How To Brine Turkey Before Smoking or Grilling

Brining a Whole Turkey In a Five Gallon Bucket

Been wondering how to brine turkey? It all starts with making up a batch of brine, followed by doing a little prep work to the turkey. Once that's done, into the briny depths it goes. Then, it's a matter of how long to brine the turkey, followed by a little rinse, which is followed by some drying.

How to Construct a Brine For Your Turkeys

First step is to make the brine. There are all sorts of turkey brine recipes. If you've never brined a turkey before, a basic brine recipe would be a good choice to start with. The recipe is simple. Combine:

  • 2 gallons cold water
  • 1-1/2 cups canning salt or non-iodized table salt; or 2 cups kosher salt
  • 1 cup white cane sugar

Stir until the sugar and salt are completely dissolved. The brine is improved if the salt and sugar are added to one gallon of boiling water, and boiled for 5 minutes.

Boiling causes the sugar and salt to dissolve much more thoroughly. But for now, just dissolving in cold water is good enough.

Preparing Tom Turkey for The Brining Bucket

Your turkey will need a little work before it's dropped into the brine bucket. Remove any giblets from the body cavity. Be sure to check both ends of the bird for any hidden goodies.

Rinse the bird well, inside and out. Trim off any large deposits of fat. Carefully separate the skin from the breast meat, but don't tear it. By doing this the brine reaches the breast meat much more easily. Now it's ready for the brine.

How To Brine Turkey, Step By Step

Use a Hand Held Thermometer To Ocassionally Check Turkey Brine TemperatureCHECKING TURKEY BRINE TEMPERATURE

How Long to Brine a Turkey

Good brining containers are tall and narrow, like a 5 gallon plastic pickle bucket, or an insulated water cooler. The tigher the turkey fits in the container, the less brine you'll need.

I use a round Igloo water cooler myself, the kind with a pushbutton spigot at the bottom for dispensing drinks.

Keep the brine cold at all times, somewhere between 36-40 degrees Fahrenheit. That keeps the little germs from multiplying and causing problems.

Put brine and the bird into your brining container, neck end down first. Make sure the turkey is completely submerged. Put a brick in a plastic freezer bag and use it to keep the turkey from floating.

If there's not enough brine to cover, you can add a little water to top it off. But if you have to add much more, also add enough salt and sugar to keep the ratio correct.

Keep the brining turkey in your fridge. If there's not room, you can put a frozen milk jug of water on top of the brine to keep it cold. Remember, it has to be at or below 40 degrees to prevent spoilage.

And how long to brine the turkey? Give it at least 24 hours, up to 48 hours. Experience will determine how long to brine, since a longer brining time gives the turkey a more salty taste.

What To Do With Your Turkey After It's Brined

Remove the brined turkey and rinse well under cold, running water. Drain the turkey well and pat dry. Discard the used brine. It's never a good idea to use brines more than one time. Your brined turkey is now ready to be seasoned and smoked!

How to Brine a Turkey

Here's a rehash of how to go about brining a turkey, step by step.

  • Make the turkey brine using a proven brine recipe.
  • Clean the turkey, inside and out. Remove excess fat.
  • Separate the skin from the breast.
  • Place turkey in the brine, weighted down so totally submerged.
  • Brine for 24-48 hours in fridge, or with ice.
  • Rinse, drain and pat dry.
  • Season with a turkey rub if desired.
  • Smoke it! (see Smoking Turkeys)

With that, you now know how to go about brining your next turkey!