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How to Brine a Turkey (or almost anything) for Thanksgiving

Dried out turkey breasts can be a thing of the past! Try this brining technique for a moist, delicious Thanksgiving turkey, or your next pork or chicken dinner.

Mary Anne Erickson


October 15, 2018

By Chef Richard Erickson


The word itself seems old fashioned and it is. It is one of the techniques by which ham and bacon have long been cured. Modern chefs adopted the technique relatively recently to correct for the lean pork and poultry being raised commercially. Dried out turkey breasts can be a thing of the past! Turkey that is cooked over 150 degrees has all the juices squeezed out of it as the meat contracts during cooking. Brining will counteract that and give you a juicy, tender and flavorful bird. Really!!  

A brine is basically salt water with sugar added to temper some of the harshness of the salt. Usually some herbs and spices are added to enhance the flavor.

For a 20+ lb Turkey Here's what you do, it's this simple:

To make two gallons of brine, take:  2 cups kosher salt, 1 cup sugar, 1 head garlic, bay leaves, fresh thyme, sage or rosemary, and peppercorns. Bring 2 cups of water to boil along with salt, sugar, the herbs and spices. Crush the head of garlic, add 3 or 4 bay leaves, a good branch of thyme, sage or rosemary and a sprinkling of peppercorns. Let simmer for 10 to 15 minutes and then cool.

Now add two gallons of cold water less 2 cups. This is enough for a large 20+ lbs.turkey.

First remove neck, giblets and liver from the cavities, rinse and put into a large pot or plastic pail that will hold the turkey comfortably and cover with the cooled brine, put a plate on top to keep it submerged and leave refrigerated for 24 to 48 hours depending on the size. It is important that it remain 40 degrees or less.  Remove from brine, pat dry and roast in the usual way, however do not add salt, the bird has already been seasoned! I like to rub the skin with a bit of oil and some of the herbs that I used in the brine.

The internal temperature of the bird should be 145 degrees when it's done. Allow it to rest for at least 30 minutes after removing from the oven before you carve and serve. Now enjoy one of the most tender and delicious turkeys you have ever had. This recipe also works well for chicken and pork, soak for shorter periods of time depending on the size of the piece of meat. Brown sugar, apple cider, mustard seeds, cinnamon, and cloves are all great to add to a brine. The variations are endless, so have fun with this and don't worry, be happy!

From all of us at Blue Mountain Bistro-to-Go, we wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving!