Easy Turkey Brine

Rating:

Total Time:

2 days 5 minutes

Difficulty:

Easy

Here’s the deal, if you’ve never used a brined turkey for your Thanksgiving feast… you’re missing out. Here’s a step by step guide for an Easy Turkey Brine recipe to get the most delicious juicy turkey you’ll ever eat! We’re also breaking down wet vs. dry brine.

Easy Turkey Brine from www.whatsgabycooking.com (@whatsgabycookin)

Who here has brined a turkey before?! If you haven’t, prepare for your life to change. It’s everything and this year’s recipe is beyond. It’s loaded with all sorts of aromatics that will infuse the bird with even more flavor.

Why should you brine your turkey and is it worth it?

Good question. Brining your turkey is a key step to keeping it moist once it’s cooked. Turkeys are mostly lean meat, which means there isn’t a lot of fat to help it from drying out. And really there’s nothing more disappointing than a dry piece of turkey at the Thanksgiving table.

How do you make a wet turkey brine?

During the brining process, you soak the turkey in a salt and water mixture (with other aromatics if you want to get jazzy) and the turkey absorbs that extra moisture from the liquid. (note: you’ll need a large vessel to store the turkey and liquid in) This process helps it stay moist and juicy during cooking! Which then means it’s still moist and juicy once you carve it and serve.

Brining also helps season the turkey from the inside out so no matter what piece you get, it’ll be delicious!

How do you make a dry turkey brine?

Alternatively, you can make a dry brine which is a salt and spice mixture that is slathered on the bird and then wiped off before roasting. If you don’t have room for the large vessel as mentioned above, a dry brine is the easier way to go. The mixture gets slathered on the bird and then permeates the turkey for about 24 hours. Then pat it dry and proceed with my favorite turkey recipe! 

What is a turkey brine and what does it do to a turkey?

It’s basically just salt and different aromatics and maybe some water. I like to add brown sugar to give it a little hint of sweetness, some red pepper flakes, sage and lots of garlic. The whole mixture will just give the bird that extra subtle flavor everyone is looking for on Thanksgiving. And it helps the bird make incredible drippings for gravy.  

What kind of turkey should you brine?

This is super important!! You basically just want a plain old turkey. Don’t get one with any other “enhanced” or “self-basting” descriptors on the package. Those mean that the turkey has already been brined or treated and I’d rather do it myself so I have full control over what is going into my bird and brine.

How long should you brine a turkey for?

You should wet brine a turkey for roughly 24-72 hours. Trust me, its worth it.

Can you over brine a frozen turkey / should you brine a turkey before roasting?

Absolutely! I do almost every year. This process will also help thaw the bird out before cooking.

Can you over brine a turkey?

You don’t want to brine a bird for more than 3 days in my opinion. 72 hours is just the right amount of time for the turkey to soak up those flavors without getting too salty.

What do you do after you brine the turkey?

Treat it like you could a normal bird. Pat it dry, season it accordingly and then roast! This is my favorite recipe for a cooked bird! The herb butter makes for the best drippings which make the gravy out of this world!

Do I need to rinse a brined turkey before cooking?

No. In fact you really shouldn’t rinse any meat before cooking. According to the Center for Disease Control, you should never wash raw meat or poultry before cooking it! Washing it can spread bacteria to surfaces like your kitchen countertop, all over the sink, utensils, and nearby foods. The USDA agrees.

So all that’s left is to decide if you’re going wet or dry brine. If wet: grab a large vessel that will fit 1: the liquid brine mixture 2: and the bird and 3: will fit into your fridge. If you have an extra fridge in your garage, that’s the perfect place to store this as it won’t be in your way when you’re stocking your fridge with the rest of the Thanksgiving ingredients.

Easy Turkey Brine from www.whatsgabycooking.com (@whatsgabycookin)

If dry: combine all the seasonings and slather the bird with the herbs. Then let it take a chill in the fridge for 24-72 hours.

Get ready guys… THANKSGIVING this year is going to be mega delish.

PS – are you thinking of putting this on your Thanksgiving menu? Check out the full What’s Gaby Cooking menu here along with the master prep schedule to keep things organized and on track!
And if you need more Thanksgiving Ideas check out this roundup of 80+ Thanksgiving Recipes and Ideas

Easy Turkey Brine

Gaby
Here's the deal, if you've never used a brined turkey for your Thanksgiving feast… you're missing out. Here's a step by step guide for an Easy Turkey Brine to get the most delicious juicy turkey you'll ever eat! 
5 from 11 votes
Prep Time 5 mins
2 d
Total Time 2 d 5 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 10 people

Ingredients
  

For the Wet Brine

  • 16 cups water divided
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dried red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon dried sage
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • 2 heads garlic sliced in half
  • 14 to 18- pound turkey cleaned, innards removed

For the Dry Brine

  • 8 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 4-8 tablespoons freshly cracked black peppercorns
  • 4 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 4 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 3 tablespoons dried basil
  • 2 tablespoons dried thyme
  • 2 tablespoons paprika

Instructions
 

For the Wet Brine

  • Combine 8 cups of the water, salt, dark brown sugar, red pepper flakes, sage, thyme and garlic in a large pot and place over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes until everything is evenly combined and the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Stir in remaining water and cool completely.
  • Pour the brine into a container just large enough to hold the turkey comfortably. Add the turkey; adding more water if needed to cover the bird entirely. Turn bird a few times and then leave breast-side down in the water. Chill for at least 8 hours, and up to 72 hours. Remove bird from brine, discard brine and roast as needed.

For the Dry Brine

  • Combine all the seasonings together. Set a wire cooling rack on a baking sheet and place the turkey on the rack. Rub ½ cup of the dry brine on the back side of the turkey, ½  cup on the legs and 1 cup on the breast. Transfer the turkey, uncovered to the fridge and refrigerate for at least 24 hours, and up to 72 hours.
  • After the brine period, pat the bird dry and proceed with my Herb Roasted Turkey recipe. Remove any excess dry brine that is in the bottom of the roasting pan

Photo by Matt Armendariz / Food Styling by Adam Pearson / Recipe from What’s Gaby Cooking

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174 comments

  1. Lisa

    Hi. Doing your dry brine this year! When you say remove the brine, do you meant just dust off with your hand, wipe off cleanly with towel or what? Just want to make sure I don’t do it wrong! Thank you.

  2. Natalya

    Soooo, I’m 24 hours into brining a ~5lb turkey breast and just realized I used a combo of sea salt and iodized table salt (instead of kosher salt) in the 1/2 cup quantity Should I pull it out of the brine early? Rinse in cold water? Thanks!!

    • Gaby

      you can pull it out early and blot it try. Never rinse a turkey

  3. Tara

    I used conventional roast for my turkey for the first 30 mins at the 450 ‍♀️ did I ruin my turkey? It’s a 10.6lb turkey and I don’t have any drippings yet. I have kicked the over to just bake for the 350 how do I adjust my times now that I screwed the first part up

  4. Troy

    I’m wondering if I should be Straining all the herbs and garlic out of the brine before putting the turkey in?

    • Gaby

      I don’t quite understand the question? you put the turkey into the brine with all the aromatics

  5. Jenny Patzelt

    I’m only buying a turkey breast this year. Can I still do a brine with a breast only?

  6. Lily

    Is there one brine you recommend over the other (wet vs. dry)? Or are they both equally delicious? Thank you!

  7. Theodora Kestner

    Everything looks scrumptious!
    Thanks for all your hard work and creativity.
    Your daughter has your personality, taste buds and is jewel.
    Your husband is a great supportive rock.
    It is a pleasure to view your cooking and creativity. You are joy!
    God bless you and your family!

  8. Jordan Trainor

    I have a Turkey that’s just about 18lbs.. how long do you let it defrost before putting it into the brine? Hoping to brine for 48 hours

    • Gaby

      I would thaw it on saturday and then start bringing Monday night

  9. Judith

    Does the dry brine infuse flavor through the skin, or should I rub it under the skin on the breast?

  10. Kate

    I realized I bought a pre-brined turkey. Should I brine again, or skip straight to your roasted turkey recipe?

  11. Patsy

    Gaby I am wet brining a 12 pound turkey this year for the first time. Do I remove the wrapper while it is defrosting in the refrigerator and then put in the brine? I plan on putting in the refrigerator on Sunday night and start the brining on Tuesday.

    Thank you so much. I love all of your recipes and tips.

    Patsy

    • Gaby

      you can thaw in the wrapper and then once thaw, do the brine

  12. Ali

    How long should I do the dry brine? This seems to say no more than 24 hours, but the PDF schedule you just posted says 24-72 hours? Thank you for all of these amazing resources/recipes!

  13. January

    Very excited to try this. I have a 28 lb turkey. Any idea how muchnI need to increase this? Double or triple?

    • Gaby

      double the herbs and just use as much water to cover the bird

  14. Samantha

    Hello,
    Could I make the brine early and let it chill overnight in the fridge? That way the brine and the turkey are the same temperatures. I can make up the brine Monday night and when the turkey is fully thawed which should be Wednesday morning I can just slap the two together before I head off to work and it will have a full 24hrs to do its magic. I work odd hours and I am trying to plan around them.

  15. Michele

    Gaby!! Please help! I misread the brining recipe and thought I was supposed to do the wet brine AND the dry brine. I started my wet brine this morning and will need to remove it on Wednesday so I don’t go over 48 hours. What should I do then? Is it ok to put it in the refrigerator and cover it with foil for about 24 hours? Should I go by a nee turkey and start over?Please help!!!

    • Gaby

      you’re totally fine! just remove it wednesday mid-day and then put in your fridge to hang until you season it on thursday

  16. izzy

    Going out on a limb this year using your recipe.
    Arguing over wet vs. wet brine!!!!!
    18 lbs….can’t fry it- peanut oil is $51.00 dollars
    Will check for the giant vessel to try wet… sounds more labor intensive…..
    Hoping for a tasteful bird…..
    Blessings, Izzy

  17. Mia

    Hello – this all looks incredible. I will try your wet brine this year. Can I put a lid on the brining bucket because my fridge will smell like herbs and garlic and I have to store desserts in the same fridge?

  18. Marcela

    Hi Gaby, I used regular table salt for the dry brine because I didn´t have kosher, should I adjust the time I brine the turkey?

    • Marcela

      So 24 hours? Instead of the 48? Or 12 hours? Can I leave it in the fridge without cooking once I remove the brine?

    • Marcela

      So 24 hours or 12 hours with the table salt? Can I leave in the fridge without cooking after I remove the brine?

  19. Mary

    Am I misreading something. I want to dry brine but it says to put 1/2 cup back 1/2 cup on the legs and a cup on the breast. I don’t see where I will have that quantity of salt and herbs. What an I missing? Thanks.

    • Gaby

      All the tablespoons equal about 1 1/2 – 2 cups depending on how much pepper!

  20. Daniel

    Hi Gaby: Freaking out because I used table salt (8 tablespoons) instead of Kosher. I saw a comment above and see you suggest we half the time. Should I just remove it ASAP. Did I ruin my turkey?? How long should I leave it on?

    • Gaby

      did you do the dry brine? if so, ya I would carefully wipe it off at 1/2 the time to be safe

  21. Kelly

    Can I do a dry brine and cook in electric toaster? Also, I have had problems with my turkey turning out salty (wet brine.) To much salt in brine??

    • Gaby

      unsure what wet brine you are using – but yes you should be able to dry brine and then use an electric toaster if the turkey fits comfortably

  22. Anna Ramos

    5 stars
    We have done this wet brain for three years in a row… And then we deep fry the turkey. No more words needed! Just let your mouths water!

  23. Shannon

    Hi! I’m excited to try the dry brine! I just want to confirm that the uncovered turkey in the fridge for 24 hours will not dry out/dehydrate?

    Thank you!

  24. LMNbelly

    Just got the turkey and clearly don’t have at least 24 hours, worth dry brining for 12-14 hours only?

  25. Nicole

    Is it too late to brine my turkey today? I assumed it only required the day before.

  26. Nicole

    Hi, if I accidently used about 1/3c of table salt and the reminder kosher salt in my wet brine should I cut brine time back? I didn’t realize there was that much of a difference between the types of salt. I had to use quite a bit more water to cover my turkey I’m not sure if that will help not make it too salty.

  27. Joe

    5 stars
    Should I let the turkey warm up by removing it from the fridge an hour so before cooking or can it go directly into the oven

  28. Chloe

    5 stars
    This was my first dry brine and it was delish.
    My only grip is that you didn’t include a link to the herb roasted turkey that goes with it. Which would have made it so much easier.
    The dry brine is definitely my new favorite way to do turkey, mainly because you don’t really have to have as much space as you do for a wet brine.
    My mom used to brine the turkey in a cooler, we’d just dump new ice in every 8 hours or so, it’s a decent idea if you don’t have much space.
    I love this blog. It’s one of my favorites for dinner every night 😀 So thank you for helping me feed my family

    • Gaby

      so happy to hear it!! the bird recipe is linked in the body of the post for easy reference

  29. Monica

    Is it ok to not get all of the dry brine off? I have some of the dry herbs on here and there. I keep trying to get it all off. Thank you! Happy Thanksgiving!

    • Gaby

      no need to wipe it all off. if you’re using my herb compound butter, some of it will come off when you’re applying that! and then it just acts as an extra layer of seasoning

  30. Daryl M

    Brined my Butterball and cooked in a bag. OMG ! The best turkey ever !
    35 years of some good and some not so good and a few “pass the gravy again please “ turkey’s.
    Moist and a bit of flavor added, no seasoning needed at the table.

  31. Lisa Guiterman

    Help! I am helping my daughter host Friendsgiving for 30 TONIGHT! We have a nearly 25 ilb turkey – we used your wet brine, but will only get about 18.5 hours of soak in. We were planning to do it in a roasting bag to speed up the process. I have cubed cornbread that I was going to stuff it with with roasted onions, celery and butter to do a makeshift stuffing (as all the stuffing was sold out). Do you think this will be OK – any tips? Thanks!

  32. Mary

    I halved the dry brine for an 8 pound bone in turkey breast, however, it came out too salty. What could I have done differently? Ended up turning it into delicious soup.

  33. Beck & Bulow

    5 stars
    I first found this recipe while looking for dairy-free options for my toddler with a milk allergy. Two and a half years later, he’s outgrown the allergy, but these chicken thighs remain a family favourite. Great for a quick weeknight supper, and I’ve also used when having guest for dinner. They loved them!