Basic Turkey Brine Recipe

Herbs, salt, twine, and garlic for turkey brine recipe

The Spruce / Claire Cohen

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Brining Time: 12 hrs
Total: 12 hrs 15 mins
Servings: 12 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
71 Calories
0g Fat
18g Carbs
0g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 12
Amount per serving
Calories 71
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 1%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 10103mg 439%
Total Carbohydrate 18g 7%
Dietary Fiber 1g 3%
Total Sugars 17g
Protein 0g
Vitamin C 2mg 9%
Calcium 49mg 4%
Iron 1mg 3%
Potassium 26mg 1%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

When Thanksgiving approaches, there's no shortage of discussions about the best way to roast a turkey because a dry one is a big disappointment. Time and time again, brining comes up as a key way to help ensure a juicier, tastier holiday turkey. Water, salt, sugar, garlic, and herbs make up this quick turkey brine for a 12 -to 15-pound bird. (Dry brines are different altogether and don't involve submerging the turkey in salty, herbed water.)

Once the brine has come together, let it cool. Some people like to put the turkey in an extra-large resealable plastic bag inside a cooler loaded with ice, which makes it easier to pour the brine in and even easier to move the turkey around; it also doesn't take up precious space in your refrigerator at a time of year when space is at a premium. You can use a cooler or simply add the turkey and the brine to a large container.

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Click Play to See This Basic Turkey Brine Recipe Come Together

“I appreciate having a dependable brine recipe in my holiday repertoire, and this one delivers. Truly a classic.” —Mary Jo Romano

Basic Turkey Brine/Tester Image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester

Ingredients

  • 2 gallons cold water

  • 2 cups kosher ​salt

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed

  • 6 to 8 sprigs fresh thyme

  • 6 to 8 sprigs fresh sage

  • 6 to 8 sprigs fresh rosemary

  • 1 1/2 teaspoon allspice berries, cracked

  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • Turkey, for using the brine, optional

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for basic turkey brine
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  2. Add water, salt, sugar, garlic, thyme, sage, rosemary, allspice berries, and pepper to a stockpot. Over medium heat, simmer until the salt and sugar dissolve, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool completely.

    Dissolve seasonings in a pot of water
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  3. Submerge the turkey in the brine. Top with a plate and put a large can or a few cans on the plate to keep the turkey submerged. Refrigerate the turkey in the brine for 12 to 24 hours.

    Turkey in pot along with brine and herbs
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  4. Before roasting, remove the turkey from the brine and rinse it off under cold water so it's not too salty. Pat it dry with paper towels. Discard the brine.

    Turkey pat dry with paper towel on a baking sheet
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  5. Follow your favorite recipe and roast without using additional salt.

    Roast turkey
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

Tips

  • This recipe is enough for a 12- to 15-pound turkey, but if you have to increase the amount of water to cover the turkey because your turkey is larger, add proportionately more salt, sugar, and herbs. For each gallon of water, use 1 cup kosher salt, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, and approximately 1 teaspoon crushed garlic, 2 to 4 sprigs of the herbs, about 1 teaspoon of cracked allspice berries and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
  • Brined meat might look a bit pink even when fully cooked. Always check the temperature of the turkey with an instant-read thermometer. The turkey should register at least 165 F in the thickest part of the thigh. If the turkey is stuffed, the center of the stuffing must be cooked to at least 165 F.

Recipe Variations

  • Rather than fresh herbs, use 1 tablespoon of dried herbs.
  • Other popular brine additions include whole peppercorns, lemon or orange quarters, bay leaves, whole cloves, and cinnamon sticks.