Easy Turkey Brine


Total Time:

2 days 5 minutes



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!

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 making 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 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. 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!

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

It’s basically just water with salt and different aromatics. 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 brine a turkey for roughly 48 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 2 days in my opinion. 48 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 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.

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

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

Easy Turkey Brine

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 2 votes
Prep Time 5 mins
2 d
Total Time 2 d 5 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 10 people


  • 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


  • 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 48 hours. Remove bird from brine, discard brine and roast as needed.

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

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Recipe Rating


  1. monika

    Mmmmmm. Can’t wait for all the holiday goodness! We brined with you last year, and will try this new recipe this year!

  2. Mae

    I definitely want to try this brining method. Any recommendations how to marinade this after brining?

  3. Alia

    This sounds AMAZING Gaby!! Thank you!! I’m going to try your recipe for my first ever turkey brining experience AND my first ever Thanksgiving hosting experience. So excited! Have you ever tried brining a turkey in a cooler or do you recommend it? Thanks!!

    • Erin

      I bag mine and put it in a cooler. Today tho I am going to bag it with the bring and just use my stock pot

  4. Bert C

    I use a 5 gallon bucket with a cover….it is cold here so we can leave it in the garage.

  5. Lisa B.

    In your recent “HERB ROASTED TURKEY” post you say you opt for a dry brine. Do you have a recipe for one?

  6. Herb Roasted Turkey – What's Gaby Cooking

    […] person like me… here’s pretty much everything you’ll ever need to know about brining a bird! It’s a KEY component to a juicy […]

  7. Lauren

    Hi Gaby!

    I have been scouring all your posts for your dry brine recipe & cant seem to find it. Do you have a link?


  8. Robert

    I use a large plastic igloo cooler. I put enough ice to keep the water temp. close to the fridge temp. The insulation maintains it very well.

  9. Ashley

    I’ve always rinse off my brine in the past in fear it being too salty. I assume this won’t be the case if I forego the rinse using this recipe?

    • Gaby

      correct! you pat most of it off when you go to season the turkey using my roasted turkey recipe anyway

  10. Allison S.

    I am tackling the thanksgiving turkey this year (first timer) and my mom said I should consider using a few turkey breasts, legs, wings, etc. so pieces vs. a while turkey. Would the process still be the same? Any words of wisdom for this intimidating main course? Also, love your blog, your guide to Africa has been super helpful in prepping for my honeymoon!

    • Gaby

      you can brine breasts in this just as you would a full turkey!! no problem! And still get an internal thermometer so you can gauge when it’s done

  11. Michelle

    Hi Gaby! Can’t wait to try this for my first ever turkey! One question, if I use a frozen turkey, do I thaw it first in the fridge and then put in the brine for 48hours OR do I just put the turkey in the brine frozen and it thaws while in the brine? Thank you so much in advance! Ps. I’m also making almost everything else on your Thanksgiving menu and following your step by step schedule. 🙂

    • Gaby

      Hey Michelle – it’s up to you. You can do it either way // I wrote about it in the Q+A section of this post. I always let my bird thaw in the fridge for a day and then put it in the brine for 2 days to continue to thaw!

  12. Elena D

    5 stars
    Amazing flavor and makes the meat so, so juicy! I follow it up with butter stuffed under the skin before baking. I’ve also used it on bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs and drumsticks but you do need to broil it at the end to brown it, otherwise the skin has a grey-ish color from the brown sugar.

    • Gaby

      yes but make sure it is TOTALLY dry before frying. In fact, I’d brine it now, then a day before take it out of the brine and air dry it in the fridge, and THEN fry it to be extra safe

    • Gaby

      Nah, just slice it in half so the garlic is exposed and toss it in!

  13. Jen

    I think you recommended in an Instagram Live to brine the turkey for 2 days then to let it air dry in the fridge for 1 day so that the skin gets crispy in the oven…

    Am I remembering that correctly or was the 1 day air dry *only* if you plan to fry the turkey?

    Thank you!

    • Gaby

      I like to air fry it regardless of how you’re cooking it! Makes for the crispiest skin

  14. Nicole

    Do the red pepper flakes make the turkey a little spicy? Though I wouldn’t mind, we have some finicky eaters coming.

  15. Kathleen Sefton

    5 stars
    Tried it today. The best turkey ever! Smeared the brined turkey with mayonnaise, salt and pepper. Covered breast with gammon slices. Cooked to perfection!

  16. Tim

    Does the red chili flakes add any spicy to it? I know its very little but some sensitive family member can do spice.