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Herbed Turkey Brine

Herbed Turkey Brine

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How To Prepare a Herbed Brine Solution for your Thanksgiving Turkey.MORE+LESS-


cups Kosher (not table) salt


tablespoon whole cloves


tablespoon whole peppercorns

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  • 1

    Stir the salt, brown sugar, peppercorn, bay leaves, thyme, sage, and garlic together in a large stock pot. Add 13 cups of water and 3 cups of apple cider. Bring to a boil, remove from heat, and allow the mixture to steep for 25 minutes. Stir in enough ice to bring the brine amount up to 2 gallons (2 gallons = 32 cups).

  • 2

    If your pot is not large enough, you may have to allow the brine to cool and add the additional amount when pouring the brine into the bag in the following step.

  • 3

    Place the turkey in a large zip-top bag. I recommend the Ziploc Big Bags (size large). Put the bagged turkey in a clean cooler. Pour the brine over the turkey, in the bag, making sure the breasts are fully submerged. Zip the bag closed. Place the cooler in a cool place, such as your garage, and allow the turkey to soak in the cold brine for 12-24 hours.

  • 4

    Use gel packs or bagged ice around the zipped bag inside the cooler, if necessary, to keep the brine below 40°F. (Adding more ice directly to the brine would only dilute it.) After the brining process, transfer the turkey to a roasting pan, pat dry, discard the brine and prepare for roasting as you usually do. You will not need to salt the bird when preparing it for roasting. Stuff with herbs, quartered onion, carrot, celery, and rub with butter.

Expert Tips

  • For a smaller turkey you may make less brine; however, be careful to do so with the original proportions of ingredient still intact. Too much salt will leave you with an incredibly salty turkey. To estimate your brining time plan 45-60 minutes per pound of the turkey.
  • Brining should only be used on turkeys that have not previously been soaked in a salt water solution. Fresh, unfrozen turkeys are prime candidates for brining. If you plan to use a previously frozen turkey, check the label first to see if it was soaked in a salt water solution. If unsure, call the phone number listed on your turkey’s packaging to speak to a company representative.

No nutrition information available for this recipe

Fresh Herb Turkey Brine

Combining the savory flavors of bay, thyme, sage, rosemary, and garlic, this holiday turkey brine gives your Thanksgiving bird an extra boost of flavor that will have even your mother-in-law begging for the recipe! Wow friends and family alike with a Thanksgiving turkey that is both juicy and flavorful---who knew it was as easy as fresh herbs?


  • One 16 - 20 lb. Turkey
  • 2 2/3 cups Morton's kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 8 stems fresh thyme
  • 3 stems fresh sage
  • 4 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves
  • 10 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 gallon boiling water
  • 8 pounds ice cubes


  1. Combine the salt, peppercorns, bay leaves, thyme, sage, rosemary, and garlic together in a large stock pot. Add 1 gallon of water. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil, remove from heat.
  2. After removing from heat, steep the mixture for 45 minutes. Then, add in enough ice to bring the brine amount up to 2 gallons (2 gallons = 32 cups). This is very important otherwise you will have an incredibly salty turkey.
  3. For smaller stock pots, you may have to allow the brine to cool and add the additional amount when pouring the brine into the bag in the following step.
  4. Place the turkey in a large zip-top bag. I recommend the Ziploc Big Bags (size large). Put the bagged turkey in a clean cooler. Pour the brine over the turkey, in the bag, making sure the breasts are fully submerged. Zip the bag closed. Place the cooler in a cool place, such as your garage or, and allow the turkey to soak in the cold brine for 12-24 hours.
  5. You may need to use gel ice packs or bagged ice around the zipped bag inside the cooler, if necessary, to keep the brine below 40°F. (Adding more ice directly to the brine would only dilute it.)
  6. Alternatively, if you have room in your refrigerator, you may place the bagged turkey in a large foil tray rather than a cooler and store it on the fridge shelf.
  7. After the brining process, remove the turkey from the brine and rinse it. Pat dry using paper towels. Then, transfer the turkey to a roasting pan. Discard the brine. Roast according to your preferred method.
  8. Variation: For a citrus twist, add 3 sliced lemons or the peel of 3 tangerines.


For a smaller turkey you may make less brine however, be careful to do so with the original proportions of ingredient still intact. Too much salt will leave you with an incredibly salty turkey. Also, birds less than 10 pounds will likely not need to soak for the full 24 hours to achieve the desired results. It is not advised to brine kosher turkeys as they will yield undesirable salty results.

Basic Turkey Brine

When Thanksgiving approaches, there's no shortage of discussions about the best way to roast a turkey because a dry one is a big disappointment. Time and time again, brining comes up as a key way to help ensure a juicier, tastier holiday turkey. Water, salt, sugar, garlic, and herbs make up this quick turkey brine for a 12 -to 15-pound bird. (Dry brines are different altogether and don't involve submerging the turkey in salty, herbed water.)

Once the brine has come together, let it cool. Some people like to put the turkey in an extra-large resealable plastic bag inside a cooler loaded with ice, which makes it easier to pour the brine in and even easier to move the turkey around it also doesn't take up precious space in your refrigerator at a time of year when space is at a premium. You can use a cooler or simply add the turkey and the brine to a large plastic container, then place a plate and a large can on top of the container to hold the turkey down and prevent it from floating around. You want the turkey to stay in contact with the liquid.

How Long To Thaw a Turkey

Although some people buy fresh turkeys, the majority are frozen. So before you make your garlic butter herb roasted turkey, you need to thaw it first.

Not surprisingly, how long to thaw a turkey will depend on its size. Either way, you want to plan a few days ahead because it might take a long time!

How long to thaw a turkey – chart by weight:

Here is a general guideline for how long to thaw a turkey based on weight:

  • 4 to 8 pound turkey: 1 to 2 days
  • 8 to 12 pound turkey: 2 to 3 days
  • 12 to 16 pound turkey: 3 to 4 days
  • 16 to 20 pound turkey: 4 to 5 days
  • 20 to 24 pound turkey: 5 to 6 days
  • 24 to 28 pound turkey: 7 to 8 days
  • 28 to 32 pound turkey: 9 to 10 days

After your turkey has thawed completely, you can brine it.

Can you brine frozen turkey?

You probably can, but more than about a day is too long to brine it, whereas it would take longer to thaw unless you have a really tiny turkey.

So, it’s best to just thaw your turkey and then brine it after. If you must combine them, then only place your thawing turkey into the brine for the last 10 to 12 hours, when it’s almost fully thawed.

Recipe Summary

  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons rubbed sage
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 ½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 (12- to 14-lb.) whole fresh or frozen turkey, thawed
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • Wooden picks
  • Kitchen string
  • Vegetable cooking spray

Stir together first 6 ingredients.

Remove giblets and neck from turkey pat turkey dry. Sprinkle 1 Tbsp. brine into cavity rub into cavity. Reserve 1 Tbsp. brine, and sprinkle outside of turkey with remaining brine rub into skin. Chill turkey 10 to 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 350°. Stir together butter and reserved 1 Tbsp. brine. Loosen skin from turkey breast without totally detaching skin spread butter mixture under skin. Replace skin, securing with wooden picks.

Tie ends of legs together with string tuck wing tips under. Place turkey, breast side up, on a lightly greased (with cooking spray) rack in a large roasting pan.

Bake at 350° for 2 hours and 30 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted in thickest portion of turkey thigh registers 165°. Remove from oven let stand 30 minutes before carving.

Cajun Brine Roasted Turkey: Prepare recipe as directed, substituting paprika for sage, dried oregano for dried thyme, and 2 tsp. ground red pepper for black pepper.

Jerk Brine Roasted Turkey: Prepare recipe as directed, substituting allspice for sage and onion powder for garlic powder and adding 2 tsp. ground cumin to brine mixture.

Five Spice Brine Roasted Turkey: Prepare recipe as directed, substituting Chinese five spice for sage and ground ginger for thyme.

Related Video

Like other cooks, this is my go-to recipe every year, since the first year I tried it. Just wanted to tell everyone to look up Tom's "Sausage Stuffing with Caramelized Leek and Sage" and use the carrot-onion-celery mixture from the gravy base on this recipe in that. I peel off meat from the necks and wings and throw it in there, too, and that dish has become even MORE requested than this roast turkey! I make a huge pan of it and use leftover gravy from this recipe.

It is goof proof! My turkey is moist every year.

This is our favorite recipe and our go to turkey. Look forward to making it again this year. This year because we could only get an 18 pound turkey so I’m asking if anybody has experience with the additional size and how long it takes to finish cooking the 18 pound bird?

This is the best turkey recipe ever. The turkey is moist and very flavorful. We make this turkey every year for Thanksgiving. My whole entire family loves it. Hands down the best turkey.

This is more of a question, Not a review. I have not tried this recipe yet. Has anyone tried this recipe in a Self basting Roaster Oven. I plan on using one for the 1st time. So, I would think that I would not need to baste the turkey with the pan dripping, chicken broth, & butter every 45 minutes, right? Can anyone confirm? Secondly, I LOVE Garlic. I would Love to add Minced Garlic to the Butter recipe. If, so how much would you suggest? Or, do you think that would ruin the recipe? Lastly, how long would I need to cook the 14- to 16-pound Turkey if I use a Self Basting Roaster Oven.

Delicious probably would have been better if I followed the directions of oven temps, but I raised the temp to preheat 550 then lowered it to 485 for the first 30 min then based and lowered it to 465 for another 30 then 445 then based again 425 for anther 30 asked and finially 350 almost went over time but still came out great the gravy was the best buttery and delicious I used the exact ingredients and the family was very happy so this is a keeper next time I will follow oven temps to the tee

I made this last year & am making it again today & I can tell you. you will never eat a better turkey! Hands down. the best.

I plan on using this recipe this year. Can someone tell me what this means, particularly the last part of the sentence? "adding 1 cup broth and 1 tablespoon butter to pan every 45 minutes, about 1 hour 45 minutes longer."

Anyone know if i can use Turkey broth the boxed kind, or will it be too salty?

Same as all the other 4F reviews: Every year I consider other recipes, but always land on this one. I upped my game by wet brining overnight. The brine "recipe" doesnt matter much so long a you use 1 C salt to 1 G water and brine overnight. Orange zest, allspice, rosemary and other herbs, honey, whatever you want (although the herbs in the recipe make adding herbs to your brine unnecessary).

Have you ever wanted make a Thanksgiving turkey that looks like a picture in a magazine? I would give this 10 forks if I could. I have brined, cooked in a bag and tried MANY recipes - THIS IS IT, LOOK NO FURTHER. I will never try another Thanksgiving turkey recipe again!

I made this for Thanksgiving this year, and OMG the BEST. Wondering if anyone used it on turkey breast only? I want to to this for Christmas. Wondering too if the gravy can be made with the normal base, and then chicken stock instead of pan juices. Anyone?

i made this recipe for the first time yesterday. my family loved every piece. i am definitely doing this again next year.

I make this turkey EVERY year and it is ALWAYS a hit!! The herbs make this fantastic. The butter helps with getting the skin nice and crispy. I'll be making it again this year!

I made this in a turkey bag so I didn't have to keep an eye on it as I am the only person cooking for the holidays and this turned out delicious! I don't eat dark meat but my husband tried it and said you couldn't even tell the difference between the dark and light and he was right! The whole bird was just so good!! Some tips I have for next time I make this is to make sure I drizzle the juice over the meat when I transfer it to a pan. The drippings were drinkable!

This is the most amazing turkey recipe! I hosted my parents (who are major foodies) for thanksgiving this year and I searched for a good recipe/method for getting a moist bird. I am so "thankful" for this recipe! I followed it exactly and was rewarded with a melt in your mouth turkey. and the gravy was fabulous too. I received high praise for this tasty bird and everyone had seconds, which is a big compliment. The leftovers are just as good. Definitely keeping this recipe for every future turkey we make. You will not be disappointed and the directions are easy to follow.

I'm an experienced home chef but this was the first thanksgiving we hosted and it was my first time making a turkey (ever). I needed this to come out well and I wasn't disappointed. This was a huge hit with my family, including several commenting they've never had a turkey this good and didn't know a turkey could have so much flavor. I followed the instructions to the letter but used a dry brine method rather than the conventional wet brine (rub the turkey down with a generous amount of salt and herbs, cover with cheesecloth, and put in the fridge for 24-36 hours using a lot of salt but not so much you encrust the turkey with it). When rubbing the butter on the turkey, at first it did not want to stick to the turkey (just my hands). Keep rubbing like you're giving the turkey a massage. Eventually it will warm up and the butter will begin to coat it like it should. Gravy was a little thin (more of a sauce) so I added extra flour. Recipe is absolutely correct that you -need- a low-sodium broth/stock (it would have been too salty with a regular broth/stock).

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this recipe. I follow his recipe to a tee with the exception that I use rendered duck fat instead of butter for the herb rub. The duck far tends to "stick" to the turkey and does not run off like butter. Not to mention that the duck fat adds an incredible flavor to the turkey.

This is an excellent turkey recipe! The herbs are aromatic and fill your home with a yummy smell. My family loved it. I will be using it every time I make turkey. The only thing I would do differently is double the herb butter to ensure there is enough to fill the skin and cover the turkey. Thanks Epicurious!

This recipe does yield a moist turkey. My 12 lb bird took about 2.5 hours to roast, and the flavor was good. However the gravy is the real star. It is, without question, the best gravy I have ever had. It's incredibly rich and so, so good poured liberally over the turkey. It makes mashed potatoes transcendent. I can't wait to make turkey again just for this gravy.

This has been our Thanksgiving turkey since 2008. I've tried different recipes for a second turkey a few times, but the herb-butter one is consistently the favorite. This turkey browns nicely and the butter and herb mixture under the skin makes a pretty turkey plated together with the vibrant colors of apples, oranges, lemons, etc.

I've made this recipe every year since it was originally printed. Always an excellent bird - moist and flavorful. Warning - the recipe for the gravy makes a lot!

I have to say, I've looked at this recipe for 4 years and was afraid to try it. This year was the year and boy was my turkey fantastic! The gravy was the best I've ever made. The broth and butter poured over the turkey every 1/2 hour created a wonderful deep dark gravy by creating those dark brown intense flavor bits that are an imperative for great gravy. When the turkey was done I used my fat separater to extract all that butter and used it for the roux along with the left over herb butter. The herb butter combo left the breast meat moist. I spread it on the turkey the nite before and refrigerated the bird uncovered. The salt in the butter spread helped to pull the moisture to the surface. Then, when the bird hit the 425 degree oven that temp helped to crisp the skin and it trapped all that moisture in the meat . Combining this with the constant bathing with broth produced a very flavorful and MOIST bird. I roasted it unstuffed so it finished about 30 min. early. The herbs in the cavity helped to flavor the bird from the inside to the outside. All in all, it was my best bird yet and I've been cooking them for over 30 years! Thanks Tom.

I have made this recipe for our last 4 Thanksgivings. It always creates a very moist turkey, which is difficult since we normally cook a 25 lb bird. I use more like 3 sticks of butter and cut up celery and onion and put in the center of the bird. The cheesecloth is an important part of the recipe and should not be skipped. Great Recipe!!

Recipe Summary

  • 1 gallon vegetable broth
  • 1 cup sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon crushed dried rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon dried sage
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon dried savory
  • 1 gallon ice water

In a large stock pot, combine the vegetable broth, sea salt, rosemary, sage, thyme, and savory. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently to be sure salt is dissolved. Remove from heat, and let cool to room temperature.

When the broth mixture is cool, pour it into a clean 5 gallon bucket. Stir in the ice water.

Wash and dry your turkey. Make sure you have removed the innards. Place the turkey, breast down, into the brine. Make sure that the cavity gets filled. Place the bucket in the refrigerator overnight.

Remove the turkey carefully draining off the excess brine and pat dry. Discard excess brine.

Cook the turkey as desired reserving the drippings for gravy. Keep in mind that brined turkeys cook 20 to 30 minutes faster so watch the temperature gauge.

Our Best Brines to Give Your Turkey Flavor from the Inside Out

Brining a turkey is one of the easiest ways to infuse your bird with loads of flavor while making it more tender and flaky. Whether you go with a wet or dry brine, our Turkey Brining 101 Guide will help you do it correctly. You can take the sweet and salty route, heap on the herbs, or even invest time in doing a two-step process for more complex flavors. Any way you choose you'll end up with a Thanksgiving main dish that will leave guests raving. We've rounded up our top turkey brine recipes, all of which have five stars, to ensure that your holiday dinner goes off without a hitch.

Want an easy turkey recipe that’s moist and flavorful? Try dry brining! Rather than wet brining a turkey, dry brining is so much easier and less messy! This is how I am making my turkey again this year! It takes 4 days to brine, so I am starting on Sunday. You can watch me on my Instagram Stories if you want to follow along in my kitchen!

It feels like we’ve been remodeling our new home forever, but this week I finally got to cook in my new kitchen and put my new Wolf M series double oven to the test. Needless to say, I am IN LOVE!! I went big for the first time and cooked a whole 16-pound turkey as a test run for Thanksgiving along with a few side dishes. Using this oven was everything I imagined and more!

I am not completely moved in yet, but I promise I will do a final home and kitchen reveal soon. When I was designing my kitchen, Sub-Zero, Wolf, and Cove appliances were my only must. As a home cook and cookbook author, having a kitchen with professional-grade appliances has always been a dream of mine, so it’s exciting to finally be able to use them first-hand.

The oven has a variety of programmed cooking modes, but for this particular recipe, I tried the Convection Roast mode which cooked the turkey in a fraction of the time! (I tested this recipe both in my old oven on conventional roast and my new Wolf oven on convection roast to see how they compared). What’s more, it’s the most spacious oven I’ve ever had (it’s actually Wolf’s largest capacity oven), so between the two of them I’m able to fit more dishes at the same time than ever before.

But the feature I think I loved best for making a turkey was the temperature probe. It takes the guesswork out of knowing if the turkey is ready and you can even download an app on your phone to monitor the meat’s cooking progress without having to open the oven door! To use the probe, I simply inserted it into the turkey thigh right between the leg and the thigh away from the bone and set the temperature to 170F. Once the turkey hit the correct temperature, it notified me it was ready. No guessing! I let it rest 30 minutes which brought the temp up a little more. The turkey was so moist and juicy, the skin so crisp and flavorful, this is how I will be making my turkey for years to come!

Herb Brined and Roasted Turkey

We’ve been hosting our family Thanksgiving feast for over 7 years now. We usually host between 25-30 people. Luckily, everyone pitches in!

I always make the 2 turkeys, the stuffing (technically dressing as I don’t stuff the birds), the gravy and some other goodies. I know dry brining and spatchcock turkeys are all the rage, but our turkeys always turn out delicious and juicy with a wet brine method, so that’s what I’m going to continue with for now. I make one turkey earlier in the day and carve it, then the 2nd turkey I schedule to finish at our dinner time.

I buy 2, 18-20 pound turkeys at our local farmer’s market. You want to make sure any turkey you brine doesn’t already have a saline solution added – sometimes they’re labeled “pre-basted” or “pre-brined” – you could end up with a too salty turkey if you brine a turkey that already has added salt.

When brining you need to keep the turkey(s) submerged in the brining liquid for about 8-16 hours. You also need to keep the turkey(s) cold. I don’t have enough refrigerator space for 2 big turkeys so I use a cooler in the garage. I discovered that 5-gallon paint bucket liners from the paint store work great for submerging the turkey(s) in the brine and I can fit two in 1 large cooler. They’re inexpensive and flexible so you can nestle them into your cooler. You can line the bucket liners with a large oven or brining bag if you like. I buy several bags of ice and pour ice over and around the turkeys in their bucket liners. You’ll want to make sure to clean and disinfect your cooler really well afterward.

I always take notes and refer to them each year when it comes time to roast the bird, but I always like to double-check myself on timing, temperatures etc. There are great online resources available if you have questions:

Recipe Summary

  • 1 turkey (about 12 pounds), thawed if frozen, rinsed and patted dry
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary, plus 3 sprigs
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage leaves
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 8 cloves garlic, finely chopped (3 tablespoons)
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 lemons, poked all over with a fork
  • 1 quart apple cider

Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in lowest position. Remove packet of giblets and neck from cavity. Discard liver. Rinse remaining giblets and neck refrigerate until ready to make broth.

Turn turkey on its back and bend wing tips forward and underneath neck cavity of bird so they stay in place (you may have to break the bones).

In a small bowl, combine parsley, rosemary, sage, thyme, garlic, 4 tablespoons oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Using your fingers, carefully loosen skin of breast and around thighs and rub herb mixture under skin of both.

Season cavity with salt and pepper and loosely fill with lemons and rosemary sprigs. Using cotton kitchen twine, tie legs together so bird retains its shape and moisture during cooking.

Pour cider in bottom of pan. Set roasting rack on top. Lift turkey onto rack, breast side up rub with remaining tablespoon oil season generously with salt and pepper. Tent turkey loosely with foil. Roast 1 hour. Uncover and continue to roast, basting frequently with pan juices, until an instant read thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh (avoiding bone) registers 170 degrees, 2 1/2 to 3 hours more. (Temperature will rise about 10 degrees as turkey rests.) Tent with foil if browning too quickly add water if pan becomes dry. Cover loosely with foil, and let stand 30 minutes before carving. Serve with roasted vegetables.


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