• 1 turkey (thawed)
  • 7.5 liters (8 quarts) water
  • 2.5 kg (5 lbs) ice cubes
  • 500 g (1 lb) sea salt
  • 2 heads of garlic (broken into cloves/ peeled)
  • 1 Tbsp dried sage
  • Sprig of rosemary
  • Sprig of thyme
  • 2 lemons, sliced
  • 1 orange, sliced
  • ½ bottle of white wine
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp peppercorns
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 2 cinnamon sticks


Honestly, making a turkey is a lot of work. The image of the 1950s housewife with perfect hair, perfect make-up, ruffled apron, and a smile on her face is NOTHING like the woman you will appear to be after working all night to prepare a Thanksgiving meal. If there is one thing you want to get right, it is the turkey. Like any good thing, it takes time and commitment. The work is hard, but the results are big. It is a huge accomplishment to sit around a table with family and friends, knowing you conquered the bird everyone is devouring. Take a deep breath. You got this!

The purpose of brining a turkey is so that the turkey can retain its moisture (the molecular biology changes when soaked in salt, helping to keep air out of the turkey, but the water level in). It takes on all of the amazing flavors you put into it (It is fun to have your guests guess what is in the brine).   Make sure the turkey is completely thawed (2-4 days in advance, depending on the size of your bird). Brine turkey 24 hours in advance of roasting it. Make sure you have fresh ice in the pot before you go to bed, and refresh the ice when you wake up.

When it is time to roast it, take it out of the brine, and soak it in plain water for 15 minutes. This prevents the turkey from being too salty. Pat dry with paper towels before buttering the bird. I use a whole block of butter (placed underneath the skin), and season it with salt, pepper, and a little Cajun seasoning. Make sure you allow yourself enough time to roast your bird (he is the star of the show, after all!). Roasting temp is 325 F/ 160 C. After 20-30 minutes, place triangle-shaped foil on top of the bird to cover breast/legs to prevent burning. (Tip: Pre-form the foil cover on your bird before you put it in the oven because after 30 minutes, it is hot). The desired temperature you are after is 180F/ 82C for the white meat, and 161F/ 72C for the dark meat. Thermometer should be inserted at the side of the turkey in the deepest part of the white meat (without touching bone).

Download PDF here: American Turkey (and Brine) Casey Shirley