How to brine a Turkey

turkey Our next recipe in our For The Thanksgiving Table series. This one will assure you have a juicy, delicious turkey, courtesy of Winnie (who knows a thing or two about spices, as you’ll soon find out).

Brine, in my opinion, keeps a turkey moist during its long cooking process. Since a turkey is so large, it’s hard to find a place to soak it for 8-10 hours. I use a cooler. If you live in a cold climate, your garage or porch may be cold enough to keep it cool. But for us Californians (or if you have a crazy temperature shift) add ice. The following recipe is for a 20lb turkey.

About 4 gallons of cold water
4 cups kosher or coarse sea salt
2/3 cup natural sugar
3 teaspoons of juniper berries
2 bulbs of peeled, whole garlic or 1 tablespoon of dried minced garlic
3 tablespoons of whole peppercorns (mix of green and black)
5 bay leaves

Mix all the ingredients in the cooler until sugar and salt are dissolved. Rinse the turkey and submerge into the mixture. If turkey is not covered, add more water. Add ice if necessary.

After 8-10 hours (adding ice along the way if it melts), remove the turkey and rinse, discard the brine. Pat dry and place in a shallow roasting pan. If you’re not stuffing the turkey with traditional stuffing, you can stuff it with the following to further develop the flavors of the brine:


1 large onion chopped
2 celery stalks chopped
1 apple cored and chopped
2-3 parsnips chopped
2 carrots chopped
1 tablespoon of dried sage
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons of white peppercorn
1 teaspoon of juniper berries
1/2 teaspoon of celery seed

Cook the turkey according to the directions that come with it. When ready, if you used the above stuffing recipe, remove and discard it. Or, use it to flavor the gravy (but be sure to strain the gravy before serving. Juniper berries do not taste good whole!)



Stef is a plethora of things. Amongst them: co-founder of we heart this, photographer, condiment connoisseur, Philly girl in the California desert, borderline hoarder and a hardcore beauty junkie. She also has a touch of wanderlust and, arguably, the cutest dog in the whole world...
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6 thoughts on “How to brine a Turkey”

  1. Sorry for my late reply. I have the flu! But I can’t take all the credit for this one. This is my sister’s recipe and i used it last Thanksgiving and it was incredible. I’ll be doing the same thing this year. Can’t wait. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday! It makes sense that you don’t do this with Butterballs, i think this primarily used with fresh turkeys only. No one should buy a Butterball! They treat their turkey’s terribly!

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