To achieve the best results when smoking a turkey, using a good brine will make all the difference. There are several steps involved when preparing a quality brine, it’s not something that can just be thrown together and expected to be good. The following items will be needed in order to make the brine a success.
Start by purchasing a five-gallon food grade bucket. Also, there will need to be plenty of refrigerator space, as the turkey will need to stay in the brine for a couple of days. For the best results, make the brine the day before, this will allow the flavors to meld together, which in turn will lead to a more flavorful turkey. Because brines are so salty, you should look to ingredients like sugar to offset the flavor.
Steps to Making a Proper Brine
- Fill two large pots with a gallon of water each
- Boil the two pots and then reduce to a simmer, covered for 5 minutes
- Let pots cool to room temperature, then place them in a refrigerator until 35 degrees Fahrenheit is reached
- Add both pots into the 5-gallon container, place turkey in container and refrigerate overnight
1. Fill two large pots with a gallon of water each
In one pot you need several cups of picking salt and a few cups of white sugar. Most recipes call for a two parts salt to one part sugar mixture. Remember that salt is the main ingredient in brining, as it absorbs deep into the turkey and causes the molecular processes to begin.
In the second pot, you want to add your herbs and spices like garlic, onion, thyme, basil, whatever flavors fit best for the individual’s taste.
2. Boil the two pots
The next step will be boiling both pots of ingredients, then reducing them to a simmer while covered, for 5 minutes. Boiling the mixtures allow the spices to cook down, and release their flavors and aromas to steep throughout the brine. At this point, remove any large chunks of vegetables, garlic or other spices.
At this point the flavors have been boiled out into the water, and all they do is take up space for the turkey. If the container is large enough, they can stay in, whatever the personal preference.
3. Let the pots cool to room temperature
Once the pots are finished simmering, remove them from the heat and allow them to cool to room temperature. Never place hot brine directly into a refrigerator as this cause the mixture to spoil and be unusable. After the brine reaches room temperature, then place the pots in the refrigerator until you reach 35 degrees Fahrenheit.
This is important because if the brine reaches 40 degrees or higher, this is a temperature that allows harmful bacteria to grow.
4. Add both pots into the 5-gallon container
Once 35 degrees is reached, pour both pots into the larger 5-gallon container. Add a thawed turkey into the brine and place it in the refrigerator overnight. Check the temperature from time to time, ensuring the brine stays below 40 degrees. By keeping the turkey in the brine overnight, it adds moisture to the turkey, and creates a seal of molecules which will keep the moisture in while smoking. Rinse your turkey was it’s removed from the brine, removing the excess mixture so there is not an overwhelming slat flavor. You may want to check out Martha Stewart’s Turkey Brine Recipe.
No matter what flavors you choose for your brine, make sure the turkey stays completely submerged during the process. Use this brine for smoked turkey, or a similar variation to get best results. Smoking is a long process. It can take a turkey 12 to 16 hours to properly smoke to perfection. Even though it’s a lower heat, smoking is still cooking the bird, and this process can leave a turkey dry and less then desirable. Using a good brine will eliminate these factors, allowing for a juicy and moist turkey when finished.
Check out our turkey recipe: A flavorful smoked turkey recipe