Use this simple recipe to learn how to wet brine a turkey, which adds the best flavor and aroma. Use it for a frozen turkey as well as a whole or turkey breast. For help making this process simple for the holidays, check out my tools and advice!
Wet Brine Turkey
This simple wet-brine turkey recipe is the answer if you're looking for a quick way to give your turkey the best flavors for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The fact that this recipe is so forgiving is one of my favorite features. Making this wet brine is simple and enjoyable, and you can get creative or just use what you have on hand.
The ingredients I like to use are listed below but feel free to experiment with other fruits, herbs, spices, and sugars.
Check out my post on how to brine a turkey for more information on what a brine is, why you brine a turkey, information on dry brining, etc.
- Kosher Salt
- Apple Juice or Apple Cider
- Brown Sugar
- Bay Leaf, Rosemary, Thyme
- Lemon, Orange, and Apple Slices
- Fresh Cranberries
How Long Should You Wet Brine Turkey
the 18–24 hours before roasting
Larger turkeys ought to brine for a longer period of time.
Do You Rinse Brine Off Turkey Before Cooking?
Before roasting, the wet-brined turkey needs to be thoroughly dried by being patted dry and rinsed under cool water.
Can You Brine Frozen Turkey?
Although brining a thawed turkey is preferable, you can also brine a partially frozen turkey.
Do You Brine a Turkey That Was Injected With a Salt Solution?
- Yes, but since they are not all created equal, I advise that you cut the salt in half and look for a turkey with the lowest salt solution percentage.
- Most likely, a fresh turkey will have no or very little salt solution added.
How to Know if Your Turkey Has Already Been Salted.
- If it has been injected with a certain amount of salt solution, it will be clearly stated on the package (typically the front).
- Avoid using kosher turkey if you intend to brine it because it has salt added to it.
- If in doubt, look at the ingredient list to see if salt is listed.
- A further drawback of a salt solution is that it makes the turkey heavier, increasing the price of the bird.
Best Kosher Salt for Brining
Use Diamond Kosher salt, as I would. (A website link to the item is provided at the end of this post.) It will prevent your turkey from being overly salty because it is less potent than Morton Coarse Kosher Salt. (Morton is superior for seasoning water that is about to boil for pasta, potatoes, etc.)
Using Table Salt
- Use about half as much table salt as you would kosher if you have no other option.
Can You Make Gravy With Brined Turkey Drippings?
The drippings from a brined turkey are pure gold and can be used to make gravy. Prior to preparing the gravy, I do advise you to taste the turkey drippings because they might be overly salty. If so, you should dilute them with unsalted broth. It's simple to add salt to gravy, but very challenging to remove it without drastically reducing its thickness.
Pro Tips for Wet Brining:
- Finding a container big enough to hold the turkey and the liquid is the most challenging part of wet brining. Brining bags and a 5-pound bucket both significantly simplify the process. You'll be good to go as long as you make sure your fridge is empty.
- Another suggestion from The Kitchn is to brine the turkey in the salad crisper drawer of your refrigerator.
- Some people use a cooler, but you must keep it at or below 40 degrees. Ice can help with this, but be careful not to add more water than 2 gallons total to avoid diluting the brine solution.
- Reduce the amount of water you add and replace it with ice cubes at the very end to hasten the cooling process after the brine has boiled.
Wet Brine Turkey
- 2 gallons water
- 1 ½ cups Kosher salt
- 2 oranges
- 1 lemon
- 1 apple, I prefer honeycrisp
- 2 sprigs fresh Rosemary
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 cups Apple Juice , or Apple Cider
- 1 cup Brown Sugar
- 3 Tablespoons Peppercorn
- 6 cloves garlic, smashed
- 2 cups fresh cranberries
- Combine all of the ingredients in a large pot over medium-high heat and stir to allow the sugar and salt to dissolve. Bring to a gentle boil, increasing the heat if needed.
- Cover and allow it to cool completely. (See notes for my tip to help speed up the cooling process)
- Pour the solution into a brining bag and add the turkey. Refrigerate for 18-24 hours.
- Remove the turkey when ready to roast and carefully rinse under cool water to remove excess salt from the outside.
- Pat it completely dry, discard the brine, and proceed with roasting.