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Turkey Brine

Keeping your bird juicy isn't that hard -- all you need is the right seasoning and a really large fridge.

  • yield: Makes enough brine for one 18- to 20-pound turkey

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Ingredients

  • 7 quarts (28 cups) water
  • 1 1/2 cups coarse salt
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon dried juniper berries
  • 2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon black or brown mustard seeds
  • 1 fresh whole turkey (18 to 20 pounds), patted dry, neck and giblets reserved for stock, liver reserved for stuffing
  • 1 bottle dry Riesling
  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme

Directions

  1. Step 1

    Bring 1 quart water, the salt, bay leaves, and spices to a simmer, stirring until salt has dissolved. Let cool for 5 minutes.

  2. Step 2

    Line a 5-gallon container with a large brining or oven-roasting bag. Place turkey in bag. Add salt mixture, remaining 6 quarts (24 cups) water, and the other ingredients. Tie bag; if turkey is not submerged, weight it with a plate. Refrigerate for 24 hours, flipping turkey once.

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Reviews (74)

  • 17 Dec, 2013

    Here's the link for the cheesecloth and wine turkey recipe as asked by a reviewer. Use it every year and love it!
    http://www.marthastewart.com/353177/perfect-roast-turkey

  • 27 Nov, 2013

    Great Recipe. I remember there was a piece about wrapping it in cheese cloth soaked w/butter. Does anyone remember that?

  • 26 Nov, 2013

    I put the turkey and brine in my (well cleaned) refrigerator crisper-works perfect!! I also rinse my turkey after taking it out of the brine to assure gravy isn't too salty. I've used this brine recipe for years and my turkey is perfect every time and you will never have more delicious gravy!

  • 26 Nov, 2013

    I have used this brine recipe every year since martha first published it! It is the best and I would never think of using anything else.

  • 23 Nov, 2013

    I have used this recipe since I got the mag in 2007, It is the best way to cook a turkey. I am a caterer and I use it all the time. Thank you Martha Stewart Mag for having it on line as I misplaced my mag. I know it is with all the cookbooks.

  • 27 Oct, 2013

    I have used this for at least 5 years and it has always come out perfect!

  • 19 Oct, 2013

    I used this brine last year and loved it. I plan on using again this year. I followed it exactly.

  • 12 Sep, 2013

    I found lots of interesting information here. The post was professionally written and I feel like the author has extensive knowledge in this subject.
    quotes

  • 24 Jun, 2013

    this new page is terrible I cant find anything

  • 6 Jun, 2013

    travelandleisurearticles I always use a dry white wine and it works great -- wonderful flavor that does not interfere with the turkey.

  • 22 Nov, 2012

    FANTASTIC! I have brined many time over the years with great success. But this brine recipe is by far the most delicious. I left out the juniper berries and substituted anise seeds for fennel since that's what I had and I didn't have mustard seeds either so just left those out but the rest I followed to the letter. Also made the best gravy I've ever had. I will be using this again and again. I buy only local, organic birds never frozen and they definitely benefit from a good brining.

  • 20 Nov, 2012

    I start my brine on Tues for max flavor. I heard 2 hours for every pound. I do not use another brine because this is amazing! Rave reviews from everyone!

  • 20 Nov, 2012

    Love this brine! I start the brine 48 for the max flavor. I use an ice chest and add ice as needed.

  • 15 Oct, 2012

    Simply put the most remarkable recipe ever.

  • 19 Dec, 2011

    good turkey

  • 23 Nov, 2011

    For the past tree years I have used this recipe for my Turkey - no matter what holiday. ALWAYS receiving compliments for the tender, juicy bird. As I cook mine in a bag, you have to make gravy separately. ..otherwise, it's too salty (due to the brine). I've left it in the brine for as many as three days...of course, maintaining the proper temperature of the thawed bird. :) Thank you Martha et al, for life long 'family recipe' that will get past along (and used) for many years to come.

  • 28 Nov, 2010

    Absolutely fantastic! My family couldn't stop raving over this turkey! It was super-moist with tons of flavor. I couldn't find juniper berries and I didn't use any wine... I added some fresh rosemary. I was worried about space in the fridge, so I bought a five-gallon bucket with lid at a home improvement store and put the bucket in a cooler. I kept the cooler packed with ice and it all worked out fine.
    I highly recommend this recipe for making an outstanding turkey!

  • 21 Nov, 2010

    Best Turkey I ever made! It takes a little time but well worth it!

  • 20 Nov, 2010

    I bought the juniper berries powdered for $1Great bargain. at Big Lots (a discount chain).

  • 15 Nov, 2010

    This was the first turkey I ever made 3 years ago, and it was such a hit that I've been the designated Turkey maker each year since! Everyone goes crazy over this recipe! It's so juicy and tender, and has the best flavor ever! I love the wine in it! And the gravy that goes along with this recipe is also the best I ever had!

  • 10 Nov, 2010

    I use the brine every year since I first saw this (3 years ago). There is so much juice at the bottom that I never worry about not having enough for gravy, I do not even need to make turkey stock because of it. The best part is, you can add whatever else you want to the brine to give your turkey a different flavor each year!

  • 6 Oct, 2010

    Last year I hosted my first thanksgiving for my husband's family in our little brooklyn apartment. I used this brine and totally knocked the socks off my in-laws! Even my mother-in-law who hates Martha had to admit it was the best turkey she ever had. This year my own family is coming, and I can't wait to use this again. I'm pretty sure I'll be hosting thanksgiving every year once word of my mad turkey skillz gets around. I'm going to need a bigger apartment.

  • 6 Oct, 2010

    Last year I hosted my first thanksgiving for my husband's family in our little brooklyn apartment. I used this brine and totally knocked the socks off my in-laws! Even my mother-in-law who hates Martha had to admit it was the best turkey she ever had. This year my own family is coming, and I can't wait to use this again. I'm pretty sure I'll be hosting thanksgiving every year once word of my mad turkey skillz gets around. I'm going to need a bigger apartment.

  • 22 Dec, 2009

    You can find the Juniper Berries at your better health food/herbal stores. I couldn't find them in ANY grocery

  • 9 Dec, 2009

    this was just awful. we have always brined our turkey in past years- but never with wine. we actually threw our turkey away- it tasted foul. do not use this recipe!!

  • 21 Nov, 2009

    I want to try this recipe. I see the brine calls for Riesling, the gravy also calls for Rieslling...but which type of wine do you use for basting in the wine

  • 21 Nov, 2009

    I want to try this recipe. I see the brine calls for Riesling

  • 20 Dec, 2008

    I've used this recipe for my last 4 turkeys and will be doing again for christmas. in my experience, using this brine gives me the BEST turkey i've ever made. I cook 21-25 pound turkeys (i don't alter the recipe for the larger ones) and they don't come out salty at all (and neither does the gravy made from the drippings). Completely worth the extra effort.

  • 15 Dec, 2008

    This was my first time making a turkey and I was having nightmares about it! I followed this recipe exactly (without the bag) and put my baby 14 pound turkey in a big stockpot. It didn't come out salty at all, you just have to make sure you wash the turkey well (inside and out) before you cook it.

  • 28 Nov, 2008

    I was very excited to brine this year and the turkey was moist and tasty!! My Tom was only 13lbs and I altered the recipe accordingly, but... unfortunately for my family the turkey was too salty. Almost to disapointment. The deeper into the breast we went the better it got, but, overalll...too salty, and yes, I did rinse and used unsalted butter during the roasting. I will be looking for a different 'marinating' recipe for my next turkey, but I am hooked on early preparation.

  • 27 Nov, 2008

    how do i cook a turkey breast

  • 26 Nov, 2008

    16-20 lbs. 4-5 hours, internal temp to 165 degrees. If you roast to 180 you will have over cooked it.

  • 25 Nov, 2008

    I can found juniper berries on the juniper trees in my back yard!

  • 25 Nov, 2008

    Back this year to follow this brine mixture...last year was my first brining of a turkey and a great success. Everyone loved the extra moisture and flavor the bird had and it was all due to the turkey salt water bath 24 hours prior. It's worth the extra effort to do a brine. Happy Holidays to All

  • 25 Nov, 2008

    I cleaned out a drawer in my crisper to soak my turkey last year by this recipe. Line the drawer with a turkey bag and follow the recipe. It was moist and beautiful and easily the star of the show.

  • 30 May, 2008

    Thanksgiving 2007 was my first attempt at brining. I used a Organic Turkey and bought all of the brine ingedients with the exception of the wine at our local health food store. I used to think it would be too much work, but it was real easy. I used my turkey fryer pot placed into a larger cooler and kept ice around it. I always use a Nesco roaster which makes it very tender but the brining made It the best roast turkey I have made. Very flavorful,tender and juicy.

  • 7 Mar, 2008

    This was the first time I had attempted to brine a turkey and it was worth the extra effort. I didn't get to use juniper berries because none of the grocery stores carried them, i looked everywhere. I think it made all the difference in the world! It was so tender and juicy. I will never make a turkey again without brining!

  • 17 Jan, 2008

    I made this turkey for Thanksgiving 2007--the second time in my life that I brined a turkey. I used Martha's other brining recipe several years ago. For this recipe, the brine was easy to prepare. I already had the juinper berries that I needed for another recipe. The turkey tasted great!! Lots of rave reviews. I will use this again and again. Pam

  • 24 Dec, 2007

    To Cipota 76: I have a very similar brined turkey recipe by Alice Waters that was published in the NY Times about 10 years ago. That one calls for brining time of 72 hours. I tried it for about 55 hours because I didn't have enough time. It was absolutely the best turkey I have ever had. Most amazing to me was that my wife, who doesn't care for turkey at all, actually liked it.

  • 23 Dec, 2007

    This recipe is fabulous! Very aromatic-not salty @ all.Bird must be well rinsed and do not reuse the brine during cooking or for gravy. Common sense should alert the chef that unsalted butter MUST be used in basting the bird, Any additional salt will make it too salty. Good going Martha! Thanks!

  • 23 Nov, 2007

    We made this turkey and it was absolutely fabulous. Everyone said it was the best turkey they ever ate! We did the cheesecloth soaked in wine and butter and it turned out amazing. The riesling gravy was also outstanding! I don't think I'll ever use another turkey recipe. EVER.

  • 23 Nov, 2007

    I followed the recipe except left out the juniper berries. Absolutely delicious! I put my bird in a bag, added the ingredients, doubled bagged it and then into a roasting pan. The main concern I had was that my shelf in the frig was not going to hold the weight. When it came to cooking, I used a cooking bag. All in all was delicious and worth the extra work.

  • 23 Nov, 2007

    My wife and I are confused. It appears that 1 750 ml bottle of white wine is added to the brine and another 750 ml bottle of white wine to the basting mixture (wine and butter). Is this true or is there a typo on the brine ingrediants that call for 1 750ml bottle of white wine?

  • 23 Nov, 2007

    After the success of this recipe, I can't go back to any other turkey rosting method. The turkey--I used a pastured fresh turkey from a local farm--came out so juicy and succulent, like nothing any of us had ever tried. Next year I will get a bigger bird so I will have more leftover turkey! I had a 14lb turkey and it roasted in exactly 3 hours. If you are using this recipe with a smaller bird, adjust the cooking time as needed.

  • 22 Nov, 2007

    I brined; exact recipe minus Juniper. Bird was moist and tender but it was so hot (spicy hot) that it was inedible. It also affected the stuffing and gravy. I suspect the peppercorns. Anyone else have this problem?

  • 22 Nov, 2007

    I went to home depot and bought one of those 5 gal. orange construction water coolers. My 16 lb turkey and this brine recipe fit perfect. I added ice and put it outside. In the morning all i do is turn the spicket on the cooler to drain - no mess and no trying to fit it in the fridge.

  • 22 Nov, 2007

    I have a 16lb turkey and the wrapper says "16-20 lbs is 4 to 5 hours.

  • 21 Nov, 2007

    Aagh !!! I accidently threw out my wrapper after placing my turkey in the brine. My bird is 16lb. HOW LONG SHOULD I ROAST IT FOR ? I know the thermometer needs to read 180, but for planning purposes an estimated time would be helpful
    Thank you !

  • 21 Nov, 2007

    l
    Last year we brined the turkey and it was very moist and delicious, but the gravy made from the pan drippings was very salty. Did anyone else have this problem?

  • 21 Nov, 2007

    Can anyone tell me what size bottle of the Riesling I should use? My husnband bought a very large bottle and it seems like way too much to me. I wa thinking of using half. Its a 1.5 liter bottle.

  • 21 Nov, 2007

    Hi ginger673587... You can brine a Turkey 4-24 hours.

  • 21 Nov, 2007

    is it okay to leave the turkey in the brine for longer than 24 hours?

  • 20 Nov, 2007

    What would be the measurements for brining a 12 lb turkey ? just cut in half?

  • 20 Nov, 2007

    My turkey won't be thawed in time to brine for 24 hrs. Will it still get a good flavor if it brines for only half the time? Please help. Thanks.

  • 20 Nov, 2007

    Do I cover the roasting pan at any point during the recipe? I wasn't sure as to whether or not the cover should be off when the turkey is covered in cheesecloth and baking at the 450 degree temperature. What about covering it later? Help!

  • 20 Nov, 2007

    You can find the junniper berries with the spices in most good grocery stores...I found mine at Safeway

  • 20 Nov, 2007

    did anyone find the juniper berries anywhere please let me know

  • 20 Nov, 2007

    Can you brine the turkey for more than 24 hours. Will doing so make the favors overpowering? thanks cpawlak8096@charter.net

  • 20 Nov, 2007

    She says to remove the turkey from the brine and pat dry, let sit for 2 hours before cooking.

  • 19 Nov, 2007

    Does one rinse the brine off the turkey before roasting? This recipe doesn't tell you to, but I've seen other recipes (but not all) that tell you to rinse the bird before roasting. Thanks in advance for any assistance you can provide.
    Marie (bobs98hog@aol.com)

  • 19 Nov, 2007

    LOVE this recipe. I used it last year

  • 16 Nov, 2007

    By adding the wine to the ingredients then simmering will cook off the alcohol. I prefer using two or three 10-12 lb turkeys This makes for deeper penetration of brine, easier to refrigerate and handle and shorter cooking time. This gives you 4-6 legs and thighs and you can cook each one in a different way. I'll slow cook one in the Big Green Egg over Mesquite,Deep Fry one and Oven Roast the other. Your guest will be amazed.
    Gobble Gobble
    Corkpuller

  • 16 Nov, 2007

    By adding the wine to the ingredients then simmering will cook off the alcohol. Allowing it to steep for a couple hours will increase the concentration of flavors. I prefer using two or three 10-12 lb turkeys This makes for deeper penetration of brine, easier to refrigerate and handle and shorter cooking time. This gives you 4-6 legs and thighs and you can cook each one in a different way. I'll slow cook one in the Big Green Egg over Mesquite,Deep Fry one and Oven Roast the other. Your guest will be amazed.
    Gobble Gobble
    Corkpuller

  • 16 Nov, 2007

    I do have a recipe which calls for the seeds to be wrapped in a cheesecloth so I think you would be fine doing it that way!

  • 15 Nov, 2007

    Preachern n n n n n s Wife:

    You discard the brine so the seeds will not be at issue. Youn n n n n n ll want to pat dry the bird with paper towels before the file prep of the turkey.

    As for roasting method, I swear by the Nov n n n n n n 95 issuen n n n n n s Turkey 101 method which uses a wine and butter sauce employing cheesecloth. This marks the 13th year and about the 20th turkey prepared this way and so far each one has been flawlessly beautiful.

  • 15 Nov, 2007

    Zip-Loc was advertising their BIG zip-loc bag as being the perfect thing to use for marinating or brining a turkey. It's a good idea. That's what I am planning on using. I have never brined a turkey before, but I am looking forward to tasting it. I am also considering doing a pomegranate glaze on the turkey, but with the other spices, it may be over the top. I might try the glaze on a roasted chicken first. Wish me luck!

  • 14 Nov, 2007

    I don't like fennel seeds, so I will leave that out. My husband cannot eat seeds of any kind due to a medical condition, so I'm wondering if putting the seeds in cheesecloth or some sort of netting and submerging into the brine mixture will give it enough flavor and the result will be close to the original recipe. Any suggestions?

  • 14 Nov, 2007

    I am actually going to try a ginormous ziplock bag that you can find at any discount retailer, or even your local grocery store. Hopefully it works!

  • 13 Nov, 2007

    My comment does not make sense because the previous one was not posted. Just ignore me completely :)

  • 13 Nov, 2007

    Oops I think my last comment was wrong - there is wine in the brine and in the basting recipe. So looks like the wine is mixed with the brine like onthegomom said. Sorry. Anyone going to try this?

  • 12 Nov, 2007

    I saw Martha do this on T.V. The Riesling gets added to the brine. Just pour it in the brining bag before adding the turkey. It will probably mix better. She used white onions and dried bay leaves. The brining bags can be found at Bed, Bath and Beyond or Linens and Things and some food shops like Whole Foods. 5 gallon buckets can be purchased at Home Depot and Lowe's. I'd make sure I used a brining bag though...those buckets not really considered "food safe."

  • 12 Nov, 2007

    is the reisling also added to the 7 quarts of water?

  • 12 Nov, 2007

    where did you get the container and bag??? I have used my bottom hydrater drawer (cleaned out of course) it is big enough for a 24 lbs. turkey with all the water and brine mixture. That way it is in the frig already!

  • 11 Nov, 2007

    Did you use red onions, fresh or dried bay leaves, and where do you find dried juniper berries? tc.hunter@yahoo.com