Brine a Turkey the Easy Way

For years, we have been brining turkeys with great success, and you can too!

Most people think that when you brine a turkey or chicken, that the end result will be an overly salty beast.

So. Not. True.

The opposite is true: when you brine poultry, the end result is tender moist deliciousness that most people would love to replicate.

I’m gonna show you how!

How To Brine a Turkey

My one caveat is to never ever use brining bags when brining turkeys.

You’ll see why at the end of the post.  EEP!


(in case this looks familiar, part of this post first appeared in an OMT post dated: December 13, 2013)


The Internets is full of the info.

Ratio of salt to water varies wildly depending on your source.

I’ll tell you how we did it and leave you to do some research on your own to determine what will work for your tastes.

* We use a ratio of 1 gallon of water to 1/2-1 cup of kosher salt. (salt makes the meat juicy by allowing the muscles to take in and retain water)

* We use a ratio of 1 gallon of water to 1/2-1 cup of sugar. (sugar acts as a browning agent)

* Herbs and other ingredient added to taste. (herbs and other spices act as the yum factor)

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* A cube cooler to immerse the turkey.

* Ice

That’s it.  Nope, not kidding.  Seriously…that’s it!

Step-by-step for two 12-13 pound turkeys.  (use half the amounts for one bird):

1) Thaw the turkey and remove bagged giblets.

2) Give the turkey a good rinse.

3) Pour 4 gallons of water into cooler (MAKE SURE COOLER STOPPER IS IN POSITION TO PREVENT DRAINING!).

4) Add 2 cups of salt.  Stir well.

5) Add two cups of sugar. Stir Well.

6) Add 1/2-1 cup uncrushed peppercorns and any other seasonings you want to try.

7) Submerge turkeys.  Make sure they are fully covered by the brine:

Brine a Turkey the Easy Way

8) Add enough ice to cover turkeys:

The Easy Way to Brine a Turkey

9) Securely close lid on cooler and leave for 24 hours.  The ice will keep everything safe and cool.

10) Take out turkeys. Rinse thoroughly, especially the inside cavity.  Smoke.  Cook.  Grill.  Whatever rocks your socks.

When we’re preparing a brined turkey to share with others, we tend to use a very basic recipe like the one above.

When we brine for ourselves, we get more creative.

We’ve used lemons and herbs and anything that speaks to us from our spice pantry.

You can also add other liquids like white wine or hot sauces.  CALIENTE!

You really can’t go wrong.  Especially if you stick with the general ratios.

Turkey Brining Bonus Tips:

~ I know the cooler idea may seem odd to many, but over the years we have discovered that this method works best.  If you use a flimsy brining bag, prepare to clean up spills.

Remember my one caveat earlier about NOT using a brining bag for a turkey?  One year we literally had 2-4 gallons that broke free from the bag, causing a mighty river to flow through our garage, down the driveway and into the street.

Sure, now we can laugh…

Trust me, a cooler works best.

You just need to remember to clean it thoroughly after using it to brine raw poultry.

You don’t want to invite Sal Mo Nella to your next event.

~ Use Kosher salt.  There is a significant weight difference between table salt and Kosher salt and the two are not interchangeable here.  When you see the brine measurements of salt versus water, you can safely assume kosher salt is used.

~ Do not be afraid of the amount of salt in the brine.  In order to transfer the magic brine into the turkey, you need these amounts, otherwise your turkey is just bathing in salt water and that’s totally weird.

~ Humbly accept the praise heaped upon your head after all partake of your masterpiece.

Did I tell you or what?  This is truly the easy way to brine a turkey.

Now get to brining, mah babies!

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  1. Interesting…I have never done this…thanks for the all this information!

  2. Gah! You’ve saved me (and my fridge)! I’ve used a stock pot and brining bag for a couple years and it’s a MESS, plus a pain in the patootie to get in and out of the fridge. I shall use a cooler this year… and give thanks for you sharing the smart idea!

  3. This was interesting, not that I like turkey but still it was interesting

  4. KC @ Average: More or Less says

    I’m gonna try this the very first time my daddy lets someone besides him cook the turkey.

    • We usually make a turkey for our house, even if Thanksgiving isn’t hosted by us because we love it so much! Once you make this, your daddy is gonna be all: tag! you’re it!

  5. Oh this is excellent! I have always wondered how to brine a turkey without having an extra refrigerator. Our fridge is always STUFFED at Thanksgiving and I never thought we could brine our turkey unless we had an extra fridge or had one of our relatives do it and bring it over early to cook. THANK YOU!

  6. Jamie @ Love Bakes Good Cakes says

    With the holiday season coming up, this is great to know! Thanks so much for joining us at Freedom Fridays! Pinning and scheduling to share on my Facebook page! 🙂

  7. I have always brined the turkey and those are the exact proportions of salt to water I use. Whole allspice berries really enhance the flavor, and the turkey is always tender and juicy. That being said, I must say that, I would have never have thought of using the ice and a cooler. The hardest one I ever did was a 24 pounder for the church potluck dinner last year. I wish I had known about the cooler then. Thanks a bunch.

  8. Love these step by step instructions! I use a cube cooler, too, only I line it with an extra large trash bag for easy cleanup.

    • Kay, while I love the idea of easy clean-up, I would worry that the trash bag isn’t food grade and may leach unwanted chemicals into the brine and turkey. Thanks for adding to the conversation. Happy Brining!

  9. So, you dont cook this Brine at all. I’ve seen so many recipes but they all include bringing the brine to a boil, then adding cold water???

    • Nope, no cooking the brine. We basically add cold water to the cooler, add the seasonings, stir, then place turkey in the brine. Add ice. Cover. Wait customary bringing time. Done.

  10. I can attest to one of those flimsy brine bag messes! It totally sucks cleaning raw turkey juice off all the surfaces in your kitchen the night before Thanksgiving. Thanks for the tips!

  11. An even easier way to brine the turkey is to chuck it in frozen and pour the brine on top. That way, it soaks up all of the briny goodness while thawing and you don’t have to worry about the ice. I’ve been doing it this way for years, because my fridge is usually full of other things at the time we’re eating turkey.


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