Jim’s Turkey Brine Recipe

I’ve had several requests for my turkey brine and herb paste recipes. In a just-in-time fashion, I’ve posted them below. I use an organic, range raised heritage turkey for my Thanksgiving turkey. I also use this brine for pork chops and turkey breasts that I cook on the grill.

Turkey Brine Recipe and Instructions


  • 12 oz Dark Brown Sugar (approximately 3 Cups packed)
  • 16 oz Kosher Salt (approximately 2 Cups)
  • 20 Cloves Garlic – crushed
  • 16 Bay Leaves crumbled
  • 24 Whole Cloves
  • 12 Whole Alspice
  • 12 Tbl Peppercorns – cracked (I use a coffee grinder)
  • Zest of 1 Orange
  • 2 Quarts of water for boiling
  • 4 Quarts of water chilled in the fridge
  • 8 Cups of Ice cubes

Put the first 2 quart of water in a large pot on the stove. Add the sugar and salt and heat while stirring until the sugar and salt dissolve. Add the rest of the spices, orange zest, garlic and herbs to the hot water and let steep for 10 minutes. Pour the hot contents into a large pail – I use a food grade 5 gallon plastic bucket that I bought at a beer making shop. Add the cold water and the ice cubes and give a good stir. Check the temperature of the brine mixture – it should be cold. If it is still warm, add blue ice packs and/or put it in the fridge until chilled.

Rinse off the turkey and submerged breast down in the brine. You can put a plate on top of the turkey to keep it under the brine. If you need to, you can add another quart of water to the brine to cover the bird. Store in a cold place for the next 24 hours. You might need to turn the bird over once or twice depending on how the turkey is sitting in the brine.

After 24 hours, pull the turkey out and give it a good rinse and pat it dry with towels.

Note that the drippings off of a brined turkey will be saltier than normal. When you make gravy, you might need to use unsalted broth. Also, the turkey is already salted so don’t add extra salt.

Part II: The Herb Mixture

Now you have a brined turkey that will stay moist when you cook it and it will have a great flavor, especially in the breast meat. This adds another layer of flavor that is more intense and just under the skin.


  • 1/4 C Thyme minced
  • 1/4 C Rosemary minced
  • 1/4 C Sage minced
  • 1/4 C Parsley minced
  • 6 Cloves of Garlic minced
  • A very healthy grind of Black Pepper
  • Zest of 1 lemon or 1/2 an orange
  • Canola Oil

Add everything to a bowl. Add enough canola oil to make a loose paste. Use a fork to smash and bruise all the herbs and zest and garlic.

Put the turkey on cutting board breast side up and neck away from you. Use your fingers and hands to make a pocket between the skin and the meat of the breast, thighs and legs. You will need to poke your fingers through the membrane between the skin and the meat at the base of the breast-bone on either side. Then, you will slide your hands under the skin and along the breast meat then out to the thighs and legs. Be careful to not tear the skin.

Grab small handfuls of the herb mixture and work it all over the meat off the breast and thighs and upper portions of the legs. Work in small batches and massage the herb mixture into an even layer under the skin.

Rub the skin with canola oil and now roast your turkey as you normally would.

I put the orange (cut into quarters), a couple of stalks of celery, a couple of carrots, an onion and sprigs of rosemary and sage into the cavity of my turkey.