Perfect Herb Brined Turkey
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Herb Brined Turkey



Finding just the right recipe and cooking time for turkey can be tricky, so I've tested a turkey every week for the past month and a half in order to get to the moist juicy bird for this recipe. I was a little concerned that by the time Thanksgiving Day arrived the kids would look at the turkey and say, "again?!", but so far I haven't heard any protests from them (they both adore sliced turkey topped with tons of cranberry sauce, but you never know with kids).

Even though my father-in-law declares in his charming New York accent that my Brined Turkey is "the best turkey ever," I just wasn't sure if I could deal this year with the over-sized stock pot filled with brine and a 16 pound bird. Last year, I nearly threw out my back lugging the pot around and the year before, 1/2 of the turkey brine poured out ALL over the floor when I tripped over it trying to answer the phone. I thought I would never do a brine again, but alas, it's so delicious I can't resist. Oh, the joys of the holidays!

This is the easiest method of brining I've ever tried. Just rub the brine all over your bird and let it sit uncovered in the refrigerator for one to two days to dry out -- easy peasy and no rivers of turkey juice running all over. Tender and juicy inside with crispy herbed skin outside, this turkey will be as delicious on Thanksgiving Day as it is in your leftovers all weekend long!

Herb Brined Turkey  (Serves 10-12)

  • Prep Time: 1 days,
  • Cook Time: 2 hrs, 30 mins,
  • Rating:
    Rate this recipe
Finding just the right recipe and cooking time for turkey can be tricky, so I've tested a turkey every week for the past month and a half in order to get to the moist juicy bird for this recipe. I was a little concerned that by the time Thanksgiving Day...


  • one 12-14 lb turkey
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons dried sage
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons dried rosemary
  • 2 cups turkey or chicken stock


  1. 1. Remove the giblets from the turkey (to save for the gravy), wash and pat the turkey dry with paper towels.
  2. 2. Whisk the salt and herbs in a bowl until combined.
  3. 3. Rub the salt/herb mixture all over the turkey, inside and out.
  4. 4. Place the turkey on a rack on a large plate or baking sheet and refrigerate uncovered, for 36 hours-2 days.
  5. 5. Remove the turkey from the refrigerator 1-2 hours before cooking to bring to room temperature.
  6. 6. Preheat oven to 450 F.
  7. 7. Tuck the wings behind the neck to avoid burning and place the turkey on a roasting rack, breast side down, pour 2 cups of chicken or turkey stock into the roasting pan and reduce the cooking temperature to 350 degrees.
  8. 8. Cook the turkey for 30 minutes.
  9. 9. Turn the turkey breast side up, roast the turkey an additional 2 hours minutes – 2 hours and 15 minutes, basting every 30 minutes and turning the turkey pan halfway through the cooking time (if the breast becomes too dark cover with foil).
  10. 10. Place a meat thermometer in the deepest part of thigh, but being careful not to touch the bone, until you have an internal temperature of 165-170 F.
  11. 11. Allow the turkey to rest for 30 minutes before slicing (this allows the juices to redistribute, making the turkey super juicy).
  12. 12. Serve.

Accompaniments: Cranberry Orange Sauce, Turkey Gravy

Herb Brined Turkey

Nutrition Information

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  1. Kelli

    November 18, 2012 at 1:12 am

    No water needed? I’m trying this!

    • catherine

      November 19, 2012 at 12:53 pm

      Yes, this one is a dry brine! Let me know how you like it!

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  5. Jill

    November 23, 2011 at 9:12 am

    Should the turkey be rinsed before cooking?

    • catherine

      November 24, 2011 at 4:07 pm

      I rinse my turkey first :)

  6. Lois

    November 23, 2011 at 3:06 am

    I bought a pre brined turkey from the store (not frozen) can i still follow your recipe sans the salt? It’s 22lbs and this is my first time cooking a turkey! Help!

    • catherine

      November 24, 2011 at 4:07 pm

      No, if you’re turkey is already brined, I would just let it come to room temp and then rub it with the herbs before baking.

  7. Monica

    November 22, 2011 at 6:27 pm

    Thank you for this recipe! Last year I was a mess trying to brine the turkey with all that liquid… Did you use dry herbs or fresh herbs?

    • Monica

      November 22, 2011 at 6:32 pm

      Never mind I saw your reply above about the herbs… I was wondering the same as someone above about using only a turkey breast… Should I alter the amount of salt/herbs used if its only 7 lbs? Also do you know up to what temperature to cook the breast? Thank you again!

      • catherine

        November 24, 2011 at 4:05 pm

        You could use 1 1/2 Tbsp of salt and slightly less herbs as well.

  8. Kurt

    November 22, 2011 at 11:53 am

    Our turkey is 20#. How long should we plan to cook it if brining as directed?

    • catherine

      November 24, 2011 at 4:04 pm

      I would cook the turkey for about 4 hours, but you want to start checking it to make sure it’s at the correct internal temperature.

  9. Debbi

    November 22, 2011 at 4:24 am

    I will be using a 8 – 9 lb turkey this year as only two people eat it. I am assuming you can reduce cooking time because of size difference.

    • catherine

      November 24, 2011 at 4:04 pm

      Yes. Cook the turkey for 1:45 and start checking it to make sure it gets to the correct internal temperature.

  10. Sokha Mccarthy

    November 21, 2011 at 9:14 pm

    I’ve been making turkey brine for three years now, I fill a cooler with ice and water with 2 cups of kosher salt, immerse the turkey in it overnight. When ready to bake i rub butter and herbs all over and it’s the best turkey I ever had. You won’t go back to ho-hum turkey recipes.

    • catherine

      November 24, 2011 at 4:03 pm

      Great idea!

  11. Jen

    November 21, 2011 at 9:13 pm

    Do you think I could use this recipe for a turkey breast? It is just my husband and two very young kids (one which will probably totally pass on turkey). Do you know how I can alter the recipe?

    • catherine

      November 24, 2011 at 4:03 pm

      Yes, you can use it for a turkey breast! I would brine in for a day, but more time is fine too.

  12. Lydia

    November 21, 2011 at 6:15 pm

    will sea salt work just as well??

  13. Mary

    November 21, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    So it looks like the total cooking time is only 2 and 1/2 hrs. Seems short, so I just wanted to clarify. I’m going to try it on Thursday! Thx.

    • catherine

      November 21, 2011 at 4:29 pm

      I like to say 2 1/2 hours for a 12 pound turkey. It’s so hard to gauge b/c everyone’s oven is different. Since the turkey starts at 450 and turns to 350 degrees it’s getting a blast of heat. It may take a few minutes more then 2 1/2 hours total for a 12 pound turkey, so it’s important to use your meat thermometer to check. The temperature will also rise about 5 degrees in the last 30 minutes when the turkey is out of the oven.

  14. Holly

    November 21, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    I know it’s not usually recommended to brine a frozen turkey as it would be too salty. Is there any way to modify this recipe to use for a frozen turkey? (i.e. reduce or eliminate the salt?) Thanks so much!

    • catherine

      November 21, 2011 at 4:30 pm

      Not sure I understand the question. All turkeys should be at room temperature when they go in the oven, not frozen.

      • Sarah

        November 21, 2011 at 8:25 pm

        I think that perhaps she’s asking about brining the turkey as it thaws…

        • AE

          November 22, 2011 at 11:55 pm

          Actually, I think she is referring to the fact that frozen turkeys are injected with a sodium solution to keep them moist through defrosting, whereas unfrozen turks are au naturale. I have often seen warnings not to brine a defrosted frozen turkey due to the high sodium content. I would also LOVE some advice, since my MIL gave us a frozen turkey this year and I had been planning to brine . . . Perhaps a sugar/herb “brine”? Tricky, tricky!

        • catherine

          November 24, 2011 at 4:06 pm

          It really depends on the type of turkey you’re using. If your MIL gave you a Butterball, I would say don’t brine it b/c they’re injected with a sodium solution to keep the plump and juicy. This method is generally better for organic, free range, heritage turkeys.

  15. Dahlia

    November 21, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    When a recipe says “wash” the bird (chicken or turkey), then pat dry etc.. what exactly does that mean? Rinse with cold water, wash with soap, wash with salt ? Been looking online and I see many different ideas.

    Thank you!! (love all your recipes!)

    • catherine

      November 21, 2011 at 4:27 pm

      Great question! I just rinse mine with cold water, place it on paper towels and blot until dry inside and out.

  16. Lisa

    November 21, 2011 at 10:58 am

    When cooking, do you cover the turkey?

    • catherine

      November 21, 2011 at 1:06 pm

      Nope. I only cover the breast at the end with a piece of foil if the skin begins to overly darken.

  17. Heather

    November 21, 2011 at 10:24 am

    Thanks! I like the idea of less liquid because of the mess. Are the herbs dried or fresh?

    • catherine

      November 21, 2011 at 1:07 pm

      Dried herbs :)