Brown Sugar Bourbon Brined Traeger Smoked Turkey

What Is Brining?

Brining means making a salt water solution and submerging the turkey for about 24 hours before roasting. This spa treatment helps the turkey retain more moisture during roasting and prevents it from drying out.

A brine also gives me a chance to season the turkey with herbs and spices, especially the skin! Sage and citrus is one of my favorite combinations. It's so festive and makes the house smell amazing.

  • This technique is called wet brining. But you can also dry-brine your turkey. For this method, instead of submerging your turkey in a brine solution, you basically rub the outside with salt and let it sit for a day or so.
How to Dry Brine and Roast a Turkey


Emma Christensen


Do you rinse a turkey?

The lesson: Don’t rinse your turkey

Juices can transfer bacteria onto kitchen surfaces, other foods and utensils. If you must wash or rinse your turkey this Thanksgiving because of brining or other marinating process, be sure to thoroughly clean and then sanitize all kitchen surfaces.

What happens if you brine a self basting turkey?

3 Answers. Short answer, if you trust the brining job of the manufacturer, you won’t gain much by rebrining. In brining you‘re looking to get a certain amount of moisture “trapped” by the salt in the turkey, which they have, in essence, done for you already with the brining solution.

3 Simplified Turkey brine Methods:

1. How to Make a Traditional Turkey Brine

Let the salt dissolve and the let water cool, addiThis is the simple brine for turkey. Tried and tested, it’s a technique used for thousands of years because it works! Add a couple of cupfuls of kosher or coarse salt (never table salt) to a big pan or container full of hot water big enough for the turkey. Simple so far?

Let the salt dissolve and the let water cool, adding the turkey and cold water until the turkey is completely covered in the salt solution. Keep the solution cool, the fridge or an icebox is ideal. You don’t want to let the bacteria have a chance to start multiplying and poison your guests.

This salty mix will slowly impregnate your turkey and draw moisture into the flesh so it won’t dry out. However, you want to cook your turkey this brining will keep it moist. A frozen turkey can defrost in the brine at this stage but bear in mind it can take a day or two. Don’t worry too much about the amount of salt, there’s a guide below that will see you through. Take the turkey out in good time for cooking and rinse the wet turkey well before putting in the oven.

2. How to Make Dry Brine?

Check the guide below for how much salt to use, buAs you might have guessed, this is like wet brining but without the wet. For dry brining turkey, rub your turkey with kosher salt above and below the skin and leave uncovered in the fridge for up to two days. Make sure to cover between the legs and if you’re squeamish, use a wooden spoon to lift up the skin and spread the salt around. You’ll have moist, tasty turkey this Thanksgiving.

Check the guide below for how much salt to use, but just make sure you’ve given it a good coating. Kosher salts’ bigger grain size will make for extra bursts of flavor when you grill, rotisserie, fry, or roast that big bird.

3. How to Make Smoked Turkey Brine?

There are a few recipes for smoked brine but this is my favorite smoking flavor. Smoking will really bring out the texture and flavors of the meat, as well as looking (and smelling) dead impressive. Experimentation is fun but this guide will guarantee results for a well-smoked turkey brine.

Here’s a list of ingredients:

  • 1 cup of sea salt
  • 1 cup of sugar or molasses (brown sugar has more flavor but any will do)
  • 1 gallon of water (more if needed to cover the turkey)
  • 1 teaspoon of cracked peppercorns
  • A few bay leaves, maybe 2 or 3
  • 2 lemons, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons of onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons of crushed, finely chopped garlic
  • A couple of sprigs of thyme
  • 2 tablespoons of sage
  • 1 tablespoon of smoked paprika
  • ½ tablespoon of cumin

Most of those ingredients, other than the salt, sugar, bay leaves and pepper can be left out if you don’t have them but the results won’t be quite as delicious. Aim for a ratio of 1 cup of salt to one or two gallons of water. Try add your own ingredients, you might have a secret family recipe that could add that extra oomph and make your turkey truly unique.

Add all the ingredients to hot water and heat until the sugar has dissolved, take off the heat and let cool, adding ice to help it on its way. Add the cooled brine to a container, along with the turkey, making sure the bird is completely covered. Put in the fridge overnight or for up to 2 days.

Take the turkey out, rinse really well and cook!

How to cook pre-brined turkey

If you went to use this recipe only to realise you have a pre-brined turkey (see Note 1 in recipe), do not use this recipe as the brining will make your turkey too salty. Instead, make this recipe as follows:

  • Add better flavour – Make the Herb Garlic Butter in this Roasted Turkey Breast but only use 1/4 of the salt.  Scale the recipe to your turkey weight – click on servings and slide until the turkey weight changes to the weight of your turkey. (Yeah, it’ll be a lot of butter! You can scale down if you want 🙂 ).  Watch the video to see how I loosen the skin, then slather about 2/3 of the butter under the skin.

  • Flip turkey then rub just a bit of butter on the underside sprinkle with salt and pepper,. Roast per this recipe for 30 minutes on higher temp.

  • Flip turkey right side up then slather skin with 1/2 of the remaining butter sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast per this recipe for 45 min, then slather with remaining butter. Roast to finish cooking per this recipe. ,Voila!

Can I Brine My Turkey For Longer?

You should brine your turkey for at least 8 hours, but it is safe to do it for up to 3 days as long as it is is stored correctly. Of course, if you choose to brine your turkey for longer there is also the consideration of space – an entire turkey will take up a lot of real estate in your fridge, so keeping it in there for days at a time might not be that convenient.

How Long to Brine Turkey?

Brine your turkey for 12 to 24 hours. The longer the better, but honestly, even a quick brine does wonders for the turkey. If you only have a few hours before it needs to go in the oven, then it's still worth doing.

Be sure to keep your turkey covered and refrigerated while brining.

Internal temperature of cooked turkey

75C / 165F using a meat thermometer inserted between the leg and the breast (see photo below for point to insert). This is the USDA recommended internal cooked temperature of turkey. 

How to take the internal temperature?

Take the temperature of the turkey straight out of the oven. Insert the thermometer between the leg and the breast. Insert straight down until you hit bone, then pull back a bit. Hold still until the temperature registers on your thermometer and stays at the internal temperatures specified above.


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How to Prepare Brine For Christmas Turkey

There are many different ways to make a brine. During the holiday season, especially when it comes to preparing Christmas turkey, one can prepare a basic solution of water and salt to brine the turkey for Christmas dinner.

The brine is absorbed by the turkey, which actually changes its molecular structure. The salt in the mixture dissolves some muscle proteins, which means that the turkey releases less water as it cooks, resulting in much juicier meat and also adding to its savory flavor.

This recipe calls for some extra flavorings and spices to really amp it up, and there are all kinds of combinations that work beautifully with turkey.

The sugar helps to balance out the saltiness, while the herbs and peppers give it a subtle aroma. Feel free to experiment with your favorite flavors to see what works for you.


  • Avoid brining the turkey for more than 24 hours or the meat will toughen.

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  • Do not use a self-basting or Kosher turkey because they already have salt added.

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You’re handling hot water and ovens, so of course, take care as you would with cooking anything. The turkey cannot reach above 40℉ during brining or bacteria will start to grow, so ensure the solution is cool before putting in the turkey. Use a food thermometer when cooking to check the meat is cooked through. Turkeys are big birds and can take some real cooking, so leave plenty of time.

Ingredients for an always moist and tender turkey

You won’t want to skip the brine. I have smoked many turkeys, with and without a brine, and the brined turkeys are always way better. A great brine will have wonderful aromatics and flavors added to it, but, of course, you could simply brine in water and salt. For this Traeger brined turkey, I added some spices along with a healthy amount of bourbon to give it that extra kick!

Bourbon has a smokiness to it that really helps to complement the turkey after it spends hours in the smoke on the Traeger.

For the brown sugar bourbon turkey brine

  • Water
  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Whole cloves
  • Bay leaves 
  • Kosher salt (or regular table salt)
  • Brown sugar
  • Bourbon 
  • Orange
  • Lemon

Should I Brine My Thanksgiving Turkey?

In short, YES you should always brine your turkey. It makes a huge difference in taste and texture.

I have heard many arguments over the years that brining isn’t worth the time and effort. Or that it doesn’t really enhance the flavor of the bird. But after roasting well over 50 turkeys in my lifetime, I can firmly state, brining makes all the difference.

In fact, every time I try a different method of preparing my turkey, I’m always disappointed. Always.

In my opinion, a simple brined turkey, without any extra seasoning, stuffing, or glamor is always the ultimate winner at any holiday gathering.

3. Refrigerate turkey uncovered

Set the salted bird on a rack set on a rimmed baking sheet (to catch any liquid that drips off) or whatever pan you plan to cook it in. Pop it in the refrigerator (make room in advance!) and leave it there, uncovered, to brine for at least 1 hour per pound (that means a 14-pound turkey needs at least 14 hours). With a dry brine you can’t really overbrine, but we are talking poultry, so you’ll probably want to max out the salt-covered rest at three full days before you roast the turkey.

If the thought of a raw, uncovered bird in your fridge for a couple days freaks you out, you can loosely cover the bird with plastic wrap or put it in a turkey brining bag. For the crispiest skin, though, you’ll want to make sure you uncover it for at least the last 6 hours before cooking.

Things You’ll Need

  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Large pot
  • Spoon
  • 5 US gal (19 l) food-safe cooler or bucket with lid
  • Roasting pan
  • Paper towels
  • Instant-read meat thermometer
  • Oven mitts
  • Aluminum foil

1. Pat the turkey dry

At least one day (and up to three days) before you intend to roast your turkey, start the salting process: Remove the giblets from the cavity of the turkey and then pat dry with reusable or paper towels—be sure to swab the whole turkey (both inside and outside). You want the salt to draw out the moisture locked within the turkey muscles, not get lost in any residual wetness leftover from the grocer’s packaging.

Are you starting with a frozen turkey? If your turkey is totally solid, you’ll want to wait until it’s at least partially thawed before dry-brining. You want to be able to at least remove the bag of giblets from the cavity so you can get the brine everywhere. Give your bird a day in the fridge, or run it under cold water just until you can make that happen, then pat dry and proceed.

Best Turkey Brine Recipe

Prep Time: 10 minutes Resting: 12 hours Total Time: 12 hours 10 minutes

The Best Turkey Brine Recipe – A simple blend of salt, sugar, and spices to create the most moist and flavorful turkey you’ve ever made! Servings: 20


Place a gallon of warm water in a clean bucket or cooler. Add the brown sugar, salt, shallots, garlic, herbs and spices. Stir to dissolve the salt and sugar.  Carefully submerge the turkey in the brine. Add an additional 1/2 gallon of water to make sure the brine covers the turkey entirely. (Or more water!) If using a bucket, cover the bucket with plastic and place in the refrigerator for 1 to 3 days. If using a cooler, filled it with ice to keep the turkey cold for up to 3 days.  The brine time should be determined based on the size of turkey. For a turkey 15 pounds or under, brine for just 24 to 36 hours. For a turkey larger than 15 pounds, brine for up to 3 days. *If you want to brine a smaller turkey for a longer period of time, reduce the salt to 1/2-3/4 cup, so it is not overly seasoned. Before roasting, take the turkey out of the brine water and place on a rack for at least a couple hours. Allow the turkey skin to dry thoroughly. Use paper towels to pat it dry if needed. You can place the roasting pan in the refrigerator (or back in the cooler over ice) if you want to give the bird longer to dry. (The dryer the skin, the better it browns. Drying it overnight is best.)   Once dry, rub the turkey skin thoroughly with butter. Sometimes I stuff the turkey with herbs, but this is not necessary.Roast the turkey at 325° F for 15 minutes per pound. Roast uncovered for the first couple hours, then tent with foil the last hour to make sure the breast meat doesn’t overcook. When using a meat thermometer, the breast meat should be 165° F. Allow the turkey for rest for at least 25 minutes before serving to allow the juices to redistribute.


If you plan to brine a large turkey for more than 24-48 hours, use 2-3 gallons of water per 1 cup salt, to make sure the turkey doesn’t over-season.


Calories: 95kcal, Carbohydrates: 23g, Protein: g, Fat: g, Saturated Fat: g, Cholesterol: mg, Sodium: 5675mg, Potassium: 62mg, Fiber: g, Sugar: 21g, Vitamin A: 30IU, Vitamin C: 1.2mg, Calcium: 39mg, Iron: 0.5mg Course: Main Course

Cuisine: American

Author: Sommer Collier

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