How Long to Brine a Turkey

Everyone’s on the lookout for the magic formula for a delicious, moist, tender turkey and brining your turkey just may help you reach your goal. Brining is the process of soaking a turkey in a mixture of salt, water, and additional spices before cooking. By brining your poultry, you’ll end up with a much more moist and flavorful end product as the poultry’s able to absorb many of the flavors of your brine.

Follow these easy guidelines to learn how to brine a turkey.

Brining is similar to marinating in that it involves soaking your turkey in an effort to infuse it with flavor. The big difference is that the brining liquid is comprised primarily of salt. Without getting too scientific, soaking the bird in heavily salted water alters its chemistry, making it easier for the turkey to retain moisture.

To brine a turkey, you first need to build your brining liquid. The basic ratio for a brine is simple, 1 cup each of salt and sugar for every gallon of water.

You can add additional flavor to your turkey by incorporating other ingredients like herbs, spices, brown sugar, or molasses to your brining liquid to suit your tastes. You may also substitute other liquids like white wine or chicken stock for some of the water in your brine.

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Combine all of your ingredients in a large pot and heat them just long enough to melt the salt and sugar. Once they’re dissolved, cool the brine to room temperature. Cooling the brine to room temperature is important. You never want to add your turkey to a warm brine because the temperature will create a breeding ground for any bacteria present, causing them to rapidly reproduce, which will mean bad news for you and your dinner guests.

Carefully place your turkey inside a large plastic bag. You can use a new trash bag or pick up a brining bag at your local supermarket. If you have a pot large enough to hold your turkey, you can place the bag inside; if not, place the bag in a cooler, this will give you a more stable set up to work in and you won’t make a huge mess in your refrigerator if your bag leaks or breaks.

Pour your brine mixture over the turkey, making sure the liquid covers the bird completely. Place your turkey in the refrigerator or, if you’re using a cooler, make sure the cooler is filled with enough ice to keep the bird well-chilled. Plan to brine your turkey for at least 24 hours.

When you’re ready to cook your turkey, remove it from the brine and rinse it well. A good rinsing will keep your turkey from being salty. Pat your turkey dry and then cook as you normally would.

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