How to Brine a Turkey

how to brine a turkey


With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I thought it might be a good idea to provide some general guidelines on how to use our Game Changer brine for your Thanksgiving-day turkey.


How to brine a turkey:

  • First, thaw your turkey fully in the refrigerator.  If you’re running short on time and can’t thaw it out in the fridge, place the frozen bird (still in the wrapper) in a tub of cold water deep enough to fully cover it.  Rotate the turkey in the water every 30 minutes to make sure it thaws evenly.  Monitor the water temperature to ensure it doesn’t rise above 40ºF.  This will thaw a turkey in just a couple hours compared to several days in the refrigerator.  Once the bird is thawed, remove the giblets and neck from the body cavity and rinse the bird thoroughly under cold running water.


  • To brine your bird you will need a food-safe container large enough to hold your turkey along with enough room for up to 2-4 gallons of brine, depending on the size of your bird.  Container options vary, but some examples are a large clean beverage cooler or a clean food-safe 5 gallon bucket.  You’ll also need a way to keep the container chilled as well.  This means you’ll need enough room in your refrigerator or you can also float frozen jugs or bottles of water in your brine container to keep it cool.  DO NOT place loose ice in your brine.  As the ice melts it will dilute the concentration of the brine and alter its effectiveness.  An optional method is to use a large “brine bag”.  Place the turkey and chilled brine in the bag, then zip it closed.  Next, place the bag in a beverage cooler lined with ice.  Then pour more ice over the top of the bag.  Bottom line, you must keep the temperature of the brine between 34º and 40ºF during the entire time the bird is in the brine.


  • To determine exactly how much brine volume you’ll need, place your turkey in your brining container, then fill the container with plain water until it covers the bird completely.  Now, remove the turkey from the water and measure the remaining water.  This is the correct volume of brine you will need. Our 1.1lb brine size will make 1 gallon of brine at full strength, the 2.2lb size will make 2 gallons of brine at full strength, and so on.


  • The correct brine concentration ratio for our Game Changer brine is two (2) level cups of brine to each gallon of water.  Our 1.1lb brine size will make 1 gallon of brine at full strength, the 2.2lb size will make 2 gallons of brine at full strength, and so on. This is our Full Strength recipe.  Make it ahead of time and chill it overnight in your refrigerator or use our Quick Chill method outlined on the back of the package.


  • The proper brine time for natural turkeys using the above “Full Strength” brine recipe is one hour per pound of bird.  So for example; a 14 pound turkey should be brined for a maximum of 14 hours.  Do not exceed this time.  However, brining for less time will still be quite effective.  If you’re pressed for time, the minimum recommended brine time is six hours.  Be sure to read the label on your bird.  If your turkey has already been “enhanced” by the manufacturer, you’ll find a statement similar to “Contains up to XX% of a natural solution” on the package, usually in small print.  If you find you have an enhanced bird, cut your brine time in half.  So for that same 14 pound bird, you’ll only want to brine it for 7-8 hours maximum.


  • After the brining time has elapsed, remove the turkey from the brine and rinse thoroughly under cold running water.  Pat the skin and body cavity completely dry with paper towels.  Coat the entire bird with a light coat of extra virgin olive oil and apply an even coating of Secret Weapon, Game Bird & Chicken or Santa Maria rub (or any combination thereof) and place in refrigerator for at least 45 minutes prior to cooking.


We also have some more good info on our Brine 101 post.

Hope this helps and have a Happy Thanksgiving!!!


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9 Responses to How to Brine a Turkey

  1. says:

    Do you reccommend injecting the bird as well?

    • Mike Trump says:

      Sure, I have several customers who inject their turkey instead of brining. However, I wouldn’t recommend doing both. Use the half-strength recipe and total injection volume should be around one fluid ounce per pound of bird.

    • Mike Trump says:

      Also, forgot to mention above that you’ll want to rest the bird after injecting for at least 6 hours in the refrigerator before roasting/smoking/frying.

  2. Kyle Bowers says:

    When you apply the rub after brining, do you apply it under the skin or just on the outside of the skin?

  3. Now to find a food safe container large enough to hold a turkey. I guess I'll have to settle for a smaller turkey. Very nice tips!

    • Wade says:

      I bought a large, orange Igloo water cooler from Home Depot- -like the kind landscapers have hanging off the back of their trailers in the summer. It is made of food grade plastic, and the recipe I used to use had the brine made more concentrated, with a lot of the water as ice- -so that it kept the bird cold, supplied water as it melted, and didn’t require room in the refrigerator. Hope that helps.

  4. Tried your method and the turkey turned out well, thanks a lot for the tip.

  5. Jeremiah Johnson says:

    Thanks for the tips. 


  1. Brine 101 - How to use our new Game Changer® All Purpose Brine - Oakridge BBQ - Serious BBQ Rub

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