Favorite Turkey Brines
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If you’re not on the turkey brining train then you need to be.. it is the single best way to ensure that your turkey ends up juicy, and full of flavor.
A brine is a mixture of salt and water and when you place a piece of meat down in a brine, the meat absorbs some of the salty water over a period of several hours. The salty water gets trapped between the muscle fibers and creates more juice inside.
You always lose some moisture when you cook but now, because you have even more juice trapped within the meat, it ends up being a lot more juicy when it’s all said and done. The salt is not excessive but it does create a more flavorful bite.
Here’s the cool thing, you can also add other things such as sugar, juice, flavorings, sauces, marinades, etc into the brine and some of that gets absorbed as well.
All of my brines are approximately 6% salinity or 1 cup of coarse kosher salt per 1 gallon of liquid.
The amount of salt that actually ends up in the turkey is WAY less than that and depends on how long you leave the meat in the brine. In only 8-12 hours the salt level in the bird is very low and you have no need to worry that it will be too salty.
If you want to read more about brining, I have a in-depth article HERE.
Here’s some of the brines that I have created and used over the years.
Jeff’s Cajun Turkey/Poultry Brine
- 1 Gal Water
- 1 Cups Kosher Salt (Morton’s blue box)
- 1.5 Cups brown sugar
- 2 TBS Zatarains Liquid Crab Boil
- 2 TBS Black Pepper
- 1/2 TBS Dried Rosemary
- 1/2 TBS Thyme
- 2 TBS Molasses
- 2 TBS White Wine (not Cooking Wine)
- 2 TBS Worcestershire
Add the salt to the water and stir until the salt dissolves and the water becomes clear. Add the other ingredients and stir well to combine. Double or triple the recipe as required.
Traditional Brine for Turkey/Poultry
- 1 gallon water
- 1 cup kosher salt
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 TBS Jeff’s original rub
Pour the water into a large plastic foodsafe container. Add the salt and stir until it is completely dissolved. Then add the brown sugar and rub and stir until it dissolved as much as possible. Double or triple the recipe as required.
Buttermilk Brine for Turkey/Poultry
- 1/2 gallon buttermilk
- 1/2 gallon water
- 1 cup kosher salt
- 2 TBS Jeff’s original rub
Pour the buttermilk and water into a large plastic food-safe container. Add the salt and stir until it is completely dissolved. Then add the rub and stir until it is dissolved as much as possible. Double or triple the recipe as required.
Cranberry Brine for Turkey/Poultry
- 2 bottles (64 oz) of Cranberry-Pomegranate juice (Ocean Spray brand)
- 1 cup of kosher salt
- 2 TBS of Jeff’s original rub
Pour the juice into a large plastic food-safe container. Add the salt and stir until it is completely dissolved. Then add the rub and stir until it is dissolved as much as possible. Double or triple the recipe as required.
Put the bird into a very large brining bag, a clean empty cooler or a large plastic food-safe bucket and pour the brine over the turkey until it is completely submerged.
Let the turkey brine for 10-12 hours or overnight in the fridge (chickens only need 4 hours) making sure the temperature of the brine is less than 40 degrees to keep the meat safe from spoilage.
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Jeff you are the best I have been following you for years and I have never been disappointed in any thing I have tried from you.
Hi, We used your brine on a chicken then smoked it. It was so good. Can’t wait to try it again. Gonna give turkey a try next. Wish us good luck.
We have been using the buttermilk brine for years. Even when i have the opportunity to shoot a wild turkey out of the yard. people say wild turkey is not worth eating, have not marinated in with buttermilk. I hope everyone has a wonderful thanksgiving.
It doesn’t look like you boil the liquid before dissolving the salt in these brines. Other brining recipes I’ve seen call for dissolving the salt in boiling water and then cooling it before adding the turkey. Am I correct that it doesn’t matter whether the salt is dissolved in boiling water or not? Thanks.
Steve, I have discovered that coarse kosher salt dissolves just fine in regular ol’ cold water to the point that if you stir for just a minute or two, the water will return to clear and you cannot see the salt, it’s completely dissolved.
Maybe some salts need boiling but I use Morton’s coarse kosher salt and it’s just not necessary. I am not into doing extra steps for no reason;-)
Some methods and processes are passed along without the reason being passed along and people just keep doing something for the sake of doing it, not because it’s necessary. I always like to figure out why something is being done and if it’s not necessary, then remove that step.
I use a 5 gallon water cooler like the gatorade coolers. It’s big enough to hold a 25lb turkey and stays cold for over 24 hours.
Hi Jeff. If you use the Cajun brine would you still use your rub, as described in the spatchcock process? Wondering if the flavors of your rub and the cajun seasoning would be too much… Thanks!
Thank You Jeff!! I have been brining ever since I hooked up with your web site, at least 4 or 5 years now. I will try the Buttermilk one this year. My grandmother used to soak her chicken in buttermilk before frying in lard ……(way back in the early 60’s)and NO ONE could fry chicken like Grandma!!
Buttermilk brine is hard to beat.. it has enzymes that help to tenderize the meat and it adds a rich flavor as well!
Would like to save the brine recipies
Jeff, we have been following you for years now, as you know. You have truly encouraged us to continue. This Thanksgiving we will be smoking turkeys to feed Hurricane Ida relief workers and those residents who had horrid damage to their homes and businesses. For Christmas we will be smoking hams. In addition, we will help make sides of dressing, sauces, gravies, and deserts. Please keep us in your thoughts.
Dear Jeff, my husband and I brine and fry a bunch of turkeys for Thanksgiving. My brine is made with water, salt, sugar and Bourbon. I am going to smoke one this year. You inspired me to get the Country Smoker so I will get up the nerve and do it, Thanks for all your tips and recipes.
Is dry brining or wet brining a turkey better in your opinion?