Turkey Thawing

This is just a basic young turkey from Publix.

My Personal Turkey Brining Recipe & Method

This is my spicy brine recipe I’ll be doing this year.  Photos will be uploaded as I start the process and get everything under way.

First, a few things to keep in mind:

1)  There is no right or wrong ingredient you can add to your brine.  Mine is on the spicy side and has some aromatics in there like an anejo tequila.

2)  Don’t brine a self-basting bird or a kosher bird.  It’ll be way too salty.

3)  Make sure you thaw the turkey prior to brining.  Very important detail.

Ok, so let’s get started on the bring process…

Turkey Brine Ingredients

A glimpse of what you’ll need for the brine.

Remove the giblets and neck from the interior.  Then, rinse the entire bird.  Place in a roasting pan and dry it with paper towels.

Place the turkey in an oven bag, you can get these at any grocer.  I’ve seen warnings not to use a plastic garbage bag or a tub for that matter, so I just stick with the oven bag.  This will be placed in a refrigerator for over a day, (most people suggest you brine for an hour per pound – I usually go over this by about 6-10 hours) so make sure you clear out some space in advance.  I have a beer fridge in my garage so it makes life easy on me.

The Process to Brining a Turkey

If you want the same brine I make, here’s the exact ingredient list.

  • 12 cups of water
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1 cup sugar (white or brown – I prefer brown)
  • 1 cup of anejo tequila (I use milagro)
  • 1 cup apple cider (Some recipes will use apple cider vinegar instead)
  • 4 tablespoons cayenne pepper (3 used for the brine, 1 for the rub)
  • 2 tablespoons sage (used for the rub)
  • 2 tablespoons thyme  (used for the rub)
  • 2 tablespoons rosemary  (used for the rub)
  • 4 poblano peppers
  • 2 red peppers
  • 2 finely sliced jalapenos
  • oranges, carrots, apples to stuff inside the bird

Note:   There is no “right” or “wrong” way to make a brine.  I have friends who marinate steak in Dr. Pepper, and while I’d never do that to a good steak, they enjoy that type of thing.  I’ve seen all sorts of marinades, and like marinades, brining is done to your taste.  You can modify any recipe to suit your preferences.

How to prepare the brine:

Bring half of the water to a boil.  Add salt and sugar and turn off the heat once everything is dissolved.  Add the remaining half of the water and all of the remaining ingredients.  Stir it all up so it mixes around well.

Make sure the turkey is dry and that you’ve removed the giblets and neck.  Drop the turkey into the oven bag and pour the brine over the bird.  Tie a knot at the top of the bag so it doesn’t leak.

People say to brine it for an hour for every pound.  I brine it a little bit more personally. I generally make my brine on Tuesday night and get the bird soaking that night, so I gain about 10 hours there.  I usually start cooking it at 10:30 AM on Thanksgiving so I can do all my prep before football starts.

When it’s “Go Time” I usually add a TON of spicy foods around the bird for aroma.  You can literally add anything to the inside of the bird in addition to surrounding the bird with fruits and vegetables like most people do.  This year, I’m going to put two poblano peppers on the inside with onions, lemon, and garlic, and probably add some sliced poblanos around the outside as well.

Lastly, I’m going to pat the entire turkey with a special rub.

The rub I’m using this year is essentially a mix of all of the spices you see above, except the cayenne.  Add in some cilantro and I’m even throwing in a dash of Benitos North Country Grilling Rub. If I was cooking this for myself, I’d definitely add the cayenne and perhaps some habanero pepper to the mix, but for everyone’s sake who don’t enjoy a spicy turkey, I’ll keep it dialed down a bit.  There’s enough spice in the brine to give it that peppery taste that will make this unlike any other turkey.

This is optional, and the bird will have enough flavor as it is, but I find the rub creates better aromas while cooking and a nice crispy skin.

And that’s it! A modified brine recipe that really turned into a spicy, Poblano & tequila infused turkey brine. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Enjoy!