Take your smoked turkey to the next level with this smoked turkey brine! This fantastic brine adds amazing flavor and moisture to baked, grilled, or smoked poultry. If you’re looking to amp up your holiday meal, start with this recipe.
This smoky honey-bourbon brine is perfect for smoked turkeys. It will impart a little bit of sweetness and an earthy bourbon flavor to your bird. The best part is that you can use this smoked turkey brine on all types of poultry.
Why brine a turkey?
Brining is the perfect way to ensure that your bird stays moist (especially turkey breasts) and flavorful as it cooks. All it takes is some simple ingredients, and you’ll be well on your way!
People have brined meats for hundreds of years. You might be asking yourself why. Well, it was a form of preservation before the invention of the refrigerator. In modern times, we’ve discovered that salt penetrates the meat, plumping and tenderizing it, yielding a moist roasted turkey.
What are the different ways to brine a turkey?
There are two types of brine: wet brine and dry brine. Dry brining is the application of salt, spices, and herbs directly onto the bird. It is then wrapped tightly and placed into the refrigerator for 12-24 hours.
The second method is to make a wet brine–or placing the bird into a mixture of water, salt, and something sweet like sugar or honey. You can add extra items to the brine solution, including fruit, herbs, and savories like garlic or onions. These methods work well, but is a matter of personal choice. We’ve used wet and dry brines on our poultry, and have had great success with both. Keep in mind that you should always read the labels to make sure you haven’t purchased a pre-brined turkey.
Turkey brine recipe ingredients:
- A large stockpot and a large container (or second stockpot)
- large plastic baking or brining bag (for easy storage and clean up)
- coarse salt
- honey (substitute with brown sugar)
- bourbon (helps cultivate an earthy smoke flavor, substitute with apple juice or apple cider if preferred)
- fresh herbs and spices (see recipe below)
How to make it:
- Combine water, bourbon, honey, and salt in large pot over medium heat. Simmer until the salt has completely dissolved into the liquid. Remove from heat, and let the mixture cool completely. It should not be warm at all. If you need to cool it down more, place prepared ice packs into the solution; do not add ice pieces directly into the brine.
- Once cold, stir in the remaining ingredients. Place the large baking bag into a second stockpot or large container and place the turkey inside. Pour the smoked turkey brine over the bird. Seal or tie the bag and place it into your fridge or cooler packed with ice for 12-24 hours.
- Remove turkey from the brine, and gently but thoroughly rinse off under cold water. Blot dry with paper towels. If using a BBQ rub, do not include salt—cook your brined Thanksgiving or Holiday turkey on your smoker or oven.
Prepare this smoked turkey brine a day in advance to give the flavors a chance to combine—store sealed in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Smoked Turkey Brine
- 1 gallon cold water
- 1 1/2 cups bourbon
- 1 cup kosher salt
- 1 1/4 cups honey
- 2 sticks cinnamon
- 3 oranges quartered
- 4-5 whole bay leaves
- 4 garlic cloves, smashed
- 1/2 bunch flat-leaf parsley
- Large stock pot
- 1 large baking bag
- In a large stockpot, combine water, bourbon, honey, and salt over medium heat, until the salt has completely dissolved. Remove from heat, and let the mixture cool completely. If you need to cool it down more, place prepared ice packs into the solution, do not add ice pieces directly into the brine. Once cooled stir in additional ingredients.
- Place large baking bag into a second stockpot or large container, and place turkey inside. Pour brine over top. Seal or tie bag and place into refrigerator (or a cold space), for 12-24 hours.
- Once brined, remove turkey from solution and rinse off under cold water. Pat dry with paper towels, inside and out, apply seasoning rub (sans salt), and cook as directed. Discard any remaining brine.
- You can prepare the brine 24 hours in advance to give the flavors a chance to combine. Store sealed in the refrigerator until ready to use on the bird.