Ree's Turkey Brine Recipe Is the Key to Your Best Thanksgiving Bird Yet (2024)

Table of Contents
Ingredients Directions

I brine a Thanksgiving turkey every year because it's the right thing to do. Brining involves soaking a turkey in a very salty solution for a certain length of time, long enough for the salt to infiltrate the turkey and actually alter the molecular structure of the meat. It doesn't turn it into a salty mess, either. It just results in a juicy, fantastic turkey. If you've never brined a turkey, you'll just have to trust me on this. It really makes all the difference and adds so much flavor.

You can buy ready-made brining solutions. I used to buy one at Williams-Sonoma. But making one is a cinch, too. You basically need salt and a mix ofother seasoning ingredients. I like to balance the saltiness with the mild sweetness of apple cider (and, okay, the not-so-mild sweetness of brown sugar). It's the easiest way toseason a turkey!

There's a couple important things to remember, though:

Though you can brine a frozen, thawed bird, it's best to brinefresh turkeys. Brining a frozen turkey isn't always necessary, because frozen turkeys are typically alreadyinjected with a sodium solution. Putting this into a well-salted brinecould lead to over-seasoning.There are, however,some organic frozen turkeys that have a much lower concentration of the sodium solution. That said, it's best to stick to a fresh turkey for optimal brining results and flavor!

Making homemade turkey gravy from the drippings of a brined turkey can result in a really salty gravy if you're not careful. Don't worry, I'll show you a few steps that will prevent this from happening.

What's the best way to cook a brined turkey?

I think roasting the bird is the way to go because it requires no special equipment (well, other than a good meat thermometer so you don't overcook it!). You could also smoke this brined turkey if you wanted. If you want to fry it, though, take the turkey out of the brine 24 hours before frying. Let it sit uncovered in your refrigerator during that time so the outside has a chance to dry. You never want to take a turkey from abrine straight tohot oil as the excess liquid can cause lots of dangerous splattering!

Do you spatchco*ck a turkey before or after brining it?

Brine, then spatchco*ck.Spatchco*cking a turkeyis a technique that essentially butterflies the bird. Youremove the backbone so the turkey lies flat and cooks quicker than a whole bird. That said,a spatchco*cked turkey also absorbs salt and seasoning quicker than a whole bird. So, to avoid a too-salty turkey, brine your bird first, then, do the spatchco*cking.

Can you make the brine ahead of time?

Yes, you can make it several days in advance and store it in the fridge until you're ready to submerge your bird!

How long should you brine a turkey?

Shoot for atleast 16 hours butno longer than 24 hours. If you brine it any longer than 24 hours the turkey will be too salty.

Do you have to refrigerate a turkey while brining it?

Yes! Do not leave aturkey brining on the counter or it'll spoil. Treat it just like you would a raw turkey, because that's what it is—always refrigerate it!

Do you rinse a turkey after brining?

Yes, you'll need to carefully rinse the turkey (inside and out!) to remove some of the saltiness from the brine. I actually like to soak mine in cold water for about 15 minutes.This is the only time you should ever rinse a turkey! If you don't brine your turkey, you don't need to rinse it. But you should definitely brine it, just so I'm clear.

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Yields:
18 serving(s)
Prep Time:
10 mins
Cook Time:
15 mins
Total Time:
25 mins

Ingredients

Directions

    1. Step1Combine all of the ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil, stirring until the salt and sugar dissolve. Turn off theheat, cover,and allow the brine to cool completely.
    2. Step2Place the uncooked turkey in a large brining bag or pot, pour in the brine solution to cover the turkey, and refrigerate for 16 to 24 hours.
    3. Step3Before roasting, remove the turkey from the brine (discard the brine) and submerge the turkey in a pot or sink filled with fresh, cold water for 15 minutes. This removes excess salt from the outside.
    4. Step4Remove the turkey from the water, pat verydry, and cook according to your normal roasting method.

It's time. It's time for Thanksgiving recipes.

I don't care that it's not even Halloween yet!

Oh, I know how it goes. Every year around this time, I think I have all this time to post Thanksgiving recipes on this little food blog of mine. I think, "It's not even Halloween yet. I've got all the time in the world!" Then it happens. It's the same every year. We dress up our children in Iron Man and Richard Nixon costumes, go trick-or-treating in our quaint little town, then by the time they're on their last piece of candy—which is actually like twenty hours later—it's suddenly Christmas. And I’m looking around my kitchen and my little food blog like, "Okay… what just happened?"

And then I ask my children if they have any candy left because I'm having a wicked sugar craving. And they tell me to go bake a pie or something. Smart aleck little varmints. Anyway, today I'm sharing my step-by-step method for brining a turkey. I brine a turkey every year.

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Here's what you need:

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Cut off the top and bottom of each orange.

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Carefully slice off the peel in sections.

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Mmm. Fragrant to the max.

Strip the leaves off the rosemary sprigs, measure the salt, sugar, bay leaves, and peppercorns. Inhale. Exhale. Thank the Lord above for the aromas that spring forth from the earth.

At least that's what I do every time I make this turkey brine.

(Oh, and you'll need some minced garlic. I just forgot that step. Happens.)

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Pour three cups of apple cider into a stock pot.

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Add two gallons of water…

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A cup and a half of salt…

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Two cups of brown sugar…

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Bay leaves…

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Rosemary…

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Peppercorns…

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And orange peel.

And the forgotten garlic.

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Loveliness!

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Now, bring the mixture to a boil, then immediately turn off the heat and cover the pot. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature; feel free to stick it in the fridge or freezer halfway through the cooling down process

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This is an alien hand (left) and a brining bag.

I'm obsessed with brining bags. Obsessed!

It's all I think about anymore.

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Here’s the turkey inside the brining bag.

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Once the brine solution is cooled, pour it over the turkey.

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Now you’ll just need to seal up the bag and refrigerate it for at least sixteen hours. Twenty-four hours is better, though, especially for a large turkey. Place the turkey, breast side down, in the bag, but 2/3 of the way through the brining, flip the turkey in the bag to make sure it brines evenly. Just pretend you’re an obstetrician and you’re trying to get a breach baby to flip!

Note: This is enough brine for a 20-pound turkey. If you feel as though the turkey needs even more liquid, just top it off with more water and it'll be fine. If you're using a much smaller turkey or a turkey breast, just halve the recipe.

Next up: Roasting this dang thing. (Here are the turkey roasting instructions!)

The fun has only just begun.

Ree's Turkey Brine Recipe Is the Key to Your Best Thanksgiving Bird Yet (2024)
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