Guide to Turkey

Buying. Brining. Cooking. Carving. We've got everything you need to do it right.

To brine is divine.

Earn lots of wows for just a little work. Brining — soaking the turkey in a saltwater solution for 4 to 24 hours before roasting — results in a tender juicy bird. A big turkey in a big pot of water can get heavy and take up a lot of refrigerator space, so think about the logistics before brining a bird that’s 20 pounds or more.


How to Brine

Ratio

Plan on 1 gallon of water for a 12–14 pound turkey. Use 2 gallons for larger turkeys. For every 1 gallon of water:

  • 1/2 cup sugar + 1 cup coarse sea salt
  • Choose from these: (about 1/2 cup total):
    • Whole cloves, cumin seeds and/or peppercorns
    • Fresh rosemary and/or thyme
    • Crushed garlic cloves and/or citrus peels

Check out our simple and adaptable basic brine recipe.

Steps

  1. Bring all ingredients to a boil; allow to cool to room temperature.
  2. Find a container large enough to submerge the turkey but small enough to fit in your refrigerator.
  3. Place turkey in container and completely cover with brine.
  4. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours at or below 40°F.
  5. Remove turkey from brine and pat dry before roasting.

DRY BRINING

We also love dry brining, which achieves a juicy, flavorful bird without the water part.

Start with

  • Thawed turkey 12-14 pounds
  • 6 tablespoons coarse sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar (optional)

Extras

  • Whole cloves, cumin seeds and/or peppercorns
  • Ground chile powder, smoked paprika and/or nutmeg
  • Fresh rosemary, bay leaves and/or thyme
  • Crushed garlic cloves and/or citrus peels

Steps

  1. Toast whole spices in a dry skillet, crush coarsely and mix with ground spices.
  2. Combine spices with salt and sugar — sugar will help with browning.
  3. Rub turkey generously with spice mixture, inside and out.
  4. Refrigerate uncovered for about 24 hours — at least 1 hour per pound.
  5. Rinse inside and out and pat dry before cooking as desired.

Tips

  • If you prefer to brine overnight, reduce the salt by about half or your finished bird may be too salty.
  • Brining will produce salty pan juices. If making gravy with them, be sure to use low-sodium broth.
  • Containers must be cleaned and sanitized both before and after brining.
  • Don’t stuff a brined bird; the stuffing will be too salty.