How to Brine Chicken or Turkey

a bowl of brine ingredients showing How to Brine Chicken or Turkey

How to brine chicken or turkey is a great method to deliver supremely moist,  plump and perfectly seasoned chicken or turkey, as it improves the poultries ability to retain moisture. 

As the holiday season is rapidly approaching we know a lot of people are already starting to think about their menus, and turkey or chicken is one very popular main course choice.

We’ve joined the brining ranks and will definitely not go back our old ways as it’s easily done and the moistness, and tenderness speaks for itself. 

Ingredients in a glass bowl showing How to Brine Chicken or Turkey

 

There’s salt, then there’s the right salt 

You will need to use a course salt such as Himalayan pink salt, sea salt, kosher salt or diamond salt (available in Woolworths Australia), but definitely don’t use common fine table salt as it has added iodine and an anti-caking agent.

Another very important thing is to weigh whatever type of salt you’re using and not use a cup measure as salts have different sized crystals otherwise you’ll end up with a different concentration.

adding salt to a glass bowl full of ingredients to show How to Brine Chicken or Turkey
we used Himalayan pink rock salt, for no other reason than that’s what we had in the pantry

Help, I don’t have enough fridge space

One of the first things you need to do is make room for the container that holds the brine in your refrigerator. 

Finding a container that is large enough to hold your bird can be problematic but a large esky, cooler, cool box  or chiller bin can come to the rescue if you don’t have enough refrigeration space. 

Use 2 extra large turkey oven bags to put your bird and brine into so that the bird is completely submerged and place it in your esky (that’s what we Australians call it) and then pack the esky with ice and your problem is solved.

How to Brine Chicken or Turkey
be sure to the brine is cold before adding the bird – see notes

What turkey to use

You’ll need either a fresh, or thawed frozen turkey that has not been ‘enhanced,’ or ‘flavour enhanced’ as they have already been injected with a salt solution and you’ll risk making your bird too salty, and we don’t want that!

draining a brined bird to show How to Brine Chicken or Turkey
drain your brined bird well so you don’t end up with pools of brine sitting in the cavity

How to prepare your brine

Find a pot that will fit your bird and fill with water using a measuring jug until the bird is submerged and keep a count of how much water it takes to submerge the bird.

Once your bird is covered with water remove the bird and pop it back in the fridge and you’re left with the correct volume of water for brining. 

Now you will know how much salt to add to the ratio of water. The ratio of salt is 55g (2 ounces) of salt to 1 litre (1 quart) of water.

patting a chicken dry after brining to show How to Brine Chicken or Turkey
once the bird has been drained, use kitchen paper to pat both inside the cavity and the outside until dry

So once you’ve figured out how much water and salt to use we add some aromatics into the water and bring the liquid up to a simmer stirring a few times until the salt has dissolved.

It’s important not to bring the brine to a ‘rolling boil’ or too much liquid will evaporate leaving you with a heavier concentration of salt to water ratio.

Once the salt has dissolved you need to remove it from the heat and allow to cool then refrigerate the brine till it’s chilled before using it. The brine can be made well ahead of actually brining the poultry.

Watch how to brine chicken or turkey

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How long to brine

When brining it’s better to have an under brined bird rather than over brined. So if this is your first time brining a bird it’s better to under brine and take some notes for the future. Everyone has a different idea of what they like. 

Having said that, here is a guide to get you started.

  • a small whole chicken 1kg (2.2lb) allow no more than 24 hours
  • a medium whole chicken 1.5 – 2kg (3.3 – 4.4lb) 24 – 36 hours
  • turkey below 4.5kg (10lb) 1- 2 days
  • turkey over 4.5kg (10lb) 2-3 days
  • turkey breast small no more than 4 hours
  • turkey breast large no more than 8 hours

Remember it’s better to be under brined and add seasoning than have a ruined bird.

check out our delicious bacon and cranberry stuffing 

Bacon and Cranberry Stuffing

We would love to hear from you in the comments below when you read and watch how to brine chicken or turkey. 

fresh chicken on a plate with a bowl of brine to show How to Brine Chicken or Turkey

How to Brine Chicken or Turkey

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Additional Time: 6 minutes
Total Time: 31 minutes

Once you've brined you'll always brine as the results of moist, seasoned and tender poultry is a game changer.

Ingredients

  • 6 fat cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 1 large orange thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon of whole black peppercorns
  • 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • handful of fresh thyme stems
  • 1/2 cup of maple syrup or honey
  • himalayan salt or kosher or diamond salt note: don't use common fine table salt as it has iodine and anti-caking agents
  • fresh cold water

Instructions

  1. place your bird in a pot large enough to hold it
  2. use a measuring jug and measure how much water you need to submerge the bird then remove the bird and place in the refrigerator
  3. add 55g (2ounces) of salt per 1 litre (1 quart) of water
  4. add aromatics to the pot
  5. bring to a gentle simmer and stir ocassionally until the salt has dissolved (it's important not to boil this as it concentrates the salt and evporates some water
  6. remove from the heat and allow to cool then refrigerate till chilled and it's ready to use

Notes

after the salt has been dissolved it is extremely important that the brine has been chilled before adding your bird

if the bird is added to a warm brine the potential for bacteria to thrive is elevated and we don't want to give our guest food poisoning

 

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