How to Brine a Turkey

We have been using a brine for the Christmas turkey for some years now.  We find that it makes the turkey moist, tender and flavourful.  The recipe is simple but there are several things to consider when preparing to brine your turkey.

First you need a fresh or defrosted turkey.  If the turkey is frozen you need 3-4 days for it to defrost in your fridge and another overnight to brine it.  So if you want to cook it on Sunday it comes out of the freezer on Wednesday or Thursday and goes in your fridge until Saturday then goes in the brine overnight and you can cook it on Sunday.

Secondly you need a sturdy Sterilite or Rubbermaid plastic tote with a lid.  It must accommodate an 8 kg turkey and it must also fit in your fridge.  Avoid cheap plastic totes as they may not have the structural integrity to handle the weight of the turkey and the brine.  Ours is a 10″ X 14″ X 10″ high Sterilite clear plastic tote with locking handles and a lid with a foam gasket.

Thirdly clear a shelf in the fridge.  The turkey and the tote will be 14-16 kg (30-35 lbs).


  • 8 kg (17 lbs) fresh or defrosted turkey
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cups kosher salt or coarse salt
  • 24-28 cups cold water


  1. Prepare the turkey by removing the neck and the pouch with the heart and liver.  We save these parts to make a stock base for the gravy.  Rinse the turkey under cold water.
  2. Combine the brown sugar and 4 cups of water in a pot and heat on the stove stirring to dissolve the sugar.  Remove from heat.
  3. Add 20 cups of cold water to the plastic tote, then add the brown sugar and water solution from the pot as well as the 2 cups of salt.  Stir until the salt dissolves.
  4. Place the turkey in the brine breast side down and add the remaining cold water if needed to submerge the turkey.  Place in fridge and brine overnight.
  5. In the morning drain and rinse the turkey well under cold running water.  Pat the exterior and the cavity of the turkey with paper towels.  If time allows let the turkey sit in the fridge for a few hours on a platter.
  6. If you plan to stuff the turkey it can be done now.
  7. Preheat oven to 425 F.  Place turkey in roast pan and bake uncovered for 30 minutes.  Reduce the heat to 325 F cover and bake until done, apprx 3 hours.  We check for doneness using a meat thermometer 170 F breast, 190 F thigh and 165 F stuffing.


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