Alton Brown's Brined Turkey

"A salt water brine changes the cellular structure of the turkey and allows it to both hold in the moisture, as well as pull the seasonings deep into the meat. It's actually a very simple process that will yield beautiful and delicious results. My mom told me how good Alton's recipe was and that she was going to repeat it again this year. I decided to try it myself. It's, hands-down, the best roasted turkey we've ever had. The brine and aromatics create an amazing symphony of flavors that starts with the aroma of making the brine and follows right through to the rich, full gravy. I've also used this recipe on a whole fresh chicken by halving the recipe and adjusting the cooking times."
photo by Tinkerbell photo by Tinkerbell
photo by Tinkerbell
Ready In:




  • 2 to 3 days before roasting:

  • Begin thawing the turkey in the refrigerator or in a cooler kept at 38 degrees F.
  • Combine the vegetable stock, salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, allspice berries, and candied ginger in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to dissolve solids and bring to a boil. Then remove the brine from the heat, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate.
  • The night before you'd like to eat:

  • Combine the brine, water and ice in the 5-gallon bucket. Place the thawed turkey (with innards removed) breast side down in brine. If necessary, weigh down the bird to ensure it is fully immersed, cover, and refrigerate or set in cool area for 8 to 16 hours, turning the bird once half way through brining.
  • Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Remove the bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard the brine.
  • Place the bird on rack of roasting pan and pat dry with paper towels.
  • Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick, and 1 cup of water in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Add steeped aromatics to the turkey's cavity along with the rosemary and sage. Tuck the wings underneath the bird and coat the skin liberally with canola oil.
  • Roast the turkey on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees F for 30 minutes. Insert a probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and cover the breast with a foil triangle. Then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Set the thermometer alarm (if available) to 161 degrees F. A 14 to 16 pound bird should require a total of 2 to 2 1/2 hours of roasting. Let the turkey rest, loosely covered with foil or a large mixing bowl for 15 minutes before carving.

Questions & Replies

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  1. Bevin C.
    Do you need a bribe bag for this? Anyone try this in an electric rotisserie cooker?
  2. Nic.Rix
    How would you tweak the directions and timing for a 23lb turkey?
  3. tdillinger
    Do you cover with aluminum foil for the entire baking time? Or just after you drop the temperature to 350?
  4. Patricia.houser46
    I have a 4 lb. fresh turkey breast I would like to brine. Can you give me more definite recipe for amount of ingredients and time involved.


  1. danw46
    Was a bit nervous to go with a completely different, completely untested recipe this year, but oh my goodness, was my patience rewarded! My family loved it and particularly my awesome-cook mother thought it was the best ever. And she doesn't really like turkey that much! This recipe is going to be carved in stone and be my ONLY way to prepare the holiday bird from now on. Alton Rocks!
  2. Maria Miiz
    A brine is a major key to a juicy turkey. I tried it last year and will continue to brine for ever.
  3. boyesk
    Tried this brined turkey recipe three Christmases ago. No tweaks required. There were no leftovers! We do turkey this way every year. FYI I picked up a FREE food-safe plastic bucket from our local supermarket (bakery section) as the brining bucket.
  4. baumer64
    This was the first and only Turkey brine I've done since I found it around 2011. Growing up I always liked the dark meat on the bird because I never liked the dry white breast meat. This brine makes the white meat so tender, juicy and flavorful it's amazing! Also we've found that the bird cooks a little faster after being brined like this. Doesn't come out tasting salty at all. Just juicy and very tasty!
  5. Le Shane M.
    Best ever turkey done this way...if you get a wild turkey, brine it 7 hours longer.


  1. Nancy K.
    Roasted it in a propane barbeque, with indirect heat. Put it in a throwaway aluminum roaster, put it in the center of a four burner barbeque, and turn on the far right and far left sides, basting it every 20-30 minutes. Take it out when the thermometer reads 165-170 F, and let it sit for 20-30 min. while I make gravy from the drippings. My engineer father-in-law makes a temperature graph over time, as the timing can change by how cold the weather is, and turn the gas up or down slightly depending on how fast it is cooking. Estimate about 13 minutes per pound for a 18-20 pound turkey.
  2. danw46
    Added walnuts to the aromatics but don't think they really did anything. Otherwise, exactly as written.
  3. Hazeleyes
    Best. Turkey. Ever! We used a fresh, not frozen turkey and we all agreed this was the juiciest, tastiest and most delicious turkey we'd ever had! We had apple cider on hand, so added about 2 cups in addition to the brine ingredients. Used chicken stock instead of vegetable. Will be using this recipe from now on!


Hi! I am happily married with two children, 26 and 12. For nearly 10 years when this site was Recipezaar and then I hosted several different forums. I enjoyed making, creating, reviewing, and photographing recipes, but what I miss the most are the friendships I made here. I was Food Editor for the Mill Creek View Newspaper in Mill Creek, WA. for about 4 years during that time. Currently I am the office manager at a small mental health clinic. I'm not on this site much anymore, but I do continue to appreciate and respond to all reviews posted to my recipes.
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