Still Brining After All These Years

Still Brining After All These Years

There are plenty of ways to prep a turkey, and even more wonderful ways to cook it. There’s nothing wrong with simply roasting the darned thing, given that take care with the cooking as nothing is worse than dry turkey except maybe … well, I can’t think of anything right now.

My personal favorite method of prep is to spatchcock the bird (cut out the backbone and flatten) and quickly cure by rubbing with kosher salt and spices and refrigerating for a day or two. The cure gives me flavor and the spatchcocking allows for fast cooking ergo reduced moisture loss. But this year, like so many years, I’m not only wet brining, I’m brine thawing.

Here’s the situation: Let’s say you wake up Monday or even Tuesday morning facing the reality of a frozen turkey, as in hard-as-Plymouth-rock. You need to have this critter on the table by noon Thursday. And even if you could somehow bend the rules of thermodynamics and thaw in the fridge in your less than ideal time frame, who wants to clear out room in there for a 20 pound hunk of ice. Not I! And even if I did, there would be no time remaining to augment the flavor other than to inject the bird with some kind of “self-basting” solution. (This is all assuming you haven’t purchased an augmented bird i.e. Butterball, which I hope you haven’t.)

The solution (see what I did there) is to thaw the bird by unwrapping it and submerging in a brine contained in a large bucket or cooler or other food safe vessel, covered and tucked away in a closet or garage or … wherever. I slap a probe thermometer in the brine with an alarm set to go off if the temperature of the solution rises above 40 degrees F. That said, I typically go with a 2 day soak and have never had an instance where that temperature has been reached. By the time the bird is thawed, the brine has done it’s job (two jobs actually) and I’m ready to roast.

Is the flavor as good as the dry cure method? It’s not quite as intense but on scale of 1-10 I’d still give it 8.7 and when it comes to leftovers (can you say “sandwich”) I don’t think a brined bird can be beat.

Happy Thanksgiving.


Add yours
  1. 3
    Jo Ny

    I cheat. If u are desparate this works. Tuesday i put frozen turkey on counter. When softening and still mostly frozen, start covering with towel (s) to keep outside cold while inside is still frozen. Check w hand regularly, must stay cold on outside. Wednesday afternoon or night, put in brine; if it’s frozen inside then that keeps things cold, otherwise add ice to outside of bag in cooler. Thursday gotta get gizzard bag out, use running lukewarm water in cavity if you have to, if it’s still frozen. Done a version of this multiple times. P.s. ALWAYS COOK USING THERMOMETER, fyi dark meat takes longer than white, never overcook. Consider cooking upside down, works to baste white meat w fat from dark meat. I cut up before serving time so browned skin doesn’t matter, but if you care about browned skin then flip to upright for 1/2 to 1 hour before finished.

  2. 4

    Hi, I need some help! This is my 1st time making a turkey
    So I bought frozen turkey Monday noon
    Came home and didn’t place it in the fridge
    Thinking it was ok to thaw that way
    I later realized that’s the wrong way
    I prepared a brine at 9:30 pm Monday
    Placed the turkey in brine inside a plastic bag and placed it inside the refrigerator
    Is it safe to leave it there until Thursday morning?

    • 5
      LL of Darkwater

      Did you simply thaw the turkey on the countertop? If so, I would go get another turkey and start over. (This is just me, but the idea of causing the illness of family and friends is enough to send me back to the store and begin again – post haste. I’ve got a few folks joining us with compromised immune systems and spending Thanksgiving Night in an ER is too sad to ponder.)

      I would re-think brining time, too. (Are you dry or wet brining?) Submerged in a wet brine – I try to keep it under 8-12 hours. I’ve not tried dry brine myself, so I can’t comment on that one. πŸ™ AB’s “Romancing the Bird” and other turkey episodes might better answer your questions a million times better than I ever could.

      • 6

        I did, I just left it on the counter without anything and still In its original wrapper
        I think it’s best not to cook it
        So upset at myself for ruining it
        I don’t like wasting food

        • 7
          LL of Darkwater

          I understand…. We live and learn. And while tossing out food seems wrong – being the person that caused every one toss up their food seems worse. Good luck on the restart!

  3. 9
    jim johnson

    I have been following Alton’s turkey brining method for about 10 years now and I will never do it any other way. The perfect bird! Thanks Alton!

  4. 11

    One tip I found out the hard way: check the weight of the bird on the packaging before discarding it. You need this to determine the cooking time, and it’s surprisingly hard to weigh a big bird with what I have in the kitchen.

    • 12

      Use a bathroom scale and weigh it brine and all. Then remover the bird and weigh the brine. This would be more accurate than the package since the bird will have absorbed some of the brine and should be heavier than it was.

  5. 13

    I used sous vide last year. Came out amazingly well. Very very moist and infused with great herby flavor. The trick is to do a pre and post sear.

  6. 15

    Once the turkey is brined and thawed I can then remove the giblets, pat dry and roast correct?
    Haven’t used the brine and thaw system at the same time before. Just checking I have all my ducks in a row.

  7. 18
    Jane H.

    I love Alton Brown’s turkey brine recipe. Been using his recipe for three years now and turkey turns out moist and juicy every time even over cooked it last year. This time I would like to use the same brine recipe but on cornish hens – approx. 6 to 8 for party of 12. Can someone tells me how long I should cook these little birds and for how long on bake or convention?

  8. 19

    Started frozen thaw with brine Tuesday 1:00am (my first time) bird is in my garage., that would mean I need to cook it , at 1:00am Thursday or can I wait until 7:00am.?

  9. 20

    Started frozen thaw with brine Tuesday 1:00am (my first time) bird is in my garage., that would mean I need to cook it , at 1:00am Thursday or can I wait until 7:00am.?

  10. 22

    I have always made your brine, but I am wanting to try your Honey Brined Turkey this year! However, I will be using an electric grill style smoker (Traeger to be exact). My question is, do I let it just smoke for a while, then turn up the temperature to the 350Β° or 400Β° F. and finish roasting to the right temp?? That honey brine sounds like it would make that turkey taste delicious! Oh! One other question, I love your original recipe, but would it be good to just substitute the brown sugar with honey instead? The honey brine just doesn’t sound like it has a whole lot to it, but I don’t want to go crazy and make it taste “off”. Thanks!!

    • 23
      Jason Capriotti

      I had similar questions and found this blog. I’m curious how your turkey turned out. I am going to try the Serious Eats method (butterfly, dry brine, smoke at 250), which seems like the way to go.

  11. 24
    Pamela Knowlton

    Gosh, I think I would just be estatic to have my husband offer to cook the Thanksgiving meal brine or no brine. If my husband ever offered to slave away over a hot stove in the kitchen on a holiday, I’d be in 7th heaven & you’d find me in the living room with my grown kids, having a blast!!! Don’t get me wrong, I love baking & cooking BUT I enjoy visiting with my family members even more & would much rather spend my holiday not missing a beat with my loved ones than being alienated in the kitchen while everyone else is having fun. Yes, we could cook in the kitchen as a family & make memories doing that activity together, however, I like to focus my attention on people when I’m with them. That being said, way to go that you take on & tackle the bird & the Thanksgiving meal!!!

    • 25

      Well, I am that kind of man. I cook pretty much the whole thing. I let my wife do the yams and I’ve taught my sons to do the pumpkin pie, but this year I’m cooking both turkeys and the Apple pies and all the trimmings. I am the benevolent thanksgiving despot of our home, and doing it myself means I can carry out my schemes.

  12. 27

    I am just doing a turkey breast… so I know that the amount of liquid will be less. How long can I leave the turkey in the brine. This is Monday..and I just took the turkey breast out of the freezer and put it in the frig. Can I put it in the brine and leave it till I cook it on Friday? Or… should I wait to brine it until Wednesday?

    • 30
      Laura Lea

      Geneva, I’ve over-brined once…. that’s all it took to learn my lesson… my limit is like a 10 hour soak – thawed or frozen. I went over that by quite a bit one year, followed all other directions and kept the bird cold and everything – but the meat turned out a little mushy/mealy. Just in my experience, though, not sure what the ‘rules’ are.

    • 33
      Laura Lea

      Gina, I started brining years ago with a pre-thawed bird, but for the past 5 or 6 years, I’ve gone with the frozen bird brine. I really didn’t alter the brine recipe at all – adding aromatics to both brines. Either method – brining thawed or brining frozen – gives one a very tasty bird indeed. Hope this helps!

  13. 34
    Elsie Chinea

    Good Morning. Your recipe sounds fantastic but I already have a nearly defrosted bird. I plan on a Apple Cider brine and then rubbing the bird with an herbed butter before roasting. My questions is after the turkey is removed from the brine, and rinsed should I re-salt or has the salt in the brine already done it’s job. Thanks.

    • 35

      No need to salt the bird after brining, the brine does all the work. I have followed this recipe for years and it has ALWAYS been moist and flavorful!

  14. 36

    Here’s a tip I got from a cookbook published in 1832. To keep a turkey breast moist, cut all fat (with skin attached) from neck cavity and bottom cavity. Place this skin and fat over breast of turkey and roast as usual. The fat and skin self-baste the turkey while cooking. Remove what’s left of fat and skin 30 minutes before turkey is fully cooked. Since I started using this tip, I’ve never had a dry turkey breast.

  15. 37
    Tiffany Osborne

    I’d love to try your brine this year. My question is more about the brown sugar….does the turkey end up being sweet? My husband hates sweet meat !

    • 41
      Laura Lea

      Kateri… I’m sure you’ve figured it out by now, but that neck and all other things found inside are for stocks, gravy, broths… soup… see ‘Remains of the Bird’ Good Eats episode… also a good recipe by Mr. Brown on Food Network page for giblet gravy. πŸ™‚

  16. 44

    Could this method work for thawing and brining pork butts? I liked the way it worked on my turkeys this year, I wonder if it would work on the butts?

  17. 45

    I record Good Eats regularly (as I’m a late comer to the scene) and for the first time saw “Romancing the Bird”. I went with the brined bird this year and never have we enjoyed such a juicy bird and the leftovers were tremendous. Best sandwiches ever! I’m now a briner for life at this household. Thanks AB!

  18. 46

    I just purchased a 22 pound frozen turkey. Followed these directions and my water is 59 degrees after 20 hours?! Not exactly sure what went wrong, but my trash is going to be 22 pounds heavier this week.

  19. 47

    I used Alton Brown’s technique (from the YouTube with the foil triangle breast plate) last year and it was great, so I’m not questioning the method, but something in my execution this year lead to a disappointing result! Hoping to get some feedback on what might have gone wrong.

    (Long Story Short: Turkey was undercooked when probe read 161, cooking further led to less moist breast)

    The 16 lb turkey was in the fridge since Sunday before Thanksgiving. I brinded it in the fridge for about 24 hours (a World Market mix from Bed Bath). Preheated oven to 500, rinsed and patted the bird dry, put some apples and leaks in the cavity after microwaving them and started cooking. At 30 minutes, the skin looked great, I placed the foil breast plate on, inserted a Polder oven probe into the meaty part of the breast and lowered the oven to 350. I returned the turkey to the oven. With the Polder set at 161 it took about 2.5 hours (not sure) for the 16 lb turkey to reach temp. I took the bird out of the oven with great confidence.

    A red flag should have been raised when I notice that the cavity was pooled with liquid which had the tell-tale red undercooked color in it. I tilted the bird to the sink to drain off this liquid. But I didn’t examine the meat in anyway, preferring to follow a tried and true method to the letter. If I made a rookey mistake, it was at this point, not checking the meat visually, or at least moving the probe to a new area to check for doneness.

    So I covered the whole bird loosely in foil to allow it to rest (and continue cooking out of the oven). After about 45 minutes I thought I was ready to carve.

    As soon as I began to separate the first leg, it became apparent that the bird was not nearly cooked. The dark meat had a blood red color. I checked the breast – pink. Way pink. Now I had a bird 45 minutes out of the oven, no longer oven hot, not nearly done and I just didn’t know what to do!

    I moved the probe to a dark meat area, replaced the breast foil, and put it back into the 350 degree oven to continue cooking. The probe in the now cooling bird was showing 141 in the dark meat. After 30 minutes it was up to 170 and I took it out of the oven. I know 170 is not 180, but I was concerned about overcooking, and at this point, I was just shooting in the dark!

    After a short rest, I started carving and this time everything looked about right, but I could tell, the breast was a little dry. OH NO!

    Everyone was happy with the turkey except me. It wasn’t horribly dried out, but it wasn’t remarkably juicy either, not like what I remember from last year. For all the work and planning, for me it was a disappointment.

    Any thoughts anyone have on what might have gone awry? Why was it so under-done when I’d hit the target temperature of 161? Do I do anything different next year? Has this ever happened to you?

    Lance, only my second turkey

    • 48

      It’s possible the thermometer was placed at an improper place (perhaps against a bone?). It’s really important to make sure it’s in a thick part of the breast meat. Hope your next one comes out better πŸ™‚

    • 49

      Hi Lance! Hopefully this doesn’t come to you too late. I have been brining my turkey with Alton’s method (exact same way as in his episode, tin triangle and all) for about 6 years now. I do not plan to switch anytime soon, it’s just too consistent/good every time.
      I’m thinking there are two possibilities to what happened with your turkey: 1) The probe was not in the thickest part of the turkey (even though you might have thought it was–this has happened to me before, and it took another 1.5 hrs to actually reach the ideal temperature), or 2) your oven’s thermostat is inaccurate. In the future, if it seems like it’s too good to be true, I would probe multiple spots of the turkey to make sure the temperature is 161 all around. Hope this helps! And good luck on your next turkey πŸ™‚

  20. 50

    So? How did yours turn out Mr. Brown? Been staying tuned for updates (per FB video) & haven’t seen any. (Or perhaps I missed it? πŸ™ ) Inquiring minds want to know!

  21. 52

    I always fallow Alton’s recipe from, like 10 years ago. The one with the strange aunt. Watch it every thanksgiving am. F U Arock. Alton Brown +87!

  22. 53

    I followed the instructions for doing a thaw/brine and after 12 hours my turkey is thawed. Guess it wasn’t frozen as solid as I thought. I’ve rinsed it and dried it and it’s in the refrigerator waiting for me to decide what to do next. I’m not cooking it until tomorrow (Friday) so should I do a dry brine as well? Would that be too much brining? Help!

  23. 54

    Many, many years ago I prepared an entire Alton Brown Thanksgiving dinner as per his recipes. I have continued every year since. People who have come to my home for Thanksgiving dinners have called the following year to ask if they could come back. Thank your for helping to build my family’s tradition. Your herbed citrus-brined turkey, in a cooler in my bathtub, has been a hit ever since. Your saged, white-cheddar mashed potatoes and orange, apple, pear , cranberry sauce are a must have, too. You’re a genius Thank you!

  24. 55

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  25. 56

    Lisa – do NOT do 6 hours you will destroy that bird – fresh never frozen do not cool like frozen ones. Google times and you’ll find its in the 3.5 (ifconvesction oven) to 4.5 maybe 5 hours. You can buy a meat thermometer for $5. Also, you’ll want to be basting at a certain point anyway so you will be opening the door πŸ™‚

    Happy thanksgiving!!

  26. 57

    help. Do I need to take the turkey out of the brine to rest for a certain amount of time before I cook it? That way the skin is crispy? Please help tonight thank you. then brining more than 24 hours so far on a thawed turkey fresh turkey

    • 58

      Hey Jennifer! I take my turkey out of the brine and rinse it well inside and out. Dry it well inside and out. I then let it sit out to come to room temp while I make the stuffing. I season the inside cavity and then rub the skin with a mixture of butter, salt, pepper, sage, garlic and onion powder.

  27. 60

    hi can someone give me a guess on how long to cook a fresh never frozen 25 lb turkey. i don’t want to open and close the door but I don’t have a fancy thermometer either……please oh please

  28. 62

    I love Alton! They say we’re young and we don’t know, won’t find out until we grow….(a little sony & cher moment). Quick question so I have is gigantic 25lb fresh never been frozen turkey. I watched your videos and have that baby in the brine of all brine’s right now. I know the white meat should be 161 degrees and the dark 165 after the high temp original brown at 500 degrees. Trouble is I do not have the fancy smancy thermometer you have, just the old round metal meat probe. I don’t want to open and close the open door. Can you give me an idea of how long this bird needs so I can kinda keep a closer eye?? It’s my first bird. Lot’s of people counting on you Alton πŸ™‚

  29. 63
    Kathy Jo Miller Taylor

    Thank you so much for your tips on thawing and brining at the same time. I apologize if you have answered this before
    but brand of thermometer are using? By the way I love how you bring science in your cooking.

  30. 64
    Lloyd Sirkin

    My turkey was in the fridge for almost a week and still hard as a rock, so tried the brine thaw. I live in AZ, and maybe with us still being close to 80 degrees during the day had something to do with this, but my water never got below 40 degrees. I kept putting more ice in, but that never did the trick. It took about 24 hours for my turkey to thaw. I’ve removed it from the brine and allowing it to air dry in my fridge. The turkey seems fine. I’m cooking it tomorrow.

    • 65
      Jordan Pearre

      The same thing happened to me down in TX. I’m guessing 24 hours enough time to for it to brine? I’m not sure if I should do the good eats brine as well, but for only half the time.

  31. 66
    Becky Schneider

    THANK YOU- I’ve had the frozen bird in the frig for 2 days now and it’s still hard as a rock. I’m making a brine now. I usually brine a fresh bird but after these comments from so many, I’m just going for this method as much for thawing as for brining. I actually went looking for a fresh turkey tonight but couldn’t find one. This is 21 pounds. I use a kitchen garbage bag and a cooler. Works great.

    p.s. I miss your show. Loved this video. Where in the WORLD are you? If you ever want to come to my house and cook, I can assure you I have a scale, etc. .

  32. 67

    Goodness…I can help out with another question that’s been asked several times. YES it’s fine to brine a frozen turkey with all the goodies inside!! Come on, there’s NO WAY to git em out!!!! πŸ™‚

  33. 68

    Everyone asking about adding additional seasoning to the brine: SURE YOU CAN!! Just wait till you’re 24 hours (approximately) out. We add a cup of sugar that’s dissolved in hot water, then cooled of course… cuz hey not only does Alton, but so does Martha Stewart. Then sage (a MUST) and pepper corns at the VERY least. Would just be a shame not to really!

  34. 69

    Two things…sry for the typos on my last comment!!:)) No one would guess I’m a writer, oh well…can’t spell either!!! AND LOL as I said, we DO have a meat thermometer, however they START at 120 degrees! So, won’t help us keep watch for the 40 degree safe temp. :0 Goodness…sure hope our bird thaws in time!! BTW we eat late in the evening and are in the central time zone. So bout 36 hours till cook time!!! Here’s where some science knowledge would sure help!!!

  35. 70

    My dear Alton,
    JUST put our young FROZEN SOLID turkey in a brine, in a cooler in the garage!! QUESTION: At what point/time do we have to switch to a quicker thawing method. I know it may not an exact science…obviously just want our turkey completely thawed on Turkey Day!!! We do have a meat thermometer. PLEASE Lmk whatcha think. Guessing we need to ditch da brine and place in the fridge at some point??? How the heck do we know when?! HAPPY THANKSGIVING Alton!! Sure hoping u will help. *never had this sitch B4!

  36. 71
    Bob O

    I had read on another site (sorry Alton not yours) that frozen turkeyshould not be drined because frozen turkeys are injected with a sodium solution and the brining would make the meat too salty. What say you?

    • 73

      Alton Brown said NOT to brine “augmented” turkeys. Those are the typical store bought frozen bird (Butterball). However, not all frozen birds are augmented. You can get non-augmented birds from butcher shops, or local farms.

  37. 74

    Hi Alton! Followed your steps to brining my frozen turkey but am wondering when to add your recommended seasoning? ( rosemary, sage, thyme etc ) I just got it in the salt water solution an hour ago. Thanks! Also, as others have mentioned, the neck and giblets are still inside! Thanks! Trudi

  38. 75
    Daniel Carroll

    We have a household in turmoil, sir. I am planning on brining my (frozen…then thawed) turkey via your method. Last night the missus read something from The Pioneer Woman that a frozen turkey should never be brined, that only a fresh turkey should be brined. I refused to believe you would steer us wrong, and I am shocked and appalled that my wife questions “our” wisdom..*wink …but to appease her, what are your thoughts on this? HELP!

  39. 78

    After brining the turkey for the respected amount of time and I take it out of the brine soak…do I rinse it off prior to putting in the oven?

  40. 79
    Mark Kuester

    Saw your segment about brining a frozen turkey. If the giblets and neck (which I plan to discard) are frozen inside the turkey, it is OK to start the brine without removing them?

  41. 80

    Please help my turkey was already in the refrigerator for about 10 hours and when I bribed it after that the water temp kept rising around 43 degrees . should I just toss the turkey or is it still safe . Have dumped more ice in it . Please help !

  42. 82

    I was wondering if you could add herbs/ spices, or even say apple juice or cider to this brining method? My turkey has been in my fridge for nearly a week and is still rock hard, so I’m kinda freaking out now.

  43. 83

    I am getting fresh turkey today from a local butcher who sources from a local farm (harvested either yesterday or Sunday). I have never had one before. Are there any special tips for brining these or should I carry on as if I had thawed a frozen one?

  44. 84
    Chris Reed

    I’m a firm believer in AB’s Good Eats turkey brine, it always succeeds! I just can’t see just a simple salt water solution doing as much good as the original recipe did — at least substitute some boxed chicken and/or vegetable stock for the water, you’ll get more salt in there and a ton more flavor I bet. But believe me, the extras in the original recipe (sugar, aromatics, etc.) DO make a difference!

  45. 85

    I’ve used your Good eats turkey brine recipe for 3 years. My family loves it. But here you’re just brining in salt & water. Is it really just as good?!

  46. 86
    Will D

    Just saw a couple recipes for a dry brine turkey using salt, pepper, and some dried herbs. I don’t have the space or ability to keep the water cold enough to keep the turkey safe. Has anyone tried this method?It’s a 22lbs thawed turkey.

  47. 87

    Question: I’m serving my turkey at 11:30 am this year. It always takes 3 hours including rest time to finish. This means I would need to start the brine at 2 am to then begin cooking it at 8 am! Yikes! Any suggestions?
    Can I brine it longer, like 10 pm-7:30 am?

    • 88

      Gina, I believe the Good Eats recipe has brining up to 16 hours. FYI: You can prepare the brine in advance, wake up, drop the bird in the brine, and go back to sleep.

  48. 89

    I came across a recipe where you brine a chicken over night and then roast it for 90 minutes on 90C/195F/Fan assisted, then wait till it cools down, something like 2 hrs and then roast it on full, as high as your oven will go for 10-15 minutes, or until golden-brown-and-delicious. Chicken came out fantastic.
    Can this technique be transferred to 10lb turkey or heavier? Chicken was 3lb.

    • 90

      Of course you will use probe thermometer. Recipe says to stop roasting at 60C/140F internal temperature. I missed it and stopped at 68C/155F, but one of the thigh joints was still bloody.

      • 91
        Eric Larsen

        That sounds like a roast beef recipe, not roast chicken. The deepest part of the breast needs to be 167f, and the dark meat higher than that. 180, I think

        • 92

          Hi Eric,
          You’re right, I was skeptical also, but it came out fantastic. I said to myself it’s an experiment and in the worst case I’ll cut it up and finish it in the pan. I can’t do that with the Christmas turkey thou.
          And there is something I forgot… hehe… you need to smother the chicken with salted butter before cooking. πŸ˜€

  49. 94

    So seriously. I can leave my now frozen turkey in salt water for two days out of the refrigerator and it won’t poison my guests? I’ve never done that before but I <3 you Alton and will totally trust if you say go for it.

    • 95

      I think it still depends where you live… if it’s not going to be cold enough in your garage or where ever to keep the bird below 40 then that wouldn’t be the option for you. What I’ve done in the past is to get a cheap-o cooler and stash it in there with a bit of ice all in a giant ziplock bag (bird & brine in bag, extra ice outside if needed). Walmart usually has giant ziplock bags, called like XL or something that are for more than just food that work great.

    • 97

      IMHO: Only use a food grade bucket. A bucket from the paint section could leach chemicals you do not want to eat. Go to a butcher shop, or restaurant, and see if they have any buckets. I got a 5 gallon BBQ Sauce bucket that way.

    • 98

      You can get a cheap food grade 5gal bucket from some restaurants like Firehouse Subs, Jason’s Deli, etc. Usually they’re the pickle buckets. They should only be a couple of dollars. If they’re washed out well, then you shouldn’t have a problem with smelling like what they contained originally. If you use a brine then that should also help override the original product smell of the bucket.

  50. 99
    Bob F

    In your Facebook video “How to thaw a turkey, you talked about covering the turkey with a bunch of spices including sugar and then putting it in the refrigerator – couldn’t find that particular recipe – Sounded interesting

  51. 100

    Don’t have a bucket, or don’t have a CLEAN bucket for ol’ Mr Tom? Well, try this: Put the turkey into a turkey cooking bag (You’ve wondered why they give you TWO per package, right?), put the whole thing in some kind of handy container (Clean or not), then add the salt water mixture and use a tie to seal the top to prevent spillage. Then put the works into the fridge. (If you’re the frugal type you could probably re-use the bag for cooking, too.)
    What, you don’t use cooking bags for your turkey? Well you should, the bird stays deliciously moist! If you want the skin to get crispy then just cut the bag for the last half hour and raise the oven temp.

  52. 101

    I’ve had my turkey in the fridge since Sunday, is it still possible to do this method with my turkey? Also must it be kosher salt? Will regular table salt work or pink Himalayan salt?
    Thank you,

    • 102

      I’m going to guess that you’re not going to want to leave it out of the fridge if it’s already thawed, though I suppose if you keep an eye on the water temp, and keep it below 40F, it might be okay. Other than that, I don’t see why this method wouldn’t work with an already-thawed turkey.

      As for the salt, as long as it dissolves in the warm water, it should be fine (don’t quote me on that, though).

  53. 104

    Is this the only brining recipie that I can follow or is it okay bro use the one you suggested in good eats , Brining with the stalk and spices ?
    My turkey has been in the refrigerator from Monday morning at a temp of 38 degrees and I was wondering if can I still brine now or wait till Wednesday morning ? Please advance .


  54. 105

    This Thanksgiving will only be myself and my daughter, so I bought a breast rather than a whole turkey. How long should I brine it since it is only 5 pounds and not the whole bird? Any help would be VERY much appreciated since I am totally new to brining!

  55. 109

    Can I brine in my turkey deep fryer pot? Then just wash and dry before using it to fry? Also if my 20lb bird is mostly thawed right now which I think it is when should I start the brining process?

    • 110

      Depends upon what the pot is made of. Non-reactive stainless steel is ok. I would not brine in an aluminum pot (don’t want aluminum leaching into your food). Iron is definitely out too (it will rust).

  56. 114
    Hillary Wootton

    We have a recipe that calls for brining the turkey (in the fridge) for 24 hours before cooking. This turkey isn’t frozen. Will it be too mushy, or is 24 hours a safe amount of time. The bird is 17 pounds, if that makes a difference.


    • 115

      The Good Eats recipe is 8-16 hours. I don’t think it will be too mushy after 24 hours, but you risk it being too salty. If your recipe says 24 hours, then follow your recipe.

  57. 117

    HELP – 40lb fresh turkey here (was literately walking around this morning)…..anyways……do i brine this Pterodactyl? I’m planning on going the rotisserie route on my grill – anybody have comments / ideas on this approach?

    • 118

      Definitely brine. Based on the size and the amount of water needed to cover, I would use two cups of salt and any spices you think would add to the flavor. Two days of brining will definitely help the flavor come out and help keep it moist.

  58. 119

    Oh please somebody answer the question about the “augmented” turkey. Mine was free too and I don’t know what to do with it. I don’t turn down free food either. I just want a really good, flavorful turkey that doesn’t come out like the one from Christmas Vacation.

    • 120

      I would still brine, but cut the salt by 1/3, and maybe shorten the time. The “augmentation” has already added some salt, so you don’t want to add the full amount.

      • 121

        We were also given one of these “augmented” birds for Thanksgiving this year. Thought that counts right? πŸ™‚ It is a wee lil’ 12 pounder and frozen solid. I would like to try your brine and thaw method. How long would you suggest that I allow for brine and thaw time for this bird? Thanks and Happy Thanksgiving!!

  59. 122
    Mary DAniels

    Are you going to add to this later and tell us how to cook this bird? It doesn’t seem very “Alton Brown-y” to not have some spices thrown into this. Should I brine it & then just stick to a tried and true recipe? Every other brine recipe starts with a thawed turkey, but I wanted to use this method to defrost my turkey that is currently still residing rock hard in my freezer.

  60. 123

    So, for the brine you video posted I noticed that was just a straight up brine. When in that process would you all some of the other spices that you have told us about in the past (the allspice, the candied ginger, etc) ?

  61. 125
    Jeremy Lawrence

    HELP!!!!!! I always brine before baking a bird. But should I brine the fowl prior to smoking? I smoke birds frequently but I have never used brine when smoking.

  62. 126
    Nicole F


    Can I brine a turkey breast? It’s only about 2pounds due to me being a college student and not able to go home for the holiday. What would be the mesaurments for that? Please and Thank You.

    • 127

      Wondering the same. Mine is a 6lb breast. I historically have cooked it in a bag, and it comes out pretty juicy, but am now wondering if brining (then no bag) is a better way to go.

    • 128

      You definitely can brine a breast, it’s delicious. I usually halve AB’s brining recipe on the food network site – Good Eats Roast Turkey and minimize the aromatics. The recipe is also in the episode Romancing the Bird. Definitely a winner.

  63. 129
    Allisun Kelly

    I just can’t bring myself to brine the bird. We are a gravy people and look forward to it every year. What is the best way to cook my 22# bird, unstuffed, and still get good sandwiches? Have pity, man!

    • 130

      Brining does not affect the gravy in any way shape or form. We brine every year, and our gravy is delicious. You rinse the bird prior to roasting.

  64. 131

    I notice you didn’t use any herbs or sugar in your brine. I didn’t realize you could just use plain salt water. I would like to brine my turkey, but it’s small (11#) and thawed (yay me!). Would putting it in the salty solution Thursday morning be enough time?

    • 132

      Emily, I don’t have Alton’s level of expertise, but from my view that 22-lb bird will need several hours of cooking time, so unless you want to eat at sunset on Thanksgiving I’m guessing it should soak overnight. And if you are brining a thawed (or fresh) turkey, you prob’ly want more flavors than just NaCl – I’d go with molasses and some kind of bouquet garni….sage & stuff, you know.
      Jim in MD

    • 133
      Jimmy C

      I’m not AB but I’ve been following his brining instructions for years. I usually cook a 13-14lb bird and brine overnight with ice or in the fridge to keep it cool (8-12 hours). Then I take it out in the morning, pat it down and leave it uncovered in the fridge until two hours before it goes in the oven. It’s worked every time.

    • 134

      In AB’s original brine recipe, it also called for brown sugar, all spice berries, and peppercorns as well as the Kosher salt. I think that you can still find it on Food Network website.

  65. 136
    Mary Ann

    Using this method to brine my bird and then smoking it. My question is this: Do you and would you recommend more flavoring to add to the brine? Like herbs or spices or sugars like maple syrup?

  66. 137

    I’m in the same augmented boat as the previous two commenters with my 23 lb Honesuckle bird. Brine or no brine, Alton? I can’t throw it out and get a better one. : /

  67. 138

    My wife (who oddly reads another chef’s blog) says that you shouldn’t brine a run of the mill store bought bird (we did Butterball this year over all the organic fancy stuff to save money) because they have already been injected with all matter of fluids. As you have the power of science on your side – what are your thoughts?

  68. 139
    Eric Larsen

    My employer gives us free turkeys every year. They are, of course, of the “augmented” variety. I am not one to turn down free food, so what is my best course of action with one of those birds? (typical weight 12.5lb.)

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