So you’ve heard about brining a turkey and you are intimidated by the project. Don’t be. It’s easy and makes for the most delicious turkey. I’m sharing this today just in case you decide that you want to try this for your Christmas dinner. I think that this is the fifth time that I’ve done this and I’ve got it down to a science now. This recipe is adapted from Cooking Light magazine and originally called for apple cider. Apple cider-brined turkey sounds great doesn’t it? I thought so too but the first time I decided to brine a turkey I hadn’t thought ahead and didn’t have apple cider in the house so I substituted with water. That turkey was fabulous so the next time I roasted a turkey I made sure to follow the recipe exactly and I used apple cider. Everyone agreed that the turkey that had been brined using water was much better than the one done with apple cider. Surprising but true. My adaptation doesn’t require anything that you probably don’t already have in your spice cabinet. You will need to buy a box of turkey-size Reynolds Oven Bags.

Start by thawing your turkey if it is frozen. I’m cooking a 20 lb bird that I bought frozen at my regular grocery store. I had planned to buy a turkey from a local farm since they had a few left over and frozen from Thanksgiving. I even got as far as the cash register with a 27 lb. turkey before I noticed that it was priced over $100. As much as I prefer to buy local I couldn’t bring myself to spend that much money on a humble turkey. Plus my husband would have fainted after seeing that receipt.

Once the turkey is completely thawed you’ll need to remove it from it’s wrapping and save the neck and giblets for making gravy. Take a large stock pot and line it with a double layer of the oven bags. Rinse the turkey with cold water then stand it up in the pot as shown above. (The recipe says to pat it dry but that seems unnecessary to me since you are going to pour liquid all over it.)

Brine for Turkey

  • 8 cups cold water
  • 2/3 cup kosher salt (I have used regular salt too and it works just fine. You may want to reduce the amount if you use table salt.)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp black peppercorns, coarsely crushed
  • 1 Tbsp ground allspice
  • 1 Tbsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ice cubes

Prepare the brine by combining all the ingredients except the ice in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Cook 5 minutes or until sugar and salt dissolve. Cool completely.

We set the entire pan with a lid on it on the front porch in the snow to speed the cooling.

Fill the cavity of the turkey with ice cubes. Have someone hold up the sides of the inner oven bag while you pour the cooled brine over the turkey. Tie the bags over the turkey at which point it will look like an odd gift basket.

Set the entire pot in the fridge for up to two days. I jiggle the turkey around in the bag to mix up with brine slightly over the course of the two days. Since I haven’t completed the roasting of the turkey just yet I don’t have any more photos.

When you are ready to roast your turkey, preheat the oven 350 degrees F. Remove turkey from bags, and discard the brine and bags. Rinse turkey with cold water; pay dry. Lift wing tips up and over back; tuck under turkey. Tie legs together with kitchen string. Place garlic, sage, thyme, onion and 1 can (14 oz) of chicken broth in the bottom of the roasting pan. Brush turkey with melted butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake until a thermometer inserted into meaty part of thigh registers 170 degrees (make sure not to touch bone). Remove turkey from oven; let stand 20 minutes covered with foil. Reserve pan drippings to make gravy.