I have been using this basic brine recipe for turkey and chicken for a few years now. I say “basic” recipe, because I can add different herbs or depending on the flavor I want. Before I started brining my poultry, it would usually turn out dry and flavorless, no matter hard I tried. The brine is pretty simple to make. I make a big batch for a turkey, but when I’m going to brine a small chicken or some chicken breasts, I cut this recipe in half (or even fourths.) Any un-used brine can be kept in a jar in the fridge for a couple of weeks and used later. (Once the brine has been in contact with meat, it needs to be discarded. not re-used.)
Here are the Brining Bags I use for brining my turkey.
This is the basic recipe for 1 gallon of brine (add whatever herbs you like, such as rosemary, thyme, sage, etc. when simmering)
- 1 gallon water (divided use)
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 1/2 cups Kosher Salt (if using regular, non-iodized salt, use only ¾ cup)
- 3-4 bay leaves
- 2-3 cloves garlic, whole
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- (optional) herbs such as rosemary, thyme, sage, lemon zest
- In a large pot, bring 2 quarts of the water to a boil. (You will add 2 additional quarts of water later.)
- Add the brown sugar, salt, bay leaves, peppercorns, and garlic. (If adding optional herbs, add them now.)
- Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. The sugar and salt will be dissolved. Allow to cool on the stove top. The solution will be very salty!
- Add an additional 2 quarts very cold water and refrigerate until ready to use. (If you're in a hurry, add 2 quarts ice water! - Do not pour hot brine over the meat!)
- For a small chicken or chicken breasts, allow the chicken to marinate in the brine in the refrigerator for about 3-4 hours in a zipper seal bag or 2 roasting bags, double bagged. Squeeze out as much air as possible to make sure the chicken is completely covered with the brine. Set the bag in a bowl or dish to catch any leakage.
- If brining a turkey, use a large brining bag (or use 2 large roasting bags, double bagged.) Squeeze out as much air as you can. Cinch the inner bag close to the turkey so that the brine is in contact with the meat. Set in a roasting pan to catch any leakage. Turkeys need 12-24 hours in the brine solution.
- Discard the brine and the 2 bags before roasting. Do not reuse the brine.
In a large pot, bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. (You will add 2 additional quarts of water later.)
Add the brown sugar, salt, bay leaves, peppercorns and garlic. (If adding any optional herbs, go ahead and add them now.)
Allow the chicken/turkey to marinate in the cooled brine solution in the refrigerator for about 3-4 hours in a zipper seal bag or 2 roasting bags that are double bagged. Make sure the chicken is completely covered with the brine. Set the bag in a bowl or dish in case of any leakage. If brining a turkey, use a large brining bag (or use 2 roasting bags, double bagged.) Squeeze out as much air as you can. Cinch the inner bag close to the turkey so that the brine is in contact with the meat. Set in a roasting pan or container o catch any leakage. Turkeys need about 12-24 hours in the brine solution.
To prepare the turkey or chicken for roasting, rinse off the brine and pat dry with paper towel. Place on a rack and roast at 20 minutes per pound at 350°. Check the inner temperature with an instant read thermometer. The safe temperature of the breast meat should be 165°, the thigh temperature must be 175°. (Keep in mind that the temperature will continue to rise slightly after you take it out of the oven, so take that into consideration. You may want to remove it from the oven just shy of the the desired temperature and cover loosely with foil.) It’s best to allow the bird to sit for about 20 minutes under the foil before carving. This allows the juices to redistribute!)
I love this Digital Thermometer with Probe. The probe is inserted into the meat and left in while it roasts. It beeps when it has reached your desired, pre-set temperature. With this, I don’t need to keep checking it! I also like use an Instant Read Digital Thermometer to double check. Once you use these and get perfect results, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without them!