Best Turkey Brine Recipe


Have you ever made a brine for your turkey? If you’re up to the challenge for this Thanksgiving Day, here’s a recipe to consider.

For those of you who haven’t tried a turkey brine, you will be very surprised at the difference in flavor from a typical basted turkey. The turkey will cook to be incredibly moist, tasty, and tender – a meal to remember…

The recipe ingredients for a turkey brine are nearly limitless, and you will find all sorts of brine recipes online.

Okay, so the best turkey brine recipe is subjective, but this one tastes pretty good!

This particular recipe is one that we’ve used for several years.



1 handful fresh thyme branches (3/4 oz package works well)
1 handful fresh sage leaves (3/4 oz package works well)
5 bay leaves (or thereabouts)
2 heads roughly chopped garlic cloves
3 cups kosher salt (“kosher” has bigger crystals – absorbs more)
2 cups dark brown sugar
1 cup honey
6 lemons, cut into 8ths
4 large yellow onions, coarsely chopped
4 jiggers dark rum (optional) 2 for the brine, 2 for the chef
1-2 gallons apple cider (approximate – see instructions)



Add the salt, sugar, and honey in a large pot big enough to hold all of the recipe ingredients (enough for several gallons).

Add 1 gallon apple cider. Slowly heat up the mixture to the point at which the salt, sugar, and honey dissolve. Stir occasionally during the process. The heated mixture typically will become dissolved when it gets warm enough, usually before it simmers. Add more apple cider if the salt is not dissolving enough.

Then, let cool to room temperature. To speed up the cooling process, set outside in the shade, covered. This process will take hours, so don’t rush it. The brine must be cool.

DO NOT add hot or warm brine with a fresh raw Turkey for the brine duration.

Once cool, add the rest of the turkey brine ingredients and stir well. Squeeze the lemons into the mixture while adding them.

Choose a container to fit and hold your turkey and brine

Ideally you want a container that will provide a fairly snug fit for your turkey so that it will remain immersed in the brine.

Otherwise, you could periodically rotate the turkey throughout the brine process for all the juices to absorb.

Not only do I use my pressure cooker for canning, but it is the perfect size pot to fit 1 to 2 gallons of turkey brine along with a 20 pound turkey. It also fit well at the bottom of the refrigerator after moving some shelves around.

Otherwise I would have set it outside where it’s cool (with the cover on), so long as it was cold enough outside (above freezing but below 45 F).

You could also use the bag method (double bag it in case one leaks) in an ice-chest (cooler), or even a cooler without the bag (clean it well afterwards!), or a 5-gallon food grade bucket. You get the idea – anything clean and safe for food – and kept in a cool enough environment during the soak (below 45 F). Consider adding ice if you need to keep it below 45-degrees outside.

If you will brine your turkey in the refrigerator, be sure the container fits in the fridge first!

Place the turkey in the container and then pour in the brine, making sure that some of the floating ingredients gets inside and around the turkey. The idea is for the turkey to be completely immersed in the brine solution. Add more cider if you need to. Otherwise, flip the turkey part way through the soak for even coverage and soaking.

Brine for about 24 hours.

Afterward, remove the turkey, and be sure to discard the brine ingredients.

Cook the turkey as you normally would until internal temperature reaches 165 F.







  1. You don’t inject it too?? I always inject it before I put the bird in the brine. I’ve also learned, that the more acidic the brine, the more undesirable the meat consistency, so I don’t use juices like lemon or pineapple. Also, I like to add smoke flavoring to the brine. It takes me 9-13 hours to smoke the bird, depending on the size. Smoky!!

    1. I’ve never fried a turkey. Not sure if the brine would be a waste given that the bird would just be frying in oil…

      1. The moisture could be a problem if frying,,,
        Sounds like a good brine, am going to give it a try!

      2. my brother in law has several times injected marinade into thawed turkey, and then deep fried it (outside). he watches it closely.

        tastes wonderful

        1. I think I’ll try the brine with fried turkey this year. I’ll let you all know how it goes.

        2. Dan-o

          please check

          I am thinking that if you brine the turkey, you can NOT deep fry it. the moisture is likely to “explode” in the deep fryer.

          I am thinking I have heard in the news, of someone doing this, and it exploding in their face.

          When my brother in law did this, he INJECTED the flavor/brine, and was careful to pat the turkey down.

        3. You can brine and fry. The important thing is to make sure the surface of the bird is dry before placing into the oil. The explosions are due to ice and excess moisture on the surface which result in an immediate release of steam causing the boil overs and resulting flareups.

          It is a safe practice to temporarily cut the fire to the frier when dropping in the bird just in case, then relighting once any fears of a boil-over have subsided.

        4. Well all, fried 2 birds one right after the other. No one in our group could tell which bird had been brined. Both were a hit, as usual.

        5. ah…
          re the “no one could tell”

          any chance you deep fried the brined bird first, and some of the flavoring went into the oil – to flavor other bird?

  2. I always brine any bird, even for fried chicken. It always improves the flavor, moisture, and texture of the meat…no matter how it is cooked.

    I use a more savory brine for turkey, copied from the recipe provided by Alton Brown from the Food Network. I follow his method of cooking the turkey, where most of the browning takes place in the first 20 minutes, then the bird’s breasts are covered with foil, and finished at low temp. I never stuff the turkey anymore, but fill the cavity with aromatics instead. I do not fry the turkey, as I desire to capture its juices for gravy. The result of following Alton’s recipe is always a perfect bird, whose flesh is truly remarkable. You WILL receive positive exclamations from all at the table.

    After years of letting the relatives struggle with the meal, I had had enough. I told them to do nothing, and let me cook everything, one year. Everything from soup to nuts. Well, since then, I became the Official Cook for the family tribe. Good thing I enjoy gourmet cooking!

    I also work for Walt Disney World in culinary.

    Please try the Alton Brown Food Network brine and his cooking method.

    Eat Well!

      1. Ken

        please tell me that is not a white garbage bag, you have lining the cooler?

        hopefully it is some food grade plastic bag?

        those garbage bags have lots of nasty chemicals on them to kill odor/bacteria etc.

  3. Ken,
    Sounds like a great brine,
    Interesting you use apple cider, imagine the sugars do a nice job for flavor

    1. I also brine my bird. I freeze half of my liquids that I use so it cools my other part down so I don’t have to water it down. I also weight the bird down with gallon zip locks filled with water.
      I have been spatchcocking my turkey for the last 5 or so years. Works great and I can then have more room in my oven for other things.
      Hope everyone has a wonderful Holiday filled with Love, friendship and most of all Peace.

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