but that juice is mostly water. This isn’t ideal when it comes to gravy-making.

Dry brined turkey is coated in a mixture of salt and seasonings. It’s the same idea but, in this method, the brine is applied directly to the meat. No soaking required. Plus, since the solution is making direct contact, some say it penetrates the skin better and results in a more flavorful bird.

Read more: Is It Better to Dry or Wet Brine a Turkey?

How to Brine a Turkey

a plate of food on a table: Photo: Jen Causey; Food Styling: Chelsea Zimmer; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis © Photo: Jen Causey; Food Styling: Chelsea Zimmer; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis Photo: Jen Causey; Food Styling: Chelsea Zimmer; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis

To wet brine:

  1. Acquire a large pot. It should be big enough to fully accommodate your bird and then some.
  2. In said pot, fully submerge turkey in a solution of water, salt, sugar, and seasonings. For a 12-14 pound turkey, use 6 cups of water with 1 ⅓ cups Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt, according to former MyRecipes Assistant Editor Sara Tane. If you’re using Morton’s, she says, use a little bit less than a cup. Use about a ¼ the amount of sweetener as you did salt. Additional seasonings are optional, but encouraged. Some ideas are bay leaves, garlic, and peppercorns.
  3. Cover the pot and place in the fridge. Brine up to 24 hours.

To dry brine:

  1. Stir together dry ingredients needed for brine. This Dry Brined-Herb Roasted Turkey calls for a brine made with kosher salt, dark brown sugar, rubbed sage, dried thyme, ground black pepper, and garlic powder. We can personally vouch for this mixture, but follow your recipe for precise measurements.
  2. Pat the turkey dry.
  3. Generously rub the dried turkey with the spice mixture. Don’t be shy here—you want the flavor to penetrate the skin.
  4. Let the bird rest in the fridge, uncovered, for 24 to 48 hours.
  5. Gently remove the rub before cooking.

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