Brining that Thanksgiving Turkey

by Nov 25, 2013


It’s Monday of Thanksgiving week.  Definitely time to start thinking about what you’re cooking on Thursday!  I’m going to brine my turkey this year, because I live in Montana now and have all the extra refrigerator space I can possibly need – outside!  You can brine in a bag, like Pioneer Woman, which simplifies things somewhat, or you can get out your largest stockpot or canning pot and use that.  I’ve perused several ideas (starting with my neighbor (thanks Christine!), Pioneer Woman, and Alton Brown) and have decided to start simple, using salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, bay leaves, thyme sprigs, and a couple star anise.


Timing wise, make your brine a couple days in advance – it’ll get you in the mood for the festive cooking to come and gives you plenty of time for the liquid cool.  You want your bird in the brine somewhere between 8 and 24 hours, and you will want to get it out of the brine early on roasting day, so you have time to rinse it in fresh water, dry, and come to room temperature before it goes in the oven.


Here are some links I hope you find helpful.  Remember, it’s just turkey!  You can do it.  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, everyone!

Brine.  My recipe is below, but feel free to improvise on the flavorings once you’ve got the salt and sugar in the water.  There are all kinds of ideas out there on the web or in cookbooks, as mentioned above, check out Pioneer Woman who uses apple cider and orange zest.

Roast.  I roast at 350 degrees F for approximately 10 minutes per pound (unstuffed, 15 stuffed), aiming for an internal temperature of  160 degrees F in the thickest part of the breast, which will raise to 170 degrees out of the oven when the turkey is resting on the platter at room temperature (waiting for the mashed potatoes and gravy to happen).

Gravy.  I love Ree’s post for making gravy.  No fear of fat, no exact measurements, lots of gravy!  And that’s what we want with our mashed potatoes, dressing and turkey isn’t it??!

Ripe Food & Wine’s Thanksgiving Basics, for stuff like sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, pie crust, etc.


Brine for Turkey


  • 8 quarts water (math time! this is same as 2 gallons, same as 32 cups)
  • 3/4 cup kosher salt or sea salt
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon whole, black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 star anise


  1. In large stockpot or canning pot, bring water, sugar and salt to a boil. Stir until sugar and salt is dissolved. Add in peppercorns, bay leaves, thyme, and star anise.
  2. Turn off heat and let cool. Refrigerate until ready to add your bird.
  3. Submerge a fresh, not frozen, turkey in the brine for 8 - 24 hours. After brining, remove turkey from brine (discard the brine), rinse under cold running water, pat dry with paper towels, and proceed with roasting method of your choice.


Great method for gravy

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