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To Brine or Not to Brine: That is the Thanksgiving Question


turkey in the brine


I have officially hopped on the turkey brining bandwagon.

My fabulous foodie sister-in-law, Laureen, is in charge of our family’s Thanksgiving. The turkey’s always wonderful, the fruit stuffing delicious, the green bean casserole is piping hot and don’t be jealous, but she stocks the table with turkey shaped butter and each child gets their own See’s Candy chocolate turkey. “Thank you, Jesus”, is what I have to say that! Sometimes, though, I miss having turkey leftovers after Thanksgiving so I end up cooking a small turkey for our family to feast on. Last year I tried brining. Twice. I can attest that the claims are true; a brined turkey is an exceptionally moist, flavorful turkey. In fact, on one occasion I forgot to put the foil on for the last half of the roasting and scorched the bird. Miraculously, the turkey was still moist and tasty.

I based my turkey brining on a recipe I found on a great site, savorysweetlife.com. Of course, I didn’t have on hand the herbs called for, so each time I used a different blend; one time heavy on oregano, the other,  heavy on tarragon. I don’t think you can go wrong with whatever you choose to flavor it with.

I based my roasting on Ina Garten’s recipe for roast turkey in her book, How Easy is That? Her recipe calls for a kosher turkey (which is a turkey already brined) and uses white truffle butter. I’m sure white truffle butter is fabulous, but not readily available in Snohomish, Washington, so I just used plain old butter. Also, depending on what I used to season my brine with helped me determine whether or not to use the thyme.

I can’t wait to brine another turkey after Thanksgiving!

To Brine A Turkey

adapted from savorysweetlife.com and How Easy is That? by Ina Garten


  • 4 cups/ 8 cups water
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 T. sage or other herb
  • 2 T. thyme or other herb
  • 2 T. rosemary or other herb
  • 1 T. (I use 1 t.) pepper
  • 4 cups ice
  • 1 plain turkey (not self basting, preseasoned or kosher) that will fit in your biggest soup pot
  • ***for the roasting part*****
  • 6 T. butter or white truffle butter
  • 1 large onion, cut into eighths
  • 1 whole head garlic, unpeeled and cut cross-wise
  • Large bunch of thyme (optional)
  • goo olive oil
  • kosher salt and pepper

Cooking Directions:

  1. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a big soup pot (larger than your turkey) and then add salt and sugar. Stir until sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat.
  2. Stir in 8 cups of cold water, apple cider vinegar, herbs, pepper and ice. Feel free to substitute other herbs for the ones called out. I used 4 T. oregano and 2 T. thyme for fabulous results.
  3. Remove all the innards from the cavity of your thawed turkey. Rinse the turkey and pat it dry. Put it in the pot and cover with a lid. Your turkey should be well submerged. My brine did not cover the whole turkey, so I rotated it about half way through the brining process.
  4. Marinate for 12 hours for a small turkey (8-10 pounds) and 24 hours for a larger bird.
  5. Rinse turkey and pat dry before adding your additional seasoning prior to roasting per your favorite recipe.
  6. Here is how I roasted mine (which was 12-14 pounds):
  7. Loosen the skin by running your fingers underneath it and gently massage in softened butter under the skin over the breast (if you want to get fancy like Ina Garten make it white truffle butter!)
  8. Sprinkle the cavity with kosher salt and pepper. Place the onion, garlic & some sprigs of thyme in the cavity.
  9. At this point you can tie the turkey all up, but I let my turkey roast al la naturel.
  10. Brush the turkey all over with olive oil (I used truffle olive oil - very fancy & tasty) and sprinkle with 2 t. of kosher salt and some pepper. Sprinkle with chopped up thyme leaves if desired.
  11. Roast the turkey (breast side up) at 325 degrees for 2 1/2 to 3 hours (or until meat thermometer registers 160 degrees). About half way through, cover loosely with aluminum foil to prevent the skin from burning. There is no basting required.
  12. Remove the turkey from the oven, cover tightly with foil and let rest for 15-20 minutes.
  13. Now carve and eat!


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