How to Brine a Turkey

  • By: Jack Mancuso

How to Brine a Turkey - Cuso Cuts

How to Brine a Turkey

I am of the opinion that turkey is an “everyday” food. It shouldn’t sit lonely in the back of your freezer waiting for Thanksgiving or another holiday. So in the spirit of getting that turkey cooking, I am going to share with you how to brine a turkey

Why Brine a Turkey

A solution with a high concentration of salt and other seasonings is called brine. This is nothing complex, but you will appreciate the flavor difference in your meat. You’ll end up with tenderness and moistness, too. The flavors you put into your brine become absorbed by every inch of your bird.

Brining Basics

The basic ratio to remember for a brine is

  • ½ kosher salt
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 quarts water
  • 2 tbsp Spices
You will need enough brine so your turkey is fully submerged, so double the ingredients as needed. We have a wide range of spices from which you can choose (nope, they’re not just for barbecue!) Cuso’s. Dust, Maple Bourbon, and Grass Seasonings are all good options. 

Once you have your turkey in the brine, cover it and place it in the refrigerator. If your bird is over 14 pounds, it needs to brine for 16 hours (yikes!). A turkey breast should stay for 12 hours in the brine.

When it’s time to cook, simply rinse the turkey and pat it dry with paper towels.

What’s This I Hear About Dry Brining?

Instead of a water bath, you place the salt and seasonings right onto the turkey’s skin. In this case, a 12-14 lb. bird needs 3 days to marry with the flavors.

Instructions (Wet Brine)

  1. Place water and seasonings in a large pot (big enough to hold your turkey)
  2. Warm the mixture, making sure the sugar and salt dissolve
  3. Cool the brine completely
  4. Put the turkey into the pot (or use a large brining bag)
  5. If you notice your turkey floating slightly in the pot, weigh it down with something like a plate
  6. Refrigerate for the suggested amount of time, turning the turkey in the brine halfway through.
  7. Rinse and pat dry
  8. Cook!

PitMaster’s Memo

There are many other foods that benefit from brining. Meat and fish go into a soak for under a day, while vegetables stay much longer, effectively pickling them. Think of brining a bit like a marinade that’s water-based.

The word “brine” comes from “bryne” in Old English. It means water saturated with salt. Pretty cut and dry there. Preserving food in brine or vinegar solutions dates back to somewhere around 2400 BCE. By the way, items treated this way were revered. Cleopatra ate pickles to keep her healthy and beautiful. Roman emperors gave pickled food to their troops to make them strong.


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