Basic Turkey Brine

Herbs, salt, twine, and garlic for turkey brine

The Spruce / Claire Cohen

  • Total: 15 mins
  • Prep: 15 mins
  • Cook: 0 mins
  • Servings: 12 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
69 Calories
0g Fat
18g Carbs
0g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 12
Amount per serving
Calories 69
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 18863mg 820%
Total Carbohydrate 18g 6%
Dietary Fiber 0g 1%
Protein 0g
Calcium 30mg 2%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

When Thanksgiving approaches, there's no shortage of discussions about the best way to roast a turkey because a dry one is a big disappointment. Time and time again, brining comes up as a key way to help ensure a juicier, tastier holiday turkey. Water, salt, sugar, garlic, and herbs make up this quick turkey brine for a 12 -to 15-pound bird. (Dry brines are different altogether and don't involve submerging the turkey in salty, herbed water.)

Once the brine has come together, let it cool. Some people like to put the turkey in an extra-large resealable plastic bag inside a cooler loaded with ice, which makes it easier to pour the brine in and even easier to move the turkey around; it also doesn't take up precious space in your refrigerator at a time of year when space is at a premium. You can use a cooler or simply add the turkey and the brine to a large plastic container, then place a plate and a large can on top of the container to hold the turkey down and prevent it from floating around. You want the turkey to stay in contact with the liquid.

1:13

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Ingredients

  • 2 gallons water (cold)
  • 2 cups kosher ​salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 teaspoons garlic (crushed)
  • 3 to 4 sprigs thyme (or 1 tablespoon dried)
  • 3 to 4 sprigs sage (or 1 tablespoon dried)
  • 3 to 4 sprigs rosemary (or 1 tablespoon dried)
  • 1 teaspoon allspice berries (cracked)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for basic turkey brine
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  2. Add water to the stockpot along with the salt, sugar, garlic, herbs, and pepper. Over medium heat, simmer until the salt and sugar dissolve, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool.

    Dissolve seasonings in a pot of water
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  3. Submerge the turkey in the brine, top with a plate, and put a large can or a few cans on the plate to hold the turkey under the brine.

    Turkey in pot along with brine and herbs
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  4. Refrigerate the turkey in the brine for 12 to 24 hours.

    Refrigerated turkey in brine
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  5. Before roasting, remove the turkey from the brine, rinse it off under cold water so it's not too salty, and pat it dry with paper towels.

    Turkey pat dry with paper towel on a baking sheet
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  6. Follow your favorite recipe and roast without using additional salt.

    Roast turkey
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  7. Serve and enjoy.

    Roasted turkey with herbs and lemon slices
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

Tips

  • This recipe is enough for a 12- to 15-pound turkey, but if you have to increase the amount of water to cover the turkey because yours is bigger, add proportionately more salt, sugar, and herbs. For each gallon of water, use 1 cup kosher salt, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, and approximately 1 teaspoon crushed garlic, 1 to 2 sprigs of the herbs, about 1/2 teaspoon of cracked allspice berries and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
  • Brined meat might look a bit pink even when fully cooked. If in doubt, check the temperature of the turkey with an instant-read thermometer. The turkey should register at least 165 F in the thickest part of the thigh. If the turkey is stuffed, the center of the stuffing must be cooked to at least 165 F.
  • Other popular brine additions include whole peppercorns, lemon or orange quarters, bay leaves, whole cloves, and cinnamon sticks.