Use this smoked turkey brine to amp up the flavor of your holiday turkey!
This honey-bourbon brine is perfect for smoked turkeys. It imparts just a little bit of sweetness and a little bourbon flavor to the finished product. Of course, you can use this smoked turkey brine on a grilled or baked turkey as well.
Why brine a turkey?
Brining is the perfect way to make sure your turkey stays moist and flavorful as it cooks. All it takes is some festive ingredients, and you’ll be well on your way!
People have been brining meats for hundreds of years. Why? As a form of preservation before the invention of the refrigerator. In the modern world, we’ve discovered that the salt penetrates the meat, plumping and tenderizing it, yielding a juicy, tender protein once cooked.
There are two methods for doing this, wet brining and dry brining. Dry brining is the application of salt, spices, and herbs directly onto the bird. This smoked turkey brine recipe, is for a wet brine–or placing the bird into a mixture of water, salt, and something sweet like sugar or honey. You can add other items to the brine solution, including fruit, herbs, and savories like garlic or onions.
Smoked turkey brine ingredients:
- A large stockpot and a large container (or second stockpot)
- large plastic baking bag (for easy storage and clean up)
- coarse salt
- herbs and spices (see recipe below)
How to make smoked turkey brine:
- Combine water, bourbon, honey, and salt over medium heat, until the salt has completely dissolved. 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 bag and place into the refrigerator 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 as directed.
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 on the bird.
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.