A Quick Guide to Properly Brining Your Thanksgiving Turkey

There is much debate over whether a Thanksgiving turkey should be brined. Some chefs argue that it degrades the natural state of the meat while others swear by its ability to infuse a turkey with delicious flavors while keeping it perfectly moist. Either way, we thought it only fair to prepare you in the event that you lean to brining or you skip it. Below, you’ll find the why, how, and when of brining. The why, how, and when to not brine your turkey is fairly simple: Skip brining and proceed to roasting.

So, to brine or not to brine? It really comes down to personal preference.

Why brine my thanksgiving turkey?

The brining process actually involves a significant amount of science, not that you have to understand any of it to love a good brine. During the brining, the bird goes through cellular change on a level unseen by the naked eye. Brining actually breaks down the turkey’s proteins and increases the ability of the bird to hold moisture. Most importantly, the brining process can enhance the overall flavor of your Thanksgiving turkey.

Brining is a great practice for first time turkey roasters who are looking for additional ways to prevent the turkey from drying out. It’s also a good alternative to frying your Thanksgiving turkey to prevent moisture loss. In a few words, it’s simply a much healthier way to guarantee a moister outcome.

How to brine a Thanksgiving turkey

Alton Brown, the host of Food Network’s Cutthroat Kitchen, has one of the most highly rated turkey brining recipes from home to professional chefs. With that expertise, we thought it better to leave the “how” part to him.

salt and pepper in spoonsIngredients

  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • 1 gallon vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 ½ teaspoons allspice berries
  • 1 ½ teaspoons chopped candied ginger
  • 1 gallon heavily iced water


Combine vegetable stock, salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, allspice berries, and candied ginger in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to dissolve solids and bring to a boil. Then remove from the heat, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate over night or for at least eight hours.

Next, combine the brine, water and ice in a 5-gallon bucket. Place your thawed turkey breast-side down in brine. If necessary, weigh down the bird to ensure it is fully immersed. Cover and refrigerate for eight to sixteen hours.

Then, simply cook your bird as you wish the following day.

When to brine your Thanksgiving Turkey:

That’s simple: Your turkey should be be brined within the 24 hours before you intend to cook it.

Have a delicious Thanksgiving and may your bird be juicy, yet crisped.

Chelsea B. Sanz
Chelsea B. Sanz

Chelsea Sanz has lived in East Tennessee since her family moved here from South Florida just before she started high school. While she initially begrudged her new home state, she eventually realized she had come to not only love it, but to “bleed orange” as University of Tennessee Volunteers fans here like to say. She and her boyfriend Hunter, a trail worker for Great Smoky Mountains National Park, enjoy exploring the nation’s most visited national park and coming up with their own farm-to-table recipes.