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Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Holidays


Brining a turkey makes it moist

Tammy Roberts, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Bates County, University of Missouri Extension


Carving the turkeyAll families have a favorite method of preparing their turkey to perfection. One method is brining the turkey, which is a sort of pre-soak method that helps assure a moist, tasty turkey.


According to USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, brining is a method of steeping the turkey in a strong solution of salt and water. Other ingredients can be added for flavor, but salt is what makes the turkey moist. Salt helps dissolve the protein in muscle, and salt and protein reduce moisture loss during cooking.


The whole turkey has to be completely submerged in the brining solution. For this reason, many people only brine their turkey when they are cooking one that weighs less than 14 pounds. It’s hard to find a container that will hold a turkey larger than that.


University of Illinois Extension gives the following instructions for brining:


  • Begin this process the day before you plan to cook the turkey. Start with a fresh or completely thawed turkey that has been washed (inside and out) with the giblets removed.
  • To make the brine, dissolve 4 cups of kosher salt or 2 cups of table salt in 2 gallons of cold water. Add 1 cup of sugar. Stir the mixture until the salt and sugar are completely dissolved. (You can add other flavoring ingredients as desired like bay leaves, thyme or your favorite poultry seasoning.)
  • Place the turkey breast side down in the brine solution. Place the covered container in the refrigerator and soak for 6 to 8 hours.
  • Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse it inside and out under cold, running water. Pat the turkey dry.


The turkey is then ready to be roasted. Another option is to place the turkey back in the refrigerator overnight after it has been patted dry. This allows the skin to dry out so it will become crisp during roasting.


The turkey is done roasting when the temperature at the inner most part of the thigh, the breast and the wing all reach a minimum of 165 degrees F. The thigh juices running clear and the leg wiggling freely are other signs the turkey is done.


For another brining recipe or to see more in-depth brining instructions, see Brine Method on the University of Illinois Extension Turkey for the Holidays website.


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Last update: Monday, November 16, 2015