Quick: What’s the absolute last thing that comes to mind when you think about turkey? If you answered, “a day at the beach,” you’re right – but perhaps you shouldn’t be. It may seem strange, but when it comes to easy turkey recipes, there’s no better way to ensure a juicy, savory turkey than by treating that big bird to a long, relaxing salt-water soak. This year, dress up your Thanksgiving menu with one of these easy turkey brining recipes.
Your turkey’s “day at the beach” will result in a flavorful, moist bird that’s sure to please all of your guests.
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How To Brine a Turkey
Brining may sound mysterious, but the process is actually quite simple. You can brine any fresh or frozen turkey, as long as it’s not pre-basted or kosher. Why? Because brining would dilute the pre-basted turkey’s juices and kosher turkeys are already brined.
Use a non-reactive container that’s big enough to complete submerge your turkey in brine. Non-reactive just means a container made from food-grade plastic, ceramic, stainless steel, glass or anodized aluminum. Don’t use containers made from regular aluminum, cast iron, brass or copper, as they react to acids and salts in food, creating “off” flavors.
Before you start, make sure there’s enough room in your fridge to hold the brining container. After all, the turkey’s taking a long dip – up to 24 hours, to be exact – and you need to keep it cool and safe. If you’re considering brining in the garage or outside, forget about it; temperatures higher than 40 degrees aren’t safe and anything lower than 26 degrees may re-freeze your turkey! Play it safe and keep it in the fridge.
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Brining a Turkey
This brining recipe is easy to make and results in a juicy, moist and flavorful turkey. You can brine soak the turkey in an oven-roasting bag; just seal tightly, place it in a large stockpot and refrigerate, turning every few hours to ensure an even soak.
- 2-1/2 gal. water, divided
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup salt, kosher or table salt without iodine
- 1/2 cup cider vinegar
- 1 Tbsp. coarse ground black pepper
- 1 frozen whole turkey (14 lb.), thawed
COOK 1 qt. (4 cups) water, sugar, salt, vinegar and pepper in saucepan on medium heat 10 min. or until sugar and salt are dissolved, stirring occasionally. Pour into plastic container large enough to hold brining liquid and turkey. Add remaining water. Cool completely.
REMOVE and discard neck and giblets from turkey cavities. Rinse turkey; drain well.
ADD turkey to brining liquid; cover. Refrigerate at least 10 hours or up to 24 hours. Remove turkey from liquid; rinse well with cold water. Pat dry with paper towels. Cook as desired.
Savory Turkey with Mushroom Stuffing
This stuffing recipe works well with brined turkey; make sure to stuff the turkey after the brining process is done. You can also use a kosher turkey if you don’t have time for a full brine.
- 1/2 cup butter, divided
- 1 lb. fresh mushrooms, sliced
- 3 stalks celery, chopped
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3 cups hot water
- 2 pkg. (6 oz. each) Stuffing Mix for Chicken
- 1/2 cup fresh sage, divided
- 1 brined turkey (14 lb.)
- 1/4 cup Italian Dressing
HEAT oven to 325ºF.
MELT 2 Tbsp. butter in medium skillet on medium heat. Add vegetables; cook and stir 10 min. or until onions and celery are crisp-tender.
ADD hot water and remaining butter to stuffing mixes in large bowl; stir just until moistened. Chop 1/4 cup sage. Add to stuffing with vegetables; mix lightly.
FREE turkey legs from tucked position. (Do not cut band of skin.) Using rubber spatula or hand, loosen skin over breast, starting at body cavity opening by legs. Place remaining sage leaves on meat under skin. Spoon stuffing into neck and body cavities, being careful to not pack stuffing into turkey too tightly. Return legs to tucked position; turn wings back to hold neck skin in place. Place turkey, breast-side up, on rack in roasting pan. Brush with dressing. Cover loosely with foil to prevent over-browning.
BAKE turkey 3 hours 45 min. to 4 hours or until done (165ºF), uncovering after 3 hours. Let stand 15 to 20 min. before carving.
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Diane has a Bachelor’s degree in Microbiology with a Minor in Health Management and Policy. She spent many years working in cancer research, academics, and biotechnology. Concern over the growing incidence of human disease and the birth of her children led her to begin living a more natural life. She quickly realized that the information she was learning along the way could be beneficial to many others and started blogging as a way to share this knowledge with others. While passionate about health and the environment she can’t quite give up her favorite Cheetos and Diet Coke! Learn more about her HERE.