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How to Roast a Brined Turkey

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To roast a juicy, succulent turkey, without using any butter or oil, soak your turkey in a brine bath overnight, you will never want to cook a turkey another way.

Roasting a turkey can seem intimidating if you are doing it for the first time, but I can assure you, it is easier than you think! All you need is a little planning, room in your refrigerator, a probe thermometer, a turkey baster, a roasting pan (disposable one is fine) and you really can’t mess up.

You can purchase a brining blend or you can easily make the brine solution yourself. This was simply a combination of coarse sea salt, cane sugar, lemon peel, orange peel, rosemary, pink, red and green peppercorns, thyme, sage and bay leaves. You can use a gallon of apple cider or vegetable stock in place of some of the water, the ingredients are pretty flexible. I’ve seen some brine combinations with cinnamon sticks, star anise, chopped apple, candied ginger, etc.

Thanksgiving Planning Checklist

Decide how many people will be eating, plan your menu, and gather your Thanksgiving recipes.

Make room in the fridge

Start using up the foods that are taking up space in your refrigerator and freezer to make sure you have plenty of room for your turkey, roast and other dishes you will serve.

Go Shopping

Check your pantry to see what you already have and make a shopping list of the ingredient you will need. Purchasing all your pantry items early will reduce stress later when the stores are crowded.

Don’t forget the thermometers

If you don’t already have one, add a thermometer to your shopping list. A cooked whole turkey is safe at a minimum internal temperature of 165 F throughout the bird.

Brine The Turkey

24 hours before you plan to cook your turkey, brine your turkey.

Buy Brining Bags

To minimize cleanup, line a 5-gallon container with a large brining or oven-roasting bag. Transfer the turkey to the bag, add brining mixture, remaining water, and the other ingredients. Refrigerate for 24 hours, flipping turkey once.

Remove and Dry

Don’t roast a cold turkey. Take your bird out of the refrigerator (and out of the brine, if you’re brining) an hour before you put it in the oven to ensure even cooking and a moist bird.

What size bird should I buy?

Estimate roughly one pound of turkey for each person for ample portions and leftovers.

When should I buy a fresh turkey?

You don’t want to buy a fresh turkey too early or it will spoil. The Tuesday before Thanksgiving is perfect. Some grocery stores let you call ahead to reserve your turkey.

How long does it take to thaw a frozen turkey?

The safest way to thaw your turkey is in the refrigerator. A twenty pound turkey will take about 4 days to thaw. After it has thawed, it is safe for another two days.

How to Roast a Brined Turkey

4.50 from 2 votes
To roast a juicy, succulent turkey, without using any butter or oil, soak your turkey in a brine bath overnight, you will never want to cook a turkey another way.
Cuisine: American
To roast a juicy, succulent turkey, without using any butter or oil, soak your turkey in a brine bath overnight, you will never want to cook a turkey another way.


  • Citrus and Herb Brine:
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup cane sugar, you can use brown
  • 4 sprigs rosemary, or 1/4 cup dry
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp green peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp red peppercorns
  • 10 sage leaves, or 3 tbsp dry
  • 2 tbsp thyme
  • 6 bay leaves, chopped
  • 1 lemon peel
  • 1 orange peel
  • 2 gallons water total
  • one fresh turkey, any size (If frozen, thaw 4 days before in the refrigerator)


  • The night before you plan on cooking the turkey, remove the innards and rinse the turkey inside and out with cold water.
  • Boil 1 gallon of water and brining blend for 2 - 3 minutes, remove from heat and let it cool to room temperature. To speed things up you can add some ice to it.
  • Combine cooled brine with 1 gallon of ice water and submerge the turkey in the brine bath so that it is completely covered. I used a brining bag to do this, but a large container or a 5 gallon bucket would even work.
  • Refrigerate overnight. If your brine doesn't completely cover the turkey, turn the turkey over half way through brining.
  • Next day, an hour before you are ready to cook the turkey, remove the turkey from the brine and discard the brine. Rinse the turkey well with cold water and pat dry. Place in a roasting pan, I used a cheap disposable aluminum one to show you that it doesn't have to be fancy. Let the turkey come to room temperature for one hour.
  • Preheat oven to 325°F.
  • Place the turkey, breast side up in the center rack on a flat rack in a shallow roasting pan 2 to 2½ inches deep. Roast in the oven for about 13 minutes per pound for an un-stuffed turkey, or until the internal temperature of the deepest part of the breast reaches 170°F.
  • Baste the turkey with the pan juices every 45 minutes. When the thermometer reaches 170°F in the deepest part of the breast, remove from oven and let it rest for 15 - 20 minutes before carving.

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97 comments on “How to Roast a Brined Turkey”

  1. Thanks for the info. First turkey for me, too. I'm kind of psyched, I even bought a brine mixture without even knowing if it only applied to deep fried bird!

  2. Question – It will just be my husband and me for Thanksgiving this year. I am planning on cooking just 1/2 of a Turkey breast. Do I have to make all that brine or can I make a smaller amount? If so, does anyone have any recommendations?

  3. Avatar photo
    Chelsey Mishler

    Thanks so much for ALL your recipes!! I made my first Christmas Dinner today for my inlaws! Brined turkey, garlic mashed potatoes, garlic and rosemary biscuits….all from your recipes! Thanks so much!!! Everything was a hit!

  4. I love brined turkey. It's the ONLY way I'll make one any more. Are you sure that you want the breast cooked to 175?!? That's 10 degrees more than USDA recommendations, and before the carryover temp would raise it even further.

  5. Avatar photo
    Melanie thinks...

    Made this turkey this year.. Also used my new electric roaster for first time. added a butter,kitchen bouquet, marinade over top before roasting so it would brown. Hubby went to carve turkey and there was no need. It fell apart. We made gravy with the drippings and it was divine. Will definitely make again!!!

  6. Thank you so much for posting this recipe Gina!! I made it yesterday and it was a success! And it was my first turkey for commemorating my first year here in US! I tried to do a real thanksgiving dinner for my friends 🙂

  7. Hi Gina, thank you so much for sharing this recipe with all us. I made the turkey yesterday. My first time ever making a turkey and it was a GREAT success. My family told me that they had never eaten a turkey so juicy and delicious as this one. So, I'm officially the Thanksgiving cook from now on. 🙂 I also made the stuffing you posted and it was really good too. Since I already had spicy turkey sausage in the freezer I used it instead of the chicken sausage and it came out pretty good. ~ Thank you again for these delicious recipes. 🙂


  8. Thanks Gina!! I made this to recipe yesterday and it came out perfect! The drippings did over-salt the gravy, so I won't do that again, but the turkey itself came out savory, moist and delicious. The only thing I think I would do differently next time is to boil the brining ingredients in a smaller amount of water because the gallon of water took a looooooong time to cool down to room temperature. Even w/ lots of ice cubes. 🙂 Thanks so much!

  9. Avatar photo

    I had a "friendsgiving" on Monday. I'm on weight watchers so it was very important to me that each dish be homemade and weightwatchers healthy. I followed this recipe and I am just so happy with the results. It was just so flavorful and really made me look good as a first time turkey cooker! I posted the results and process pictures on my blog and gave you full credit!

    if you would like to see it let me know. I don't want to post a link so you know i'm not a spammer!

    I will definitely use this recipe again.

  10. I had smoked turkey at my boyfriend's brothers a few years ago, it was excellent. I think it needed to cook for about a half hour per pound. He brined it all night the night before in a 5 gallon bucket. When it came out of the smoker the skin looked like black leather, which you cut through and the meat inside was delicious and juicy! I googled it and found this which looks about right from what I remember

  11. Got my kosher salt and black peppercorns today! Here are some grilling instructions that I found from the Butterball turkey site. Also, if you bought a butterball turkey and you like couponing, there is a offer for $5 worth of coupons w proof of purchase. Printable coupon here:

  12. Gina, is it necessary to use all three different types of peppercorns, or would the black suffice? Do they have different flavors? I've never used them before.

  13. I may have to try your brine spices one of these days. I've brined our turkey for the past 4 years or so. I refuse to cook turkey any other way. Dried out turkey is a thing of the past. I have brined our bird in a super deep stock pot, as well as in an igloo cooler when the bird was too big to fit in the stock pot.

  14. For anyone needing a food-grade bucket, Firehouse subs sells their pickle buckets to the public for $5 and always have them. Check online to see you have one nearby.

  15. Avatar photo

    I've always been intimidated by brining, but this seems easy enough – might have to try this 🙂