What is brining?

What is brining?

As Thanksgiving approaches, it’s important to understand what brining is and why you would want to brine your Thanksgiving turkey! So, what is brining? The basic definition of a brine is soaking the meat you are cooking in salty water.  In this post we will talk about what meats you normally brine, how brining works, and why you would want to brine your Thanksgiving turkey. Then I’ll share a 2-ingredient basic brine recipe and the more flavorful brine recipe I’m using this year!

What meat should I brine?

Any meat that is going to be cooked for a long time that has a tendency to dry out usually pork and poultry. Beef contains connective tissue and fat throughout the meat so as beef cooks, this fat breaks down and helps keep it from drying out. Poultry, on the other hand, does not have as much fat throughout the meat. While this makes is a little more heart healthy, it is also the reason poultry can become very dry very easily. This is also the reason the dark meat in poultry is usually more succulent than the white meat, the dark meat has a higher fat content.

What is brining? In this post we will talk about what meats you normally brine, how brining works, and why you would want to brine your Thanksgiving turkey .

What does brining poultry do?

Remember from our basic definition that brining is soaking meat in salty water. When you soak the meat in the salty water, a couple of things happen. First, you are actually flavoring the meat pretty thoroughly. Thorough flavoring is always a plus! Second, the brining solution will be taken up by the meat, which will help protect the meat from the heat during the cooking process. This allows you to cook the poultry for a longer period of time without drying it out.

When should I use a brine?

I have two criteria for brining meat.

  1. Is it a cut of meat that is normally dry after cooking? {Like thick chicken breasts}
  2. Is it a very large cut of meat or a whole bird I am going to have to cook for a long time?

If the answer to either of these questions is yes, I brine the meat I’m going to be cooking. So, should you brine your Thanksgiving turkey? YES! A turkey is very large and you have to cook it for a few hours. Because it’s poultry and has a tendency to dry out PLUS you are going to be cooking it for a while, I always recommend a brine step the night before you cook your Thanksgiving turkey. I brine meat for 12-24 hours. If you are wondering what kind of container to use, that’s a good question. Ha! In the past we have used a rubbermaid tote that fit in the fridge. This year, I’m going to be testing out a brining bag and I’ll be sure to let you know how that goes.

What is brining?

Basic Brine Recipe

This is my basic brine recipe. This year I’m going to add some orange peel, sage, thyme, brown sugar, and maple syrup. I’ll let you know how it turns out!

Basic Thanksgivnig Brine Recipe

Yields Enough brine for a 12-14 pound turkey

5 minPrep Time

10 minCook Time

15 minTotal Time

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  • 2 cups table salt
  • 2 gallon water, divided


  1. In a large pot, dissolve salt in 2 quarts of the water.
  2. In your brining container, combine the brine concentrate with the remaining water (1 gallon and 2 quarts).
  3. Submerge turkey in bring solution.
  4. Let soak for about 12 hours. Overnight is fine.


• This is a basic brine recipe. For additional flavor, add sugar and spices to the brine solution.

• If you need more liquid to cover your turkey, add water until it is totally submerged.


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