Incredible Turkey Brine

Say hello to our new favorite turkey brine recipe! Try our turkey brine for turkey with amazing flavor, soft and tender meat, and crispy skin. We highly recommend it to anyone preparing a turkey.

Best Turkey Brine Recipe Video

If you’re on the fence about brining your turkey, just do it! This turkey brine is a game-changer, adding incredible flavor and making your roasted turkey savory and delicious while tenderizing the meat (trust me on this one).

We teamed up with our friend, Chef Richard Hattaway, to develop this turkey brine recipe, and we couldn’t be more thrilled with the results. I was determined to make sure that brining was truly worth the effort, and I am 100% confident that this brine delivers. It makes the best roasted turkey I’ve ever had, and you can bet I’ll be using it for every Thanksgiving turkey moving forward.

Perfectly Brined and Roasted Turkey

Key Ingredients

  • Salt: I use kosher or good-quality sea salt for my turkey brine. Avoid using iodized salt, as it can give the turkey a metallic taste. When measuring salt for your brine, use a scale or our specific volume measurements in the recipe below (we have provided them for Morton’s and Diamond Crystal). Look at my photo below. Both bowls are holding 4.5 ounces of salt. The Diamond Crystal salt flakes are fluffier and bigger, taking up more space than Morton’s salt. You don’t need to worry about this if weighing your salt, but if you use volume measurements (cups/tablespoons), you must know about it.
Difference between Morton and Diamond Crystal salt for brine
  • Sugar: If I’m going to brine a turkey, I want it to be flavorful. The brown sugar added to our brine recipe helps tremendously with this. The combination of salt and sugar in our brine recipe pulls some liquid from the turkey meat and replaces it with the brine, adding so much flavor.
  • Worcestershire Sauce: This adds a lovely savory, umami flavor to our brine (and ultimately the turkey meat).
  • Pepper: Richard adds a lot of black pepper to his brine, and I love it. Black pepper does a fantastic job of convincing you something is well-seasoned (that’s why so many chefs always season with salt AND pepper when cooking).
  • Garlic: This brine avoids citrusy flavors and focuses on savory flavors instead. Whole heads of garlic, lots of fresh thyme, and bay leaves make your turkey taste amazing.

How to Brine a Turkey

I brine my turkey for 2 days. Turkeys are large, and the brine needs time to work through the bird. If you do not have 2 days, we still recommend leaving your turkey in the brine for at least 1 day (trust me, 1 day in this brine will produce a more flavorful turkey than not brining at all).

Making Turkey Brine

I use a large, heavy-duty brine bag sold in kitchen stores and online. You can also use a 5-gallon bucket with a food-safe liner. Don’t worry if the turkey is not entirely submerged (ours wasn’t in our video or photo below). If this happens to you, flip the turkey in the brine halfway through brining.

Adding turkey brine to a brine bag

Store your turkey in the brine at or below 40°F (4°C). Here’s the USDA’s guide for safely brining a turkey.

If you have the space (or a second fridge), you can brine the turkey in your refrigerator. Place your bag or bucket into the fridge. I put my brine bag into a roasting pan.

Turkey brining in the fridge

If you do not have enough space in your fridge, use a brine bag and place it in a well-insulated, ice-filled cooler. If you use a cooler, check the temperature of the ice water regularly to ensure that it stays below 40°F (4°C). While I use my roasting pan to hold my brine bag when using the fridge, the pan doesn’t fit inside my cooler, so I put the bag directly into the ice without a pan underneath. Brine bags are thick, so you should not have any issues with them leaking (just keep something sharp away from them).

I never rinse my turkey after brining it. You might see some recipes call for rinsing, but it’s not necessary with our turkey brine. We’ve done side-by-side taste tests with rinsed and unrinsed turkeys and found no difference in saltiness. I promise your turkey won’t be over-salted!

I’ve got one more tip for you! If you are like me and love crispy turkey skin, after removing it from the brine, let your turkey air-dry in the fridge overnight. I place it on a roasting rack inside a roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet. I love this step because my brine is out of the way, and my turkey is perfectly brined and ready to roast the next day.

Thanksgiving Turkey Timeline

If you are like us, you don’t roast many turkeys throughout the year. Most of us really only roast them around the holiday season.

Here’s our timeline for thawing, brining, and roasting turkey. I will use Thursday as our goal since that’s how Thanksgiving falls in the US, but you can easily move the days around to fit your intended roasting day.

This timeline assumes a thawed turkey. To safely thaw a turkey, do it in the refrigerator. Plan on 24 hours in the fridge for every four to five pounds of turkey–so a 16-pound turkey will take four days to thaw.

  • Monday: Brine the turkey
  • Wednesday night: Remove turkey from brine, place it onto a rack set inside a roasting pan or rimmed sheet pan, and refrigerate overnight
  • Thursday: Roast the turkey, allowing approximately 14 minutes per pound, in an oven preheated to 325°F (162° C). Here’s our roasted turkey recipe.
My Favorite Turkey Brine

Incredible Turkey Brine

  • PREP
  • COOK
  • TOTAL

Use this turkey brine for turkey with amazing flavor, soft and tender meat, and crispy skin. We highly recommend it to anyone preparing a turkey.

2 gallons, up to 20-pound turkey

Watch Us Make the Recipe

You Will Need

1 (12 to 20 pound) turkey, thawed

2 gallons (7.5L) cold water

4.5 ounces (128g) kosher salt or good quality sea salt; see tips for volume measurements

3/4 cup (160g) packed brown sugar

1/4 cup (60ml) Worcestershire sauce or Pickapeppa sauce

4 teaspoons (10g) coarse ground black pepper

1 onion, quartered

2 whole bulbs garlic, cut in half

1 bunch fresh thyme

5 bay leaves

Directions

  • Make the Brine
  • 1In a large pot, combine 2 quarts (8 cups) of water, salt, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, black pepper, onion quarters, garlic, thyme, and bay leaves.

    2Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and cook for 5 to 10 minutes or until the salt and sugar have dissolved completely.

    3Allow the brine to cool to room temperature.

  • Brine the Turkey
  • 1Place the turkey in a lined 5-gallon bucket or brine bag.

    2Pour the room-temperature brine over the turkey, then add the remaining 6 quarts (24 cups) of cold water to the bucket or brine bag. If using a brine bag, be careful to hold the sides of your bag so they don’t flop down as you pour — another set of hands from a friend is very helpful.

    3Remove as much air as possible from the liner or bag and secure it shut. Place the bucket or brine bag in the refrigerator or ice-filled cooler.

    4Brine the turkey for two days. To ensure that all areas of the turkey are brined, flip it halfway through the two-day brine — allowing any areas not entirely submerged to soak in the brine.

  • Air-dry the Turkey
  • 1Remove the turkey from the brine and place it onto a roasting rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan. Do not rinse the turkey.

    2Refrigerate overnight before roasting the next day. We roast turkey in an oven preheated to 325°F (162° C) and highly recommend roasting the turkey with our turkey butter.

Adam and Joanne's Tips

  • Salt: Diamond Crystal salt flakes are fluffier and lighter than Morton’s kosher salt. For Diamond Crystal kosher salt: use ¾ cup + ½ tablespoon. For Morton’s kosher salt: use ⅓ cup + 2 ½ tablespoons.
  • Brine bag: Place in a roasting pan to prevent spills. We recommend using a heavy-duty brine bag.
  • Cooler: Check ice water temperature regularly to ensure it stays below 40°F (4°C).
  • Crisp skin: For best results, air-dry the brined turkey overnight in the fridge. If you are out of time, pat dry before roasting.
AUTHOR:  Adam and Joanne Gallagher
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32 comments… Leave a Review
  • Anna November 26, 2023, 2:12 am

    This brine was great for prepping my Thanksgiving Turkey this year! I found if u can do the 5 gallon bucket method they suggest, it works a lot better and takes up a lot less width in your fridge if ur fridge can fit a 5 gal bucket height. Also make sure u do as they say & put the Turkey in the bag/bucket b4 the brine & water bc the Turkey fits better when u do that 😉 If u do all that u’re golden! Don’t miss out on taking ur Turkey to the next level with this recipe! My family and I loved it! 😉

    Reply
    • Adam November 26, 2023, 4:36 pm

      Thank you so much for taking the time to come back and leave such a kind review. We are so happy that you loved your Thanksgiving brined turkey 🙂

      Reply
  • Heather November 24, 2023, 4:04 pm

    I just wanted to say thank you for such an awesome brine recipe. My SIL took one bite of turkey and immediately commented on how good the flavor and texture was, and she usually doesn’t even like turkey. Then afterwards my hubby’s best friend came up to eat leftovers and said it was the best turkey he had ever had! The drippings also made some super yummy gravy. This will be my go to brine from now on!

    Reply
    • Adam November 25, 2023, 12:32 pm

      Yay! The brine really does help make all of the flavors pop. So happy you enjoyed your turkey 🙂

      Reply
  • Jackie H November 24, 2023, 11:19 am

    First timer review. I followed this recipie step by step. The videos are very helpful. Brine was easy, butter smelled delish and the Turkey came out perfect! I saved the roasted veggies from the bottom and puréed them into the stock I made with the Turkey carcass. Def my go-to next year.

    Reply
    • Adam November 25, 2023, 12:39 pm

      Great idea to use the roasted veggie in your turkey stock! That must have been delicious 🙂

      Reply
  • Crystal A. November 23, 2023, 5:58 pm

    This brine recipe gave my turkey so much flavor! I will be brining my turkey’s from now on! Thank you for the simple easy to follow recipe, instructions, and video to follow along with.

    Reply
  • Mae November 22, 2023, 11:58 pm

    Hi! Thank you very much for this recipe! It’s my first time roasting a turkey and this is very helpful! Quick question though, what do you with the brine water after the turkey has been brined? Do you just throw it out?

    Reply
    • Adam November 23, 2023, 10:46 am

      So glad you loved it and found all the info helpful! Yes, you can get rid of the brine water. It has given it’s love 🙂

      Reply
  • Michelle M November 22, 2023, 1:07 am

    Hi, I just found your recipe tonight and was wondering if it is possible to brine the turkey for just 24 hours and skipping the “refrigerate overnight” step and go directly into cooking the turkey instead.? Or should I just skip the brining all together at this point? Thank you!

    Reply
    • Adam November 22, 2023, 11:47 am

      Hi Michelle, we recommend that you skip the brining stop since you don’t have time for that now. We still recommend that you refrigerator the turkey overnight to dry out the skin. The herb and garlic butter will still make your turkey juicy and delicious.

      Reply
  • Yael Pereira November 22, 2023, 12:15 am

    I love your Recipes they are sooo goooood

    Reply
    • Adam November 22, 2023, 11:44 am

      We are so glad you love them 🙂

      Reply
  • Evelyn November 20, 2023, 5:20 pm

    Hi, I got dry thyme and I will prepare two turkey breasts without bones (4 pounds each one) how much thyme should use? Thanks

    Reply
    • Joanne November 21, 2023, 9:01 pm

      I’d go with a couple teaspoons.

      Reply
  • Logan D November 19, 2023, 11:06 am

    Hi there! What would you consider 1 “bunch” of thyme? 4-5 Sprigs? A 3 ounce container? Or something in between? Many thanks!

    Reply
    • Adam November 19, 2023, 4:52 pm

      Hi Logan, we would consider a bunch to be roughly 6-8 sprigs. You can how much we use in our video.

      Reply
  • Ashley November 18, 2023, 11:22 pm

    We use Cornish hens instead of turkey. Do you think this brine would work for that as well? Also, I the video says 1 TBS black pepper while the typed list says 4 tsp. While I know these are close enough to the same, others may not. Can’t wait to try this with your herbed butter!!

    Reply
    • Adam November 19, 2023, 4:54 pm

      Hi Ashley, Yep Cornish hens will work. For the black pepper, we use 4 teaspoons in the brine, and another 1 tablespoon in the recipe for turkey butter.

      Reply
      • Ashley November 21, 2023, 2:03 pm

        Thanks for the timely reply:) can you assist with brine time? My Cornish hens are 1.25 pounds. Google says brine time is 1 hour per pound but that just doesn’t seem like long enough to me. Thoughts?

        Reply
        • Joanne November 21, 2023, 4:16 pm

          Since this brine has a low salt percentage (1.8 ish), you should be able to brine them for the full two days. They are obviously much smaller, so you probably don’t need that long, it just won’t hurt. I’d go with 1 day for your Cornish hens.

          Reply
  • Jan November 18, 2023, 6:35 am

    Can this brine be used if planning to smoke a turkey? Deep frying?

    Reply
    • Adam November 18, 2023, 11:57 am

      Hi Jan, Yes! You would brine your turkey before frying or smoking. We do recommend air drying after brining.

      Reply
  • Heather November 15, 2023, 6:59 pm

    Hi! I think this recipe sounds wonderful and I plan to use it next week. Quick question, though – I’m feeding a smaller group this year and will be roasting just a turkey breast instead of the whole bird. Do you think this recipe could be used with the same measurements and length of brining time for just a breast? Thanks in advance for your response!

    Reply
    • Joanne November 16, 2023, 2:01 pm

      Hi Heather, Our brine is around 1.8% salt solution, so leaving your turkey breast in the brine for the full 2 days will be perfectly fine. The brine is there for flavor and won’t leave the turkey salty (even if your turkey is smaller than ours).

      Reply
  • Adam November 5, 2023, 3:36 pm

    You have made our day with this comment! 🙂 We are thrilled that you find everything useful.

    Reply
    • Becca November 22, 2023, 2:31 pm

      I am so glad I found your brine recipe! I have used a different one for several years, which has a lot more salt. Every year I try reducing the amount of time the turkey is in the brine because the meat and gravy are way too salty! This year I was going to do 10 hours, but then I happened upon your brine recipe and I quickly ditched my old one. The turkey will only be in for 30 hours since this was a last minute find, but I just wanted to say I’m thankful to know I don’t need to have so much salt in my brine!! Don’t know why I was under the assumption there had to be a lot of salt. I’m expecting this year’s turkey to be flavorful and juicy, not overly salty. By the way, I love your flaky pastry crust recipe. I’ve made it more times than I can count. Perfect every time. Y’all are awesome. Thanks for sharing your knowledge! Happy Thanksgiving!

      Reply
      • Joanne November 22, 2023, 3:00 pm

        This is amazing, Becca! We love this brine and think you will be happy with it. I agree with you that other recipes have a lot more salt than what is actually necessary. This is a lower salt solution, so we can leave the turkey in there for a couple of days, allowing it to take on all the savory flavors like thyme, onion, and garlic. Happy Thanksgiving!

        Reply
  • William Stoneman November 4, 2023, 6:11 am

    Good luck finding Kosher Salt….haven’t been able to buy any for months with the strike.

    Reply
    • Adam November 4, 2023, 8:08 pm

      Hi William, if you can’t find kosher salt you can substitute a good quality sea salt by weight (same as kosher). The key is to avoid iodized salt as this would have a metallic taste.

      Reply
  • John November 2, 2023, 11:17 am

    Quick question- are you brining an unprocessed turkey? Most commercially available turkeys are injected with a sodium/potassium solution, kind of like brining in a way. While I like to brine turkeys for all the reasons you outline above, it is hard to find a turkey that has not been commercially injected; and those that aren’t are quite expensive. My experience brining an injected turkey is that it verges on over salty. For the Holidays, I don’t mind spending a little more to get an uninjected/processed turkey. Just curious about where you source your turkeys. Love you site- your recipes are solid and never disappoint

    Reply
    • Joanne November 3, 2023, 1:10 pm

      Hi John, Great question! I actually had to go to Chef Richard (we collaborate with him in our recipes) to get your answer. Here’s what we’ve all come to as far as a conclusion. We don’t think you should have a problem using our brine with an injected turkey. In fact, one of our in-house tests used a popular turkey brand which injects with a solution that claims to “enhance flavor and juiciness” and the turkey turned out very well. The basis to our reasoning comes from the idea that our (under 2%) brine won’t add to salinity already in the turkey. Everything will mingle and even out. It will add flavor, so that’s why we still think it is a good idea. Hope that helps!!

      Reply

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