To Brine Or Not To Brine, That Is The Question!!!

Photo Courtesy of Chef Johnny JArticle submitted by Chef Johnny J

Ahhhh yes, it is that time of year again where Chef and home cooks alike savor the chance to prepare the perfect bird! Now I have heard it all, “too dry, no flavor, missing something”….yada yada yada! Well, lucky for you I have a solution, a brining solution. Relax, I know, “brining solution” is a big fancy Chef term that scares the heck out of home cooks however, it is so simple to do and the results are amazing. You will be taking home the blue ribbon this Thanksgiving from all of your friends and family!

A brining solution or brine as we call it is a method of marinating in seasoned, salted water to increase the moisture content of the turkey. Amazingly, it doesn't make the turkey taste salty at all.

The brine itself is a solution of water, sugar, salt, and other flavoring agents that bring flavor and moisture into the bird through osmosis. It also locks natural moisture into the turkey by breaking down the protein.

With that said, I want to share a great brine recipe that I got from Chef Patrick O’Connell of the Inn at Little Washington in Virginia years ago. He calls it his Spruced-Up Turkey!


So, first you will need to clean the turkey and set aside. In a large pot you want to bring 8-10 quarts of water to a boil. While that is fixin’, in a separate pot add:

1.25 cups of kosher salt

3 cups of sugar

2 cups of honey

6 sprigs each of parsley, thyme, rosemary, tarragon and sage

1 cup of pickling spice

2 cinnamon sticks

1 Tbl spoon of juniper berries

2 lemons, halved

5 star anise

8 sprigs of spruce branch or I found any pine tree branch will work also


Remember that recipes are merely guidelines and don’t get sour if you don’t have all of the ingredients. For instance, I didn’t have cinnamon sticks so I sprinkled some ground cinnamon in. No juniper berries, try all spice! The main ingredients are the sugar and salt so the aromatics are up to you!

Now once the water comes to a boil you want to pour the boiling water into the mix of ingredients and let steep covered until cooled to room temperature. Once cooled, submerge the turkey and refrigerate for 1-2 days. Then just rinse, pat dry and cook as directed. I like to rub butter on and in the skin and season with salt and pepper. That’s it!

You let me know if that’s not the juiciest most flavorful bird you have ever had!

It is so easy and the results are so rewarding that you have to try it.

So the answer to the question is: To Brine Or Not To Brine? B R I N E !!!!

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone and Bon Appetit !