Monday, November 9, 2009

Brine, Baby, Brine

If you've never brined your Thanksgiving bird, then this is the year to start--you won't regret it; I cross my heart. In fact, I'm willing to guarantee that you will be sashed the Belle of your Thanksgiving Ball if you follow the secret recipe noted below. (Thank you, Food Network.)


  • 6 quarts tap water
  • 1 pound kosher salt
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 2 cups honey
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dried red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon dried sage
  • Large bunch fresh thyme
  • 2 heads garlic broken into individual cloves, unpeeled
  • 5 pounds ice cubes
  • 14 to 18-pound turkey, cleaned, innards removed
  • 1 pound unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 lemons, zested


In a medium pot, bring 3 quarts of the tap water to a boil over medium heat. Put the kosher salt in a large bowl and slowly (and carefully!) pour the boiling water over the salt. Stir to blend.

Add the molasses, honey, soy sauce, red pepper flakes, sage, thyme and garlic to the salt and water mixture. Stir to blend. Add the remaining 3 quarts of cool water. Add the ice to a cooler or bucket large enough to hold the brine and the turkey. Pour the brine over the ice and use a large whisk to blend all of the ingredients.

Submerge the turkey, breast side down, in the brine. Make sure the cavity of the bird fills with the liquid as you are submerging it. Cover the cooler and allow the bird to sit in the brine overnight or for about 12 hours. (I place the cooler in my fridge.)

Remove the bird from the brine and dry it thoroughly with thick (absorbent) kitchen towels. Take care to wipe inside the cavity as well. Discard the brine. Whisk together the butter and the lemon zest. Gently lift the skin covering 1 breast of the turkey and spread half of the butter right on the meat under the skin. Repeat with the other breast. The butter will add extra moisture and richness as the bird roasts. (I also slip 10 strips of raw bacon between the skin and breast. My family goes nuts for this.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Arrange the turkey in a roasting pan fitted with a rack. Put on the lower rack of the oven and roast until the internal temperature of the turkey taken from the thickest part of the thigh reads 170 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer, about 3 1/2 hours. Remove the turkey from the oven to a cutting board or serving platter and tent with foil. Allow to rest for 15 minutes before carving and serving.

Here are a few other brine recipes:



Ultimate Turkey Brine


  1. It's so odd that you put this on your blog. Sarah, my daughter-in-law suggested we brine the turkey this year. If, of course, did not know what she was talking about. But now I do and I have recipes. I'm going to be so much smarter the next time I'm with her.

  2. It's uncanny how odd it is, and Sarah must be a good cook. You MUST brine. You'll never go back!

  3. I'm putting this on the menu right now. Thanks for sharing!

  4. im totally doing this and you cant stop me! i dont make the turkey but I will be insisting on it being prepared this way. I always brine my pork chops but never thought to brine a whole turkey! you're awesome.