Monday, November 23, 2009

Fast and Easy Brining Solution

By brining, you are providing a moisture cushion for the meat - all provided by the process of osmosis.

Fast and Easy Brining Solution

Brine. Your. Turkey. (or your chicken, or your pork...) Period. Just trust me on this one.

What is brining? And why bother?

Brining is simply placing meat or poultry in a solution of salt water. By brining, you are providing a moisture cushion for the meat - all provided by the process of osmosis. The water moves from the brine, the area of higher concentration, to the meat, the area of lower concentration - so that moisture and flavor are trapped inside, giving you a bit of leeway with the cooking process. If you happen to slightly overcook the meat (which we all tend to do especially with poultry), it will still stay tender and moist. (Thank you Alton for this knowledge tidbit.) Make sure that you do not leave meat in the brining solution for longer than the recommend times, 12 hours for a turkey, and also, give it a quick rinse inside and outside, when it comes out of the brine, especially if you use table salt. Kosher salt is what I use and recommend.

And, I discovered another thing. If you use brown sugar, it adds to the flavor, and you don't need to cook the brine at all. The salt and sugar will dissolve well with a few vigorous stirrings without warming the brine, so you don't have to wait for the brine to cool down before putting your bird in. I like anything that saves a little time!

Now, let's talk turkey. Remove the neck and giblets from the bird, set aside to use later or discard. You can check the displacement of your intended container by putting the bird in it and then cover it with the required amount of water to see if it will take all of the water with your bird in it. Nothin' worse than preparing a brine and then adding your bird only to have half of your brine spill out!

Now, remove the bird and mix the brine in the container. Add the salt and sugar to the water. Stir until all of the sugar and salt are completely dissolved. Add whatever other ingredients you are using in your brine, give it another stir, and slip the bird into the brine. Cover and refrigerate 8 to 12 hours. For larger turkeys you can probably take it up to 24 hours if needed. Start clearing out your fridge of old items early, because you'll need to remove a shelf or two, or if refrigerator real estate is tight, you can also use a 5 gallon, lidded bucket or small cooler. You'll need plenty of ice to maintain the water temperature at 40 degrees F, or lower. To avoid diluting your brine, fill gallon zipper storage bags with ice.

If possible, do your brine two days in advance so that the day before you plan to roast your bird you can let it rest in the fridge uncovered. This is great for a turkey because it helps to create that wonderfully crunchy skin we all covet. Simply rinse the turkey well, pat dry with paper towels until very dry, and place in the roasting pan, preparing the outside with plenty of butter. You can also simply pat it off and let it sit uncovered in the fridge. The next day, get it ready for roasting. Be sure to clean your sink and work areas well with a good bleach cleaner.

This brine should do a turkey up to 16 pounds. By the way, brining also works fantastic for chicken that you plan to fry, other birds, and pork too!

Recipe: Fast and Easy Brining Solution

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 5 min |Inactive time: 24 hours | Yield: 2 gallons

  • 1 gallon of filtered water
  • 1 gallon of vegetable stock, homemade or packaged*
  • 1 cup kosher salt (if you substitute table salt, use about 3/4 cup instead)
  • 3/4 cup of light or dark brown sugar, well packed
  • A sprig of fresh sage, stripped, optional
  • Several sprigs of fresh thyme, stripped, optional
  • 1 tablespoon of black peppercorns
  • Hot pepper flakes, optional

Thaw the turkey in the fridge several days in advance. Combine the water, stock, salt, and sugar in a large stockpot and stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved.  Add the herbs, peppercorns, and pepper flakes.

Put the turkey in the brine ensuring that it is fully covered. Refrigerate overnight. If you don't have room in the fridge, use a large cooler or a large 5-gallon bucket with a lid and plenty of ice to keep the brine at 40 degrees. Check the temperature and refresh the ice periodically as needed. To avoid diluting your brine, use ice contained in tightly closed ziploc bags.

When ready to roast, remove the turkey, give it a rinse and pat dry. If you are doing a cut up chicken or a turkey breast, you can get away with just patting it off with some paper towels. Proceed with preparing the bird by your intended method.

*If you don't happen to have vegetable stock on hand, just use 2 gallons of filtered water.

Cook's Notes: Reduce brine according to the size of the meat that you are using. For an average sized roasting chicken, pork roast or 3 to 4 pounds of chops or cut up chicken, reduce filtered water to about 6 cups, and use 1/2 cup of brown sugar and 1/4 cup of kosher salt. Use about half the amount of seasonings.  Whisk brine, place chicken into a gallon sized zipper bag and pour the brine over. Seal and place into a container in the refrigerator for the appropriate brining time.

Start clearing out your fridge of old items early, because you'll need to remove a shelf or two, or if refrigerator real estate is tight, you can also use a 5 gallon, lidded bucket or small cooler. You'll need plenty of ice to maintain the water temperature at 40 degrees F, or lower. To avoid diluting your brine, fill gallon zipper storage bags with ice.

Brining Estimates:

Pork roast: 2 to 4 days
Pork tenderloin: 6 to 12 hours
1-inch thick Pork chops: 4 to 6 hours
Thicker Pork chops: 5 to 8 hours
Whole chicken: 3 to 12 hours
Cut up Chicken: 1-1/2 hours
Boneless, Skinless Breasts: 30 minutes to 1 hour
Cornish Hens: 2 hours
Turkeys over 12 pounds: Up to 24 hours
Bone-in Turkey Breast: 5 to 8 hours
Shrimp: 30 minutes, if peeled; 1 hour, if unpeeled


Requires Adobe Reader - download it free!
©Deep South Dish
Are you on Facebook? If you haven't already, come and join the party! We have a lot of fun & there's always room for one more at the table.
Check These Recipes Out Too Y'all!

Top 10 Turkey Tips - How to Open Roast a Turkey
How to Make Southern Fried Chicken
Cajun Boiled Peanuts

Posted by on November 23, 2009
Images and Full Post Content including Recipe ©Deep South Dish. Recipes are offered for your own personal use only and while pinning and sharing links is welcomed and encouraged, please do not copy and paste to repost or republish elsewhere such as other Facebook pages, blogs, websites, or forums without explicit prior permission. All rights reserved.

Material Disclosure: Unless otherwise noted, you should assume that post links to the providers of goods and services mentioned, establish an affiliate relationship and/or other material connection and that I may be compensated when you purchase from a provider. You are never under any obligation to purchase anything when using my recipes and you should always perform due diligence before buying goods or services from anyone via the Internet or offline.
Bookmark and Share


  1. My turkey is thawing now and I plan to put it in a brining solution tomorrow. I've done chicken and pork in a brine, but never a turkey, so I'm looking forward to it as I know it does amazing things! Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. Question: It says to put turkey in ziplock bag and put it in the brine.. Or do I put the turkey in the solution itself?

    1. Hi Jomarie! I don't think I say that anywhere but yes, there are brining bags you can buy that are large enough to put a turkey into and pour the brine in the bag, but I would still stick that into a big pot just to ensure against leaks. I usually just prepare the brine in a large pot that fits in my fridge and put the turkey into the pot with it. If you don't have a container large enough to hold the turkey & the brine you can use a small cooler, but you'll need to have lots of ice to keep it at the right temperature. The ice should be kept in ziploc bags if you do it that way, so it doesn't dilute your brine as the ice melts. I do put whole chickens in a large ziplock and just pour the brine into the zipper bag over the chickens, zip it up and place it into a container in the fridge. That might be where the confusion came in, but no, put your turkey into a pot and pour the brine over it, then refrigerate.

  3. I started brining the Thanksgiving Turkey about 5 years ago by the Alton Brown method. I use a 5 gallon paint bucket with a tight sealing lid from the hardware store. They cost about $2 and are large enough for a 20+ pound bird. I put bird, bucket and all on the back porch if its cool enough outside. Fridge space is always an issue during the holidays and the lids do not come off easily so they are dog proof outside.

    1. Hi Richard! Yep, those 5-gallon buckets are perfect! If you're in the south, be sure you have a small ice chest to keep ice in though! We are rarely cold enough to take the benefit of putting our buckets outside down here. I think the forecast has us in the 70s for T-Day here this year!

  4. Hi, I'm using a recipe that calls for 2 teaspoons of salt, thyme, rosemary, parsely, 1 teaspoon of black this too much seasoning considering your brine has a lot of seasoning/spices too? It also calls for an onion and garlic in the cavity.

    1. Omit the salt - after brining you won't need it! Everything else is fine.

  5. Hi Mary, I'm brining a 24lb Turkey and my pregnancy brain isn't allowing me to wrap my head around how much ingredients I need for the solution. Do you think you could help? Its driving me nuts lol :) I used this brine last year and it was amazing! Huge hit with a large crowd!

    1. Hi Jessica! So sorry I missed this before now - been busy with Thanksgiving prep and then with family. This covers about a 16 pounder, so for 24 you'd want about 1-1/2 brine recipe.

  6. Here's a dumb question for you Mary: Can this brine be frozen for use later? I don't know with this much salt if it would freeze, but salt water can freeze, so?

    Because I just saw your suggestion for brining pork chops, and this is way too much. But if I could use part of this recipe and freeze the rest, then I'd have easy peasy brine ready for another batch a month later, or for chicken the next week. So have you ever tried this?

    Also, my daughter came up with this idea, since we don't always have cold enough weather in the south to put a brining bird outside - and there's the raccoon factor to outdoors, too- and holiday time there's not a dot of extra space in our fridges. She grabbed my 5 gallon insulated drink cooler, the kind work crews use for water. put the brine and the bird in there, then dropped in some ice, but put a large amount of ice in a couple ziplock gallon bags on top, and screwed down the lid. She checks it every 4 hours or so and added more ice as needed, checking and filling up on the ice before bed. Worked like a charm, bird was almost an ice cube cold! Caveat warning: you've got to scour out the cooler with soap, bleach and hot water and rinse five or so times, to make it safe for drinking again.

  7. Hi Bonita! Just reduce the brine according to the size/weight of the meat that you are using. There's suggestions in the cook's notes.


Thanks for taking the time to comment - I love hearing from readers and I read every single comment and try to respond to them right here on the site, so stop back by!

From time to time, anonymous restrictions and/or comment moderation may be activated due to comment spam. I also reserve the right to edit, delete or otherwise exercise total editorial discretion over any comments left on this blog. If your comment serves only to be snarky, mean-spirited or argumentative, it will be deleted. Please mind your manners.

Related Posts with Thumbnails