Brine - The Big Salt Bath

Any brine time is better than no brine time– even just a few hours will reduce cooking time, impart moisture and result in more evenly-cooked bird. 

Brining, like marinating, is a technique of soaking a piece of meat in liquid prior to cooking. Marinating is done to infuse flavor and moisture. Brining can also add some flavor, but the primary reason is to tenderize the meat chemically with salt.

The salt “cooks” the meat before it actually cooks.

This salt creates a chemical reaction that, for lack of any better words, “cooks” the meat and therefore reduces the actual cooking time. Think of cured meats: they aren’t ever cooked with heat, but preserved with salt.

The salt also allows more moisture into the meat.

The salt in a brine also weakens the molecular structure of the proteins in the meat. This allows the heat applied during roasting (or grilling, or frying) to break the proteins down even more easily.  As the proteins change during the brine, they allow more water in, and when the meat cooks, the water is locked into it. The final cooked turkey is juicy throughout.

Thanksgiving Turkey Brine

Follow this simple brine recipe up to 48 hours before roasting, but even a few hours would help. Note: This is a 1 gallon recipe. You with probably need 3-4x to cover a large turkey.


  • – 1 gal water (16 cups)

  • – 1 cup of kosher salt

  • – ¾ cup granulated sugar

  • – 10 springs of thyme

  • – 2 lemons, halved or quartered

  • – 4 bay leaves

  • – 1 tbsp black peppercorns

Add all ingredients to a large pot and bring to a simmer. Stir to ensure salt and sugar dissolve completely. Once dissolved, remove from heat and let stand for 30 min. Remove lemons and discard. In small batches, blend the brine (either transfer to an upright blender or use an immersion stick) for half a minute, just until all ingredients are fully mixed. Place your turkey in a large tub or cleaned cooler and cover with cooled brine (make sure turkey stays completely submerged; if necessary, weigh the turkey down with a few clean dinner plates.) Place the brining turkey in your refrigerator, or in a large cooler in the coldest part of your garage or screened in porch if it’ll stay below 40 day and night. A turkey can go down to 26 degrees before it freezes. Allow to brine for 24-48 hours, but remember any brine time is better than no brine time. Remove the turkey from the brine, pat dry, and allow to come up to room temperature before cooking (will take a few hours.)

Leave a Reply