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Turkey Brine

A smoked turkey on a platter with orange slices and fresh herbs.
Jeff Phillips

Prep 5 mins
Cook 20 mins
Total 25 mins


  • 2 gallons water
  • 2 cups kosher salt
  • Other ingredients, such as black pepper, cloves, rosemary, thyme, crushed red pepper flakes, brown sugar, Cajun seasoning or what have you (optional)


  • Bring the water to a boil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add the salt and stir until it’s completely dissolved and the water is clear. If desired, add other ingredients and allow the brine to come to a low boil. Turn the heat down to low and allow the brine to simmer for about 15 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Then refrigerate until the brine solution reaches a temperature of 33 to 39°F. (This is crucial to keep the turkey safe from spoilage.) Pour the brine into a large nonreactive container of some sort (this could be just about anything that's large enough to contain the brine and the turkey. Add the turkey. There should be enough brine to submerge the bird. The bird will tend to float, so to keep it completely submerged, place a heavy plate on top of it or stick a brick or can or something heavy in a resealable bag and place it on the bird. Refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours.


No-Heat Variation

This time-saving variation should be used only when you’re keeping the brine basic (that is to say, when you’re not adding any sugar or spices, which would require heat to dissolve or bring out the oils or flavors of the ingredients). Fill a large container with 2 gallons water. Add 2 cups kosher salt and stir until it is completely dissolved and the water is clear. If you wish, add other basic liquid ingredients to this solution, such as low-sodium soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, lemon juice, apple cider, beer, etc.