How to Brine a Turkey for a Simply Delicious Dinner

Thanksgiving meal

When you’re feeling the pressure to cook your fam’s Thanksgiving meal perfectly, there’s one little secret that’ll make it a smashing success: you gotta brine that bird. Read on to learn how to brine a turkey for a delicious dinner.

Brining is when you let your turkey soak in a salt-and-water solution for several hours before cooking. This allows the meat to absorb moisture and be extra flavorful. Sure, it’s an extra step to cooking the turkey, but the result is totally worth it — especially when you add spices and flavorings.

Turkey Brine

Yield: ideal for a turkey up to 16 lbs


  • 1½ gallons water
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 2 large oranges
  • 1 lemon
  • 2-3 sprigs (about 3 tablespoons) fresh rosemary
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons whole peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon whole mustard seed
  • 3 bay leaves


1. In a large stock pot, combine water and cider. Place over high heat.

2. Slice the peel off of the lemons and oranges. Remove rosemary leaves from the sprigs. Smash garlic using the side of a knife and remove the peels.

3. Pour the salt and brown sugar in the stock pot and stir. Place the remaining ingredients — including the orange and lemon peels, rosemary and garlic — in the stock pot and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let cool completely.

4. When the brine cools to room temperature, clean the turkey, removing all innards and parts from the cavity. Rinse the turkey under cool running water.

5. If your stock pot is large enough, it’s best to brine the turkey inside it. Place the turkey cavity side-up in the pot; this makes it easier to flip it after some time. Make sure a lid can be placed over the top without parts of the bird sticking out.

Pro Tip: If the turkey is too large for the stock pot, use a brining bag. (You can find them at most grocery stores.) Put the brining bag in a roasting pan, place the turkey in the bag and pour the liquid over the turkey, making sure the cavity is filled.

6. Place the in the refrigerator for 24 hours, flipping the bird over after 12 hours.

7. Remove the turkey and discard the brine. There will be a lot of salt on the surface of the turkey, so rinse it thoroughly under cool running water, then pat dry. Don’t forget to rinse the cavity, too.

8. Cook the turkey as desired.

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18 Responses to “How to Brine a Turkey for a Simply Delicious Dinner”

  1. Walter McClennan

    I’ve been brining my turkeys for years, everyone raves about how moist and tasty they are. My standard brine uses rosemary, thyme, and sage. This year, I’m going to try this one with citrus.

    I don’t even try to squeeze the bird into my refrigerator. Instead, I store it in a cooler with ice when I bring it home, mix the brining mixture and put everything in a bag then put that back in the cooler until I’m ready to roast the turkey.

    • Marassa

      With chicken, definitely. I don’t know about pork. I’d think you’d just marinate it (hardcore) to get the same level of flavor. I use the expansion technique: Marinading while freezing the cuts gets the flavors deep inside. Then just defrost before cooking.

  2. Cecelia Mercer

    I don’t have access to brining so I put a clean 13 gallon trash bag in one side of my sink. I put the turkey in, pour in the brining and enough cold water to cover the bird. Then I add ice, close the bag, and cover with an old quilt and leave it overnight. This brining has made me the best turkey cook around.

    • Jennifer P

      I do the same thing, but I use a trash bag in a cooler and keep it on my porch. You probably have less clean up though. Thanks for the idea!

      • Ruth

        Please be careful of using a garbage bag. It isn’t food grade plastic and chemicals can leach into food. I learned that from my Grandma who was food service supervisor at our hospital.

  3. Jenny

    Do you mean apple cider vinegar or actual cider? & as we can’t eat oranges or sugar wondering if extra lemons or just omit orange rind? Could honey be used instead of brown sugar or would stevia be better?

    • Walter McClennan

      I assume it’s actual cider. If you aren’t using citrus, you don’t need a sweetener. You may want to just go with a simple salt/herb brine.

    • Ruth

      Please be careful of using a garbage bag. It isn’t food grade plastic and chemicals can leach into food. I learned that from my Grandma who was food service supervisor at our hospital.