Whether you’re dividing up the cooking or doing it on your own, if you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner, you’re probably in charge of the bird! Not to worry; we’ve got turkey tips to cover all your turkey questions—from how to buy a turkey to what to do with Thanksgiving leftovers. Below you’ll find specifics on how to brine a turkey. (There’s more to it than “Don’t do it in the garage!”) You can also see it in our collection of Thanksgiving videos—which include awesome Thanksgiving dessert ideas.
To start, get a nonreactive container that will hold a 14-pound turkey with a bit of room to spare. Then make sure that container will fit in your fridge. For food-safety reasons, DO NOT brine a turkey in the garage.
Then, put 1 quart water, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup salt (kosher or table salt without iodine), 1/2 cup cider vinegar, and 1 Tbsp. coarse ground black pepper in a pot and heat over medium heat. Cook until the sugar and salt dissolve, about 10 minutes.
Pour the brine into your empty brining container and add 2¼ gallons (9 quarts) of cold water.
Take your turkey out of its packaging and remove all of the extra pieces: neck, giblets, etc. Rinse the turkey and drain well. Place the turkey in the brine, cover and refrigerate for 10 to 24 hours.
When you are ready to roast your turkey, remove it from the brine and rinse under cold water. Pat dry with paper towels and continue with your favorite recipe. (One of ours is Brined Sage Turkey with Mushroom Stuffing.)
However, do not add the salt your recipe may suggest. You’ve already salted the turkey. By brining, the salt is infused into the meat, so there will be no need for any extra salt.
If you’re looking for most of the benefits of a brined turkey (flavor and juiciness would be at the top of the list) but either don‘t have room in the fridge or don’t have the time, buy a kosher turkey instead. The process that makes a turkey kosher includes a salt brine. They do the work for you.