smoking turkey brine step by step recipe

Basic Brine for Smoking Meat

5/5 (1)
5 mins
Vadim Rachok
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4 / 10
Health score
Dairy FreeEgg free dishGluten free dishLow Carb DishLow FatNut Free DishPaleo DishVegan DishVegetarian Dish

Taking the time to brine your meat is an easy way to elevate your cooking. This recipe uses water, kosher salt, and brown sugar.

Brining is an essential technique in the world of smoking and grilling that can truly transform your meat's flavor and texture. This basic brine recipe provides a simple yet effective way to enhance your meats. The combination of water, kosher salt, and brown sugar creates a balanced brine that both tenderizes and flavors the meat. It's versatile and adaptable to various cuts of meat, making it a valuable addition to your culinary toolkit. Just remember to adjust the brining time according to the size and type of meat you're working with for the best results.

Let’s learn how to make and utilize this straightforward brine.

Make the Brine

This recipe is easy to remember – just use a 1:1:1 ratio.

  1. 1 gallon of water
  2. 1 cup of kosher salt
  3. 1 cup of brown sugar

Combine all the ingredients in a container that is appropriate for the quantity of meat you have. It can be a turkey bag, a stock pot, or a bowl – whatever is available and suitable. However, ensure that the container is small enough to fit inside your refrigerator.

recipe for turkey brine

Use the Brine

You need to allow enough time for the brine to fully penetrate the meat to get the best texture and flavor. The required time varies based on the type of meat.

“The following are the recommended bringing times for commonly used cuts of meat:”

  1. Fish/Shrimp: 30 minutes
  2. Chicken Pieces: 4 hours
  3. Pork Loins: 12 hours

Shorter cuts require a brief soak, while larger cuts should be brined for a whole night.

It is important to refrigerate the meat while it is being brined.

After removing the meat from the brine, rinse it thoroughly with cool water, pat dry, and then season with desired spices or rubs.

recipe for turkey brine in a smoker

Recipe Adjustments and Substitutions

Here are some common substitutions and adjustments people make to the basic brine recipe.

Type of Salt

If you are out of kosher salt then you can use coarse sea salt as a straight 1:1 substitution.

If you want to use iodized table salt then only use 3/4 cup instead of a full cup.

Amount of Salt

There are times when I want to brine chicken pieces so they’re ready to grill for lunch the next day. However, using the standard brine recipe on small pieces overnight can result in them being too salty.

In cases where I want to brine small cuts for extended periods, I use half the salt and use 1/2 cup salt per gallon of water.

At a barbecue competition, doubling the salt concentration in the brine for chicken thighs will speed up the process.

Type of Sugar

The brown sugar used in this recipe is meant to balance out the salty taste of the brine. While I personally prefer brown sugar, you can substitute it with other sweeteners like white sugar, turbinado sugar, honey, or even maple syrup in equal amounts.

how to cook brine for smoking turkey

Addition of Aromatics

You can dress up the brine by throwing in your favorite aromatics.  People routinely add ingredients such as:

  1. Onion slices
  2. Crushed garlic cloves
  3. Celery stalks
  4. Black peppercorns
  5. Rosemary sprigs

There are no limits to the amount of aromatics you can add, so use whatever you have on hand and enjoy!

For the best flavor, heat the aromatic brine mixture to a boil and let it simmer for a few minutes. Once done, let it cool completely in the refrigerator before use.

From a health perspective, this recipe carries certain risks due to its high content of salt and sugar. Although kosher salt, which typically contains fewer additives than regular table salt, and brown sugar, which contains some beneficial elements, are used in the marinade, it's still important to be cautious about the amount used, especially for individuals monitoring their salt and sugar intake. Overall, this marinade can be acceptable if used in moderation and in combination with healthy cooking methods such as grilling or baking, and incorporated into a varied and balanced diet.

Jenny Dobrynina
Jenny Dobrynina
Nutrition Editor
Health score:
4 / 10
Basic Brine for Smoking Meat
5/5 (1)
Author:Vadim Rachok
This recipe for chicken brine is perfect for smoking meats and fish. It's a simple and basic recipe that you can modify according to your taste preferences. You can add various herbs and spices, white wine, or soy sauce to enhance the flavor. Don't be afraid to experiment and try new things.
smoking turkey brine step by step recipe
Prep Time:
5 mins
Total Time:
5 mins
1 quart
Ingredients you will need:
1 gallon water
1 cup kosher salt
1 cup brown sugar
Let’s start !
1  Mix all of the ingredients together in a container appropriate for the amount of meat.
2  Add your meat and ensure it is refrigerated. Small cuts should be brined for four hours, while larger cuts can be brined overnight.
3  After removing the meat from the brine, rinse it thoroughly with cool water. Pat dry and add spices/rubs as desired.
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Watch How To Make It

When it comes to brining, precision matters. Ensure that you measure your ingredients accurately, especially the salt, as too much can make your meat overly salty. If you're using a different type of salt, such as table salt or sea salt, be mindful of the substitutions mentioned in the recipe to maintain the right salinity. Additionally, experiment with aromatic additions like onion, garlic, herbs, or spices to infuse extra flavors into your brine. To maximize the infusion, heat the brine with these aromatics to a simmer and allow it to cool before using. Lastly, always refrigerate your meat while it's brining to keep it at a safe temperature, and be sure to rinse it thoroughly after brining to prevent excessive saltiness.

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