Brining A Whole Turkey

If there’s one thing I hope you know about me, it’s going to have to be my obsession love for brining pork and poultry.  Each year I talk with you and stress the importance of brining your turkey for the big Thanksgiving meal.

Yet I realized that I haven’t really talked with you about the equipment you’ll need or how to go about brining a whole turkey.

Because even a “small”, 12-14lb turkey is still a big thing to brine.

Do you need special equipment?


Is it expensive and can only be purchased at a speciality cooking store?


All you need is a hardware store and you’re good.  No really, I’m serious.

You need a bucket, a large one.  You can purchase a large bucket at your local Home Improvement store for super cheap.

In that picture is a 5 Gallon bucket.

When brining a whole turkey, you need to have a bucket or pot large enough that the whole turkey will easily be able to be submerged in brining liquids.  No part of the turkey should be out of the liquid and exposed to air.

The turkey also needs to be in a vertical position when brining.  It should not be lying flat.

A vertical turkey will ensure that the brining liquid is able to penetrate the entire turkey all the way around.  It also results in an even brine and that the cavity of the turkey also gets filled with brining liquids.

If the turkey is lying flat, then the brine isn’t encompassing the entire turkey. Resulting in a brine that doesn’t fully penetrate the turkey and therefore doesn’t fully work.

A 5 Gallon bucket has worked well for me over the years and has been big enough to handle up to a 14lb turkey.

You need to make sure that you purchase brand new bucket that is clean and has not been used.  You cannot use a bucket that already has seen time doing household chores.

Clean and brand spanking new is what you want.

Also make sure to label it so that you know the bucket is to be used for brining purposes only and not for anything else.  Store in an area where it won’t be confused with garage supplies.

Of course you can purchase a large stainless steel pot or a tall mixing bowl for brining.  The choice is yours.

A 5 gallon stainless steel pot runs you just over $20, while a 5 gallon bucket is under $5.  Personally, if for some reason I need to replace something, I’d rather be out $5 than $20.

You will be able to fit this bucket in your fridge, I promise.  You just have to finagle stuff around a bit to make room.  If you live in a cold area where temps are going to be in the 20s, you can stick the brine out on your porch or deck.  Just make sure measures have been taken to properly cover and secure the brine because you don’t want to risk something getting into your turkey!

Brine for at least a full 24 hours before pulling out the turkey, rinsing it off, and patting it dry.  Season as you normally would and cook as you normally would.

By following this method you’ll have a great brined turkey every time!

2 thoughts on “Brining A Whole Turkey

  1. Kurt says:

    Here is another tip for brining. Line your brining vessle with one of the turkey oven cooking bags. Place the turkey in that bag and fill the bag with the brining liquid. Seal the top of the bag really well. Once it is in the fridge, place a few ice packs on the top of the turkey. This will help keep the top of the turkey cool in case the fridge is left open for an extended period of time. Nothing worse than waking up on Thanksgiving to find out your turkey has been exposed to air and now has gone bad. This happened to m mother a few years ago.

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