Can You Brine a Turkey Too Long? (Season Your Turkey Like a Pro)

Wondering if you can end up brining your turkey for too long?

Brining is a great technique to achieve succulent turkey meat.

Leaving you with flavorful turkey meat that retains moisture during cooking.

But can something great turn bad?

And is there a certain period before it ruins the meat?

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Yes, There Is a Limit to the Brining Process for Turkey

There is such a thing as ‘over brining’ turkey meat.

But don’t worry!

We will go through how long a salt mixture can be applied.

And further, the best way to do it!

What Is the Brining Limit for a Turkey?

The lean meat proteins in a turkey aren’t as delicate as chicken.

But they still have a low-fat content.

With less resilience to osmosis.

More of that later…

Do not brine the turkey for longer than 24 hours.

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A Quick Overview of What Happens When You Brine Meat

I mentioned briefly in the introduction what a brine will do for lean turkey meat.

– ‘Looses’ tough muscle proteins. (Tenderizes)

– Enhances the natural flavor the same as seasoning with salt when cooking. (flavor)

– Concentrates and retains the natural moisture for juicy meat. (Moisture level)

We go a step further into the science behind it later on.

So make sure you get your thinking caps on!

What if You Brine Turkey Over 24 Hours?

If you brine the turkey for over 24 hours it will have the opposite effect!

– The meat proteins will break down into a mushy mess.

– Removes flavor profiles with a salty taste.

Now you can see why it is important to be careful when applying a solution of salt.

How Long Should a Brine Be Applied?

The length of the brine depends if you are cooking a piece of meat.

Or the entire bird!

Most parts can be marinated but for now, we will focus on the entire turkey.

The Whole Turkey

You have a whole fresh turkey ready and waiting to be cooked.

But you want to add extra flavor to the meat with a concentrated brine.

You can apply a wet or dry brine for up to 24 hours.

A Complete Guide to Brining a Turkey

Below is everything you need to brine the raw turkey.

Before starting you should consider basic food safety principles.

– Pay attention to what the raw meat has had contact with.

– Do not leave raw turkey at room temp for over 30 minutes.

– Refrigerate during the brining process.

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What Is a Brine?

A brine is treating food with a salt concentration.

In our case we will be discussing raw turkey.

Although adding brine to other meats like pork or chicken is popular.

What Does a Salt Concentration Do for Turkey?

When meat is brined and exposed to salt it penetrates on a cellular level.

Right into the muscle fibers and protein structure.

The salt molecules permeate the meat in the same way by extracting moisture.

This stops muscle contractions during cooking.

The salt also adds new flavor profiles by changing the chemical structure.

They are bringing out new flavor molecules.

Osmosis also happens when you apply a brine.

This is a chemical reaction that forces and then traps water molecules.

The water molecules (meat juices) stay within the proteins.

Wet & Dry Brining

The two main types of brining are wet and dry.

These can vary with the types of additional ingredients used for seasoning.

The most common wet brine for turkey is seasoned with fresh herbs and peppercorns.

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Wet Brine

A wet brine is created by adding sodium into cold water which in turn makes a water and salt solution.

Dry Brine

A dry brine applies a concentration of kosher salt to the meat before cooking without water.

It is liberally covering every area to form a crust which is then removed.

Which Type Is the Best for a Turkey?

A wet or dry brine can be effective for this bird.

But I recommend wet brining a turkey.

The average turkey weighs 20 pounds!

This means there are a lot of areas to cover.

A wet brine will reach those tricky spots inside the cavity and between the legs.

I should also note a dry brine is usually applied for longer than 24 hours.

How Do I Apply a Wet Brine to a Turkey?

The different methods of a wet brine application come in 2 forms.

Injection brining or injection marinating with a flavorful liquid.

Or a complete submersion of the turkey in your liquid brine ingredients.

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Brine Submerged

Submerge the turkey in a large container.

The only hard part is finding one big enough!

Test how much water you need before you add the salt.

Then simply submerge the whole of the turkey under the solution.

Injection of Your Brine Recipe

The injection method uses a meat injector to insert a brine solution.

The liquid ingredients will go deeper into the muscle tissue (meat).

A great technique if you have the proper utensils.

Or if your container isn’t big enough!

Turkey Brine Recipe Example

The ratio of salt to water in a wet brine is as follows;

– 1 cup of water (230ml) to a tablespoon (14 grams) of salt.

Dissolving Salt in the Water Before Brining Turkey

Fill the desired amount of water in a saucepan with your measured salt.

Regular plain water is fine.

You want to gently bring it to a boil until all the salt is dissolved and then let it cool to room temperature.

Tip: Use your favorite salts like pink Himalayan or a gourmet kosher salt.

Adding Flavor to the Brine

So you’ve got your brine cooling after dissolving the salt in hot water?

Now is the time to add any desired flavors.

I like infusing crushed garlic gloves and bay leaves.

Why not add a tablespoon of coriander seeds or an acidic ingredient like lemon juice?

Get creative!

Note: Be careful adding more salt like in the form of soy sauce.

You do not want to over-season the turkey.

Other Considerations When Brining Turkey

I’ll leave you with some brief considerations when brining turkey.

Remember, don’t go over 24 hours!

Excess Salt in Your Recipe

Measure the ratios carefully for the concentration of salt.

Don’t think you can just guess your way to a tasty bird.

The measurements are there for a reason!

Is the Turkey Pre-brined or Kosher?

Store-bought turkey can come pre-brined to save the consumer time.

This is great if you know about it before applying for yourself.

Check the packaging and ingredient list.

Has a salt solution already been added?

A Kosher turkey goes through special methods of slaughter.

But did you know that they also completely drain the blood using a special type of salt?

Kosher salt is liberally applied in the preparation so there is no need to brine.

Smoke On!

Charlie

Author: Charlie Reeves
Hi, I’m Charlie, I am head taste tester at Simply Meat Smoking! I love it grilling, smoking, and getting out in the yard with the kids! The family also love to test all my recipes (especially my EXTRA CRISPY pulled pork, smoky pork loin, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill)

You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with the boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling adventures with you!

You can read more on our About Us page.

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