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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Brining a turkey--the only way to prepare it! (In my opinion!)

This recipe has been a Thanksgiving tradition in our house since 1999.  I was home on maternity leave, awaiting baby #2 who was due 2 weeks after Thanksgiving.  I had a lot of time to watch the food network and Alton Brown talked about brining a turkey.  I thought it was a great idea and my husband thought I was nuts to "test out" this recipe on Thanksgiving when we had 22 people coming to dinner!  I'm sure he was thinking PB&J was going to be the back up plan, but he humored me and got a 5 gallon bucket out for me to brine the turkey.  Turns out, it was the BEST turkey ever!!  Alton knew what he was talking about!  Now every year, Jess gets out the turkey bucket before I can even ask him to!  The leftover turkey is so moist and juicy and makes those day after sandwiches even better!  Here's the recipe:

Brine Solution:
1 cup salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 gallon of vegetable stock (I've used chicken stock and even boullion cubes in a pinch!)
1/2 T pepper
1/2 T all spice
1/2 T ground ginger

  • Combine the above and bring to a boil on the stove until the sugar and salt dissolve.   Let it cool to room temperature.  Combine the cooled brine solution and 1 gallon of ice water in a clean 5 gallon bucket.
  • Place your thawed turkey breast side down  in the bucket and cover.  Keep in a cool area like the basement or garage, overnight.

The next morning:

  • Heat oven to 500 degrees.
  • Rinse turkey and place in roasting pan.  Pat dry.  
  • Add the following into the cavity of the turkey: 
    • 1 apple quartered
    • 1/2 onion quartered
    • rosemary and sage.

  • Rub turkey with canola oil.  Form a double layer of aluminum foil to fit the turkey breast and set aside.  Put turkey into the oven, uncovered for 30 minutes.  Remove from oven, cover breast with the foil and return to the oven with a reduced temperature of 350 degrees.  Roast until the turkey reaches an internal temp of 161 degrees.  A 14-16 pound turkey will take 2- 2 1/2 hours.  Let turkey rest, loosely covered for 15 minutes before carving.



  1. hmmm... I may have to try this! Guess I best be going out to find a 5 gal bucket! ; )

  2. Okay, so can you do this with just a turkey breast and not a whole turkey? I've only had to cook a turkey twice in 20 years because of going to family for Thanksgiving. Also, what keeps it from going bad overnight - the salt???

  3. Heidi-Dig out that bucket, it's so worth it!!

    Laura, I suppose you could do just the turkey breast. I think that you would probably only have to brine it 3-5 hours. The cool water, a cool overnight location and the salt keeps everything salmonella free! Surprisingly enough, the turkey isn't salty at all!! It makes the best gravy too because the turkey is so well seasoned.

  4. Sue,
    Do you think I need to put it in the fridge, since we are in Florida? It sounds like a great idea. I'm all for moist leftovers! :)

  5. I was thinking the same thing Marsha! I think I may try this if I can find a cool place to put it.

  6. Use more ice than water when you dilute the brine solution. It just needs to be in a cool place, not necessarily refrigerator cold.