Easiest Turkey Brine
Easiest Turkey Brine

This easy turkey brine is infused with sage and citrus for a super moist, flavorful Thanksgiving turkey! Place in brine 12 to 24 hours before cooking.

I started roasting my Thanksgiving turkey a few years ago and have never looked back. It’s my Thanksgiving insurance: If I get distracted at dinner and the turkey overcooks, I know I can still count on the turkey to be juicy and flavorful.


Check out how to make beginner-friendly turkey brine

Salting means making a brine solution and soaking the turkey for about 24 hours before roasting. This spa treatment helps the turkey retain more moisture during roasting and prevents it from drying out.

A brine also gives me a chance to flavor the turkey with herbs and spices, especially the skin! Sage and citrus is one of my favorite combinations. It’s so festive and makes the house smell amazing.

  • This technique is called wet salting. But you can too dry salt your turkey. Instead of dipping your turkey in a brine, with this method you basically rub the outside with salt and let it sit for a day or so.

Tips for pickling a turkey

Salting a turkey is a fairly straightforward process, but there are a few important things to keep in mind.

  • First, make sure your turkey hasn’t already been salted or injected with a brine solution (water is fine).. If so, it should be right on the packaging. Organic turkeys are usually a safe bet; Turkeys labeled “kosher,” “improved,” or “self-basting” are usually already pickled in brine.
  • It’s okay if your turkey is still partially frozen when it goes into the brine. It continues to thaw in the brine in the refrigerator.
  • Also, make sure you free up some fridge space and find a container big enough to hold your turkey. You may need to rearrange some fridge shelves to make room. Disposable salt bags are also very handy; I’ve had friends use salt bags and then store their turkeys in a vegetable drawer to save space!

The basic brining ratio

The base brine is a mixture of 4 liters of water and 1 cup of kosher salt. To this you can add any herbs, spices or other seasonings.

Ways to flavor your brine

I love the combination of sage and citrus in this brine, although feel free to swap in any aromatic herbs or spices you like. The flavor they impart to the meat is quite subtle, but I feel like the real impact is in the skin. A good, flavorful brine will give you some of the best turkey skin you’ve ever had.

How to make the turkey brine

Make your brine by bringing 1 liter of water to a boil, dissolving the salt, then adding sage, citrus, and other spices.

Allow to cool slightly, then stir in the remaining water to bring the brine to room temperature. Lukewarm works too. You just don’t want the brine to be piping hot when you pour it over the turkey.

If you don’t have enough brine to cover your turkey, simply make more at a ratio of 1 liter of water to 1/4 cup of kosher salt. Allow to cool before pouring over the turkey.

How long is the turkey salted?

Salt your turkey for 12 to 24 hours. The longer the better, but honestly, even a quick brine does wonders for the turkey. If you only have a few hours before it goes in the oven, then it’s still worth it.

Be sure to keep your turkey covered and refrigerated while it is being cured.

How to cook a brine pickled turkey

Once the turkey is marinated, cook as usual – just pat dry and continue with your recipe! Two notes:

  • Turkeys in brine cook faster: I find that brine turkeys tend to cook a little quicker than regular turkeys, so start checking the temperature of the breast and thigh meat halfway through your estimated cooking time.
  • Stuffing a brine pickled turkey: Yes, you can stuff a brine pickled turkey if you wish! This increases the total cooking time. Make sure the internal temperature of the stuffing is 165°F before removing the turkey from the oven.

Other ingredients for use in turkey brine

  • Clementines instead of oranges
  • Rosemary instead of – or in addition to – sage
  • juniper berries
  • coriander
  • fennel

Prepare gravy from birds in brine

Drops from salted birds are saltier than drops from unsalted birds. Keep this in mind when making sauce. Taste the sauce as you go. You may not need to add salt to the sauce. If the sauce is too salty, thin it out with unsalted broth or water.

How to store leftover turkey brine

We do not recommend storing and reusing brine that has been used for raw turkey or other raw birds. However, if you have extra brine that has never touched a raw bird, store tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

More recipes for using this brine!

In addition to salting a whole turkey, you can use this recipe to salt turkey breast, turkey drumsticks, or even a whole chicken. You need enough brine to cover the meat. Stick to the base ratio of 4 liters of water and 1 cup of kosher salt, and scale up or down as needed. And omit the salt steps in the following recipes.

  • Mama’s roast turkey
  • Stuffed turkey breast with Swiss chard and prosciutto – soak the turkey breast in brine before stuffing
  • Turkey breast with roasted garlic sauce
  • Turkey breast stuffed with bacon, cranberries and breadcrumbs – salt the turkey breast before stuffing
  • Fried chicken with carrots

From the editors of Simply Recipes

Easiest turkey brine

preparation time
5 minutes

cooking time
10 mins

total time
15 minutes

up to 20 servings

If you’re buying a turkey for salting, make sure it hasn’t already been salted or injected with a brine. Organic turkeys are usually a safe bet; Turkeys labeled “kosher,” “improved,” or “self-basting” were usually already pickled in brine.


  • 1 (12– until 20-lb) Turkeynon-kosher, saline-injected, or otherwise pre-salted

  • 3 oranges

  • 3 Lemons

  • 1/2 Cup fresh sage leaves

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 1 tablespoon all peppercorns

  • 5 big garlic clovespeeled and shattered

  • 4 liter water

  • 250G kosher salt (1 cup Morton or 1 3/4 cup Diamond Crystal or 3/4 cup table salt) and more if needed


  1. Prepare the turkey for salting:

    Remove the turkey from the packaging and pat dry. Remove the innards and reserve them for preparing the sauce. Place the turkey in a large saucepan, salt bag, or other container large enough to hold the turkey under water.

  2. Prepare the ingredients for the brine:

    Peel the oranges and lemons with a vegetable peeler. Try to remove just the skin, leaving as much of the bitter white skin as possible. Roughly chop the sage leaves. Make sure the bay leaves, peppercorns, and garlic cloves are measured and ready to use. (Save the leftover oranges and lemons for stuffing the turkey while it roasts!)

  3. Prepare the brine concentrate:

    Bring 1 liter (4 cups) of the water to a boil in a large saucepan or stockpot on the stove. Once it boils, add the salt and stir until dissolved. Add the orange and lemon peels, chopped sage, bay leaves, peppercorns and garlic. Bring the water back to a boil, then remove from the stove.

  4. Cool the concentrate and then dilute to make the turkey brine:

    Allow the brine concentrate and flavoring ingredients to cool until no longer steaming, then stir in the remaining 3 liters of water. (If your pan is too small, you can do this in a jug or other large container.) Check the temperature of the brine; it should be room temperature or lukewarm.

  5. Pour the brine over the turkey:

    Make sure the turkey is submerged, although it’s okay if the bony tips of the legs stick out at the top. For larger turkeys, prepare additional brine (1/4 cup salt dissolved in 4 cups warm water) to cover the turkey, if needed. If the turkey swims, weigh it down with a plate or other heavy object.

  6. Brine for 12 to 24 hours:

    Cover the turkey and store in the refrigerator while it is being cured.

  7. Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse:

    When you are ready to roast your turkey, remove it from the brine and rinse it under cold water. It’s okay if the water is pink in color. Pat dry.

  8. Roast the turkey as usual:

    It is not necessary to salt the turkey before roasting, but otherwise, roast the turkey as usual using your favorite recipe. If desired, stuff the turkey cavity with leftover sage and the peeled lemons and oranges from making the brine. The frying time can be shortened; Start checking the turkey’s temperature halfway through roasting.

nutritional information (per serving)
457 calories
16g Fat
18g carbohydrates
60g protein
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