Best Turkey Brine Recipe

Thanksgiving turkey recipes have sure come a long way. Thanksgiving dinner, in general, has come a long way!

how to brine a turkey hero images


Why Brine Turkey?

Simple brine for turkey can be as easy as dissolving salt in water or as complicated as a two-day process of an herb infused brine and then allowing for an air dry for the perfect, crispy turkey skin.

Is it worth it to brine a turkey? I think so! Many others would agree with me. While there lots of ways to keep your turkey moist and succulent, brining is probably the best way. It adds flavor from the skin to the bone- no rub or injection offers that.

Benefits of Brine For Turkey

There are so many benefits to brining turkey, but two biggest are flavor and texture. Because turkeys are generally a larger bird, they need to slow roast and it can be challenging to keep the meat moist during the process. Brining infuses cells with moisture, helping it to stay buttery and juicy.
Those same liquids will bring flavor to the meat.

Turkey Brine vs. Rub vs. Injection

Is it just me, or did brining a turkey not become a “thing” until a few years ago? The newest in turkey trends. What will be next?

  • Turkey Rub– Great for seasoning right on the skin of the turkey, no marinating time needed. Just rub and go.
  • Turkey Injection– Can be used in conjunction with the rub, but not brining. You literally inject liquid into the turkey. No need to let it sit. Create pockets of flavor and moisture.
  • Brine– Bringing is the creme de la creme of turkey preparation, but also requires a bit of thinking ahead. It plumps every fiber of turkey with moisture and flavor, but also takes a good deal of space and at least 24 hours.

After any of these preparations, you can roast, fry or smoke the bird.

angled shot of whole roasted turkey

Turkey Brine Recipe Simple Ingredients

I set out to find a the best brine recipe ever for the juiciest turkey. The basics of a brine solution are using cold water and infusing it with salt, sugar and flavor.

turkey brine recipe with step-by-step instructions

What is the ratio of salt to water for turkey brine? The general rule is 1 cup of salt for every gallon of water. Yes, the type of salt does matter- use a large, coarse grain salt, either Kosher or sea salt. If you are using a small grain salt, cut the amount in half, here there such a thing as too much salt. Other ingredients include:

  • Paprika
  • Chili powder
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion
  • Oregano
  • Thyme
  • Fresh garlic
  • Brown sugar
  • Bay leaves
  • Kosher salt (I like Diamond Crystal)

Here are a few variations to customize your flavorful turkey.

  • Orange Zest or Orange Slices
  • Lemon Zest or Lemon Slices
  • Carrots
  • Fresh Parsley
  • Celery
  • Juniper berries
  • Cinnamon Sticks
  • Cloves
  • Star Anise Pods
  • Nutmeg
  • Apple Juice or Apple Cider
  • Fruit Juice

Through the process of osmosis, your bird will be infused with all the flavors added and give you succulent and juicy meat from the legs to the breast, bone to skin.

ingredients for a turkey brine

How to make this Turkey Brine Recipe

  1. Prep the actual bird, removing all of the innards and any super loose skin that might be dangling off. Set aside until the brine is ready.
  2. Bring the water to a boil and then whisk in all of the seasonings and salt. Using hot water helps the salt dissolve and flavors to infuse the water. Allow to cool fully- putting the turkey in hot water will just cook it and we aren’t ready for that yet!
  1. When brine has reached room temperature carefully transfer the liquid and the turkey to wherever you plan to store it. Place in refrigerator for 24 hours. *
  2. Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse with cold water, this removed excess salt so it won’t be too salty. Pat dry and then prepare your turkey according to desired recipe. 

How long do I brine turkey? The short answer is overnight up to 24 hours and this is dependant on how large your turkey is. A bigger bird needs more time to soak.

Can you brine a turkey too long? It is relatively hard to hurt the turkey, but yes, you can brine for too long. The result will be a tougher and salty bird. I recommend only 24 hours for a large turkey. For a super large bird you can push it a little longer. Brining a turkey for too long will make it too salty and the texture tough and spongy. You have to find the sweet spot.

turkey in a brine with aromatics

How to store Turkey Brine

How much turkey brine do I need? You need about 1 gallon for every 10 pounds of turkey. This turkey brine is for a 12 pound bird, but then you also need to take into account the size of the vessel you’ll be using to let it sit- a large cooler needs a lot more space than a stock pot. Aim for the whole bird to be covered in the saltwater solution. Make sure you have enough brine, but if you have too much, just get rid of the rest of the water.

Where do I brine my turkey? You can most likely have some something to brine a turkey in at home. There are three main ways people use: a brining bag, a large pot or a cooler. You can also use a roasting bag as long as it isn’t permeable.

Close up of sliced turkey for dinner on a white plate

Turkey Brine Recipe Simple tips

  1. Wet Brine. This technique is called wet brining. A wet turkey brine adds moisture to your turkey- nearly an entire pound of it for a 12 pound bird. The only downfall to wet brining a is not getting crispy turkey skin, but we have a solution for that below. You can learn more about a dry brines too.
  2. Use Large Grain Salt. Not all salt is created equal. Salts have different flavor profiles, chemical structures, shapes, ability to dissolve (although they all will eventually) and sizes, resulting in varying density.

    One tablespoon of Kosher salt is not the same as one tablespoon of table salt. Make sure to use Kosher salt with larger crystals to get the correct salt to water ratio for brine, which is 1 heaping tablespoon of kosher salt for every cup of water or 1 cup for every gallon of water.
turkey brine recipe with step-by-step instructions
  1. Add flavor. The types of flavor you can add to your easy brine are endless. For a simple brine recipe using just salt and water, there is no need to boil because the salt will dissolve regardless, but for more flavor, boiling is ideal to infuse water.
  2. How Make the Crispiest Turkey Skin. Because brining adds to much moisture and flavor, it also makes the skin super wet and prevents browned, crispy skin.

    To get the best of both worlds, brine your turkey for 24 hours, then remove from brine and allow to dry out, uncovered, in the refrigerator for an additional 24 hours. If you don’t have time, simple dab dry with paper towels.
  3. How to make turkey stock. And after you are all finished, save the bones to make Turkey Stock and Turkey Noodle Soup, the quickest and tastiest way to use up leftovers!

What is the best salt to water ratio for brine?

The typical ratio for brine is 1/4 cup of coarse kosher salt to every 4 cups of water. However, this doesn’t have to be exact. I also strongly recommend using only coarse kosher salt, which is less salty and has less sodium If using table salt, the volume needs to be reduced by at least half and could still be a little too salty. Make sure to rinse the bird with cold water after brining.

Have you ever wondered how to fry a turkey? Here are easy step-by-step instructions that can be used with any fried turkey recipe. #howtofryaturkey #friedturkeyrecipe
Fried Turkey Recipe

Brine For Turkey FAQs

How to brine turkey parts or how to brine turkey breast?

I bet you will guess this answer! The same way you brine a whole turkey! If you are only using a small amount, you can cut the recipe in half. You can also use this to brine a whole chicken, pork chops and get this- you can even brine shrimp!
Also check out my holiday turkey breast recipes:
Stuffed Turkey Breast
Herbed Mayonnaise Turkey Breast
Orange Sage Roast Turkey Breast

What is a basic roasting recipe?

Rub your brined turkey (after rinsing) with a compound butter or dry rub, stuff it with desired herbs and vegetables. Allow it to sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes before cooking.
Preheat oven to 325°F and follow the times below depending on whether it is stuffed and size. Place, breast side down in a roasting pan for the first half of cooking and up for the rest of the time.
Check with a meat thermometer to make sure it reaches an internal temperature of 175 degrees in the thickest part of the turkey. Then remove and allow to rest for at least 20 minutes before carving.

Can you reuse turkey brine?

NO! This is raw meat and a marinade just like others. The brine can be easily contaminated and contaminate your food. Discard turkey brine after one use.

Can you brine a turkey when it is frozen?

A thawed turkey is best, because if it is frozen, the brine doesn’t have a way to penetrate into the turkey. It is a little frozen, it is ok, but remember the ice left inside that still needs to thaw will dilute the brine, so compensate by adding a little more salt. 

Can I stuff a brined turkey?

You can do whatever the recipe calls for after you remove it from the brining liquid. It that includes stuffing, then YES! Try one of our recipe for Rice Dressing, Sausage Stuffing, Herb Wreath Stuffing or Bacon Wrapped Stuffing Muffins!

Can you over brine turkey?

Yes, turkey can be over brined which results in tough and rubbery meat. While you’d think more is better, there is a tipping point at which the meat starts to preserve and tense instead of tenderize. The exact number of hours depends on the size of the turkey, but we do not recommend brining for longer than 24-36 hours for a bird larger than 15 pounds. For birds less than 15 pounds, 18-24 hours.


close up of herbs in a turkey brine

What to serve with Brine Turkey

What do I serve with Turkey? Here are our our favorite Thanksgiving side ideas .

Rosemary Sweet Potato Stacks are a simple and visually appealing side dish or appetizer fit for any occasion. #sweetpotatostacks #sweetpotatoes

Rosemary Parmesan Sweet Potato Stacks

3.88 from 16 votes
Rosemary Sweet Potato Stacks are a simple and visually appealing side dish or appetizer fit for any occasion.
See The Recipe!
overhead shot of creamed corn casserole on spatula

Cream Corn Casserole Recipe

4.60 from 25 votes
Rich, creamy, and full of cornbread, this Creamed Corn Casserole recipe is amazing as a side or spruced up to be a whole meal!
See The Recipe!
overhead of herbed potato galette in a round serving dish

Potato Galette

4.47 from 13 votes
A stunning Potato galette makes the perfect side dish made with layers of thinly cut potatoes, Swiss cheese, shallots, herbs and cream sauce.
See The Recipe!

Or a few fun new Thanksgiving desserts:

overhead slice of pumpkin cheesecake with caramel and whipped cream

Pumpkin Cheesecake Recipe

4.91 from 66 votes
Traditional pumpkin cheesecake topped with salty pumpkin seeds and pumpkin spiced whipped cream.
See The Recipe!
overhead shot of slice of apple pie

The Best Apple Pie

4.72 from 14 votes
The Best Apple Pie Recipe is an all-American dessert recipe that pairs tart apples with the perfect amount of sugar and spice. 
See The Recipe!
layers of chocolate cream pie

Chocolate Cream Pie Recipe

4.73 from 18 votes
Mocha Cream Pie Recipe is three layers of delicious pie: brownie base, chocolate pudding, and whipped cream top all laced with coffee.
See The Recipe!
turkey brine recipe collage

More Favorites from Savory Experiments

turkey in a brine with aromatics

Turkey Brine Recipe Simple

4.35 from 513 votes
The best turkey brine recipe and step-by-step instructions for how to brine a turkey for roasting, smoking or frying.
Prep Time: 2 hours
Brining Time: 1 day 9 hours 20 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours
Servings: 10 people


Optional Add-Ins


  • Remove the plastic wrap, gizzard and neck. Rinse the turkey well with cold water and place into whatever vessel you are brining it in. Make sure you have enough space to place whatever you use into the refrigerator. 
  • Bring 16 cups of water to a rapid boil in a large stock pot. Whisk in the paprika, chile powder, garlic powder, onion, oregano, thyme, garlic cloves, brown sugar, bay leaves and kosher salt. Also add any optional add-ins you might want. Continue to boil for 15-20 minutes. Remove from the heat, allow to cool slightly (approximately 10-15 minutes) then add 4 cups of ice.
  • When the brine has reached room temperature carefully pour into brining bag (or whatever you are using to place it into the fridge) with turkey (this is a two person job.) Tightly pull bag up around the turkey, forcing the brine to fully encase the bird. Twist the top around a few times and then tie tightly with twine. The whole bird should be submerged in liquid. Place in refrigerator for 24 hours. *
  • Remove from brine and rinse with cold water. Pat dry and then prepare your turkey according to desired recipe. 
  • If you've tried this recipe, come back and give it a rating and tell us how it was in the comments or ratings.



  • If the brine will not completely embrace the turkey you can rig it with other items. I used a small cup, shot glass and cheese grater to make sure the brine fully encompassed the turkey.


Calories: 579 kcal, Carbohydrates: 8 g, Protein: 84 g, Fat: 22 g, Saturated Fat: 5 g, Cholesterol: 278 mg, Sodium: 8957 mg, Potassium: 936 mg, Sugar: 6 g, Vitamin A: 810 IU, Vitamin C: 1.6 mg, Calcium: 74 mg, Iron: 3.9 mg
Calories: 579
Course: Main Course, Main Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: brined turkey, how to brine a turkey, turkey brine recipe
Did you make this recipe?I’d love to see your recipes – snap a picture and mention @savoryexperiments or tag #savoryexperiments!
turkey in a brine with oranges with text overlay
Jessica Formicola in her ktichen

About the Author

Jessica Formicola

Jessica the mom, wife and chef behind Savory Experiments. You might see her on the Emmy- nominated TV show Plate It! or on bookshelves as a cookbook author. Jessica is a Le Cordon Bleu certified recipe developer and regularly contributed to Parade, Better Homes & Gardens, The Daily Meal and more!

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Recipe Rating

Questions and Reviews

  1. Do you have to cook the turkey right after you take it out of the brine? Are can you rinse it then add your rub and put it back in the fridge until you are ready to cook it?

  2. 5 stars
    Excellent!! We had our Thanksgiving on Saturday because mom and dad (us ) are going to be out of town for Thanksgiving my family thought this recipe was excellent excellent excellent the daughter-in-law even asked for the recipe ~ daughter just called for the recipe that’s what I call excellent!!
    Family tradition from now on !!!

  3. 5 stars
    Hi and thank you so much for the very detailed recipe! I’d like to wet brine our turkey with your recipe for 24 hrs then keep it dry for 24 hrs to get crispy skin. Do I have to rinse the turkey then keep it for 24 hrs to dry or rinse it when it’s ready to get cooked?

  4. Hello, if I am prepping for a 24lb turkey, do I just double the brining recipe including the salt? Thank you I’m advance for your response.

    1. Also, I just read that the recipe is for a turkey anywhere from 12-22lbs, so I’m concern on doubling the recipe now. You mentioned for a smaller turkey, brining time is minimum 24 hours. How long do you suggest for a 24lb turkey? Thank you so much! I am excited to try this recipe. If successful, we will continue it for Christmas as well 🙂

    2. Yep- you might not need all of the liquid, but you are better off making more than not having enough. It will be dependent on the size of your turkey and the size of the vessel you are going to brine it in.

  5. 5 stars
    I have used this recipe in years past with great success. Everyone loves my turkey and how juicy is ends up. I want to use this recipe again but this year I am doing a bigger turkey 21#, should I double the brine recipe?

    1. You can certianly double the brine and then just as much as you need when you submerge the larger bird! And we are so glad you love this recipe 🙂

  6. 5 stars
    We have a big family when it comes to Thanksgiving – if everyone shows up it’s 40+ people. So when they all loved my turkey last year, you know it was great. I used this brining method, and it was nice and juicy. I’ll be doing it again this year and just wanted to thank you for the recipe & the happy family!

  7. Hello! I am in charge of the turkey this year for Thanksgiving and want to give this brine a try! I was planning on making it the night before, carving, and reheating in a Nesco the day of. Will the turkey dry out if done this way? Any suggestions on how to keep in moist?

    1. Any time you reheat a turkey, it will get a bit drier, however if you brine it, it will be LESS dry than if you didn’t. I’d add some liquid (just a small amount of white wine, turkey broth or just water) while reheating to add more moisture back into the bird.

  8. 5 stars
    Thanksgiving 2018…This is the best recipe to brine or season or add an awesome flavor to your turkey. The first time my family could not stop talking about “THE TURKEY” . PEOPLE U MUST TRY THIS. Lots of Ingredients but well worth it.. THANKS this is the one!

    1. Thank YOU for coming back to let us know. Comments like this make us smile and keep us making fabulous recipes! Happy holidays!