How to Brine a Turkey + Day-Of Schedule


So I almost bought this shirt to wear on Thanksgiving.  Alllllllmost.

Fat PantsThanksgiving in my house is not about wearing dresses and tights and nice shoes and curling my hair.  No.  It’s about putting your eatin’-clothes on and vegging out.

We don’t eat dinner at 1, or 2, or 3, or 4.  We eat dinner at dinnertime – between 5 and 6.  We typically eat all day long; though this year I think I am easing up on the appetizers a little bit.  I’d rather save my appetite for the main event.

Anyway!  Today I’m going to teach you how to brine a turkey.

It might be a little late for those of you that have bought a frozen turkey – you are probably going to leave that sucker in the fridge until Thursday to thaw out.  But if you bought a fresh bird (in my opinion, there’s no other way to go), then you are in luck my friend.

Brining a turkey is super simple.  I’ve done it for several years now and I do love how it turns out.  Here is what you need:

  • 1 5-gallon bucket from the hardware store
  • Cold water
  • 1 1/2 cups salt
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 head of garlic, sliced in half lengthwise
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • Sprigs of fresh rosemary, thyme, and sage
  • Peppercorns
  • Ice

Fill your bucket halfway with cold water.  Stir in the salt and brown sugar, and stir till it dissolves.  Then drop in all your aromatics.  Then gently lower your thawed frozen, or fresh, turkey into the bucket.  Cover with the ice, put the lid securely on the bucket, and keep it away from your dog for 12-24 hours.

Turkey Brine

So now that you know how to brine a turkey, I thought I’d help you out with the Thanksgiving Day Schedule.  I follow this almost every year and somehow manage to get things on the table around the same time, so something must be working!

Step 0 :: Take some help from the store.
What’s step 0?  Well I made a step 0 in case this is not something you want to do.  If you’re a superchef in the kitchen and you don’t need to take help from the store, more power to ya.  Me, I prefer not to be a martyr, and take help where I can get it.  This means I purchase pre-made gravy, a packet of Bearnaise sauce, canned or frozen corn, a box of cornbread stuffing, and a can of crescent rolls.  No, it’s not organic and no, it’s not paleo, but yes, it is classic Thanksgiving.

Step 1 :: Get the turkey in the oven.
On Thanksgiving day, several hours before you wish to eat, remove the turkey from the brine.  Set it on your roasting rack in a roasting pan and pat it dry with paper towels.  Season generously with salt and pepper.  Stuff your turkey with the same aromatics you brined it with (don’t reuse the ones from the brine, use fresh ones) – a head of garlic, sliced lengthwise; a quartered lemon; a quartered onion; and sprigs of fresh sage, rosemary, and thyme.  Melt a stick of butter over low heat and drop in some more sprigs of fresh sage.  Brush your turkey with the butter, cover the turkey tightly with foil, and set it in the oven to roast.  The general rule of thumb is 15 minutes per pound at 325 degrees F, but you should check your individual turkey’s package instructions.  Also, I highly recommend the use of an oven-safe meat thermometer placed in the thickest part of the breast of the bird, not touching the bone, to keep track of the turkey’s progress.  About once per hour, brush the turkey with the melted sage butter.  During the last half hour, remove the foil so that the skin gets crispy and brown.

Stuff It!

Step 2 :: Make the Cranberry Orange Relish.
If you haven’t already, that is.  You can make this the day before and it will just taste more fantastico on the day of.

Step 3 :: An hour and a half before dinner…
Peel the potatoes to make Parmesan Smashed Potatoes.  Cover with cold water and set on the stove over medium heat.  Follow the recipe from there.  These keep warm very well if they finish early.

Step 4 :: An hour before dinner…
Make your classic green bean casserole.

Step 5 :: A half hour before dinner…
Pop the green bean casserole into the oven.  Roll up some crescent rolls and put those in the oven 15 minutes later.  Make the stuffing.  Dump some corn into a small saucepan and warm over low heat with a pat of butter on top.  Finish the potatoes.  Make sauces and warm gravies.  Keep everything warm until go-time.

Step 6 :: Get that turkey out!
Bring out the turkey and let it rest for about 10 minutes.  Then carve it and plate it on a platter for serving.


Happy Thanksgiving y’all.  I hope you all have a wonderful holiday with all the people you love most.

And I hope you come back after because I have the sluttiest idea for leftovers ever…… ?