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How to brine a turkey

Turkey brining

I suppose most of you know how to brine a turkey but for me this was the first time.   I decided to try it this year and it is a fact that it produces a great tasting turkey which is tender and juicier.

I am glad I decided to brine it this year as I do not know what would have happened to it with my old fridge breaking down.   I read a few methods on the internet here and here and added a few ingredients of my own.

Basically what you need is salt and water.   Sugar is optional and the rest of the ingredients depend on what you like to add in the brine.

The ratio of water to salt is 1 gallon (1 Gallon = 3.785 litres) to 1 cup of table salt.

For a five kilo turkey you will need about 2 gallons of water.


  • 1 gallon of water
  • 1cup of table salt
  • 1 cup of  brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon allspice berries
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 rosemary sprig
  • 1/2 cup of orange juice
  • 1/2 cup of lemon juice

Update: Brining ingredients 2012:

  • 19 cups water
  • 1 cup mandarin juice
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • Peels of mandarins and orange (pith removed)
  • 1 1/2 cups coarse sea salt
  • 1 cup crystal sugar
  • 1 tbsp Black Peppercorns
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 tbsp oregano
  • 1 tbsp thyme
  • 1 tbsp rosemary
  • 1 tbsp wild mountain tea (or use sage)


I always buy a fresh turkey so before brining it there is a lot of work to wash it and remove some roots of the  feathers.  I even use tweezers to remove the feathers as it is very difficult to remove them.   After removing all the feathers there are some very tiny hair which are burnt off.

You can use a frozen turkey if you prefer but it should be properly thawed, at least two days before brining, in the refrigerator.

The largest vessel I have is a large green bowl which I use in the kitchen and I use it only to clean and wash my greens (horta) and make dough.  I put the turkey inside and measured the water needed.  As you may see the turkey is not fully covered.  I then removed the turkey and mixed in the ingredients until the salt and sugar dissolved.  I then put the turkey in again, covered it with cling film and let it brine overnight for twelve hours and in the morning I turned it on the other side and left it in for another twelve hours.

After brining the turkey it must be washed so that the salt and sugar is removed.

I cooked the turkey the traditional way I make it every year and stuffed it with chicken giblets.   You may find the recipe here.    The only addition this year was adding chestnuts to the filling.   I added two cups of boiled and skinned chestnuts, which added an additional sweetness to the filling.   I am definitely going to be making this every year from now on.

Turkey breast

Turkey stuffing

Kopiaste and Kali Orexi,

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7 Responses

  1. Beautiful picture of the cooked turkey Ivy! Well done and thanks for passing on those tips.

  2. Ivy, I’m glad you “took the plunge” and brined your turkey…it makes the turkey so much more moister.

    For next year, get one of those large plastic buckets you often find restaurants discarding as they can hold the entire turkey and water.

    PS. Even the leftovers are moist and juicy.

  3. That’s interesting! I bet the turkey was deliciously moist. Yummy flavors!

    Cheers and have a wonderful day,

    Rosa xoxo

  4. Your turkey looks gorgeous! I have never brined but would like to try it and see what the difference is in taste and moistness.

  5. Your turkey looks gorgeous! Glad that Santa was able to save the day with a new refrigerator. 🙂

  6. I’ve never brined a turkey before, and in fact had never even cooked one until this year, and I thought of brining it, but I couldn’t find anything big enough to put it in! Even my bucket wasn’t big enough. 🙂

    This looks great and I bet the citrus juices in it helped make it really tender.

  7. Ivy, I love, love, love brined turkey! I did it for the first time in one of my classes at culinary school and will never made a turkey another way again! It was the juiciest turkey I have ever had in my life, and like Peter said, even the leftovers were moist and juicy. It’s just too bad I have no control over the turkey at Thanksgiving time…. I’m waiting for the day when I can take over!

  8. […] the first time in 2008 I brined the turkey.  See details here.  I also added 2 cups of boiled and peeled chestnuts and both these additions have made the turkey […]

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