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Do you have to brine a turkey?


Joined Sep 13, 2010
I want to smoke my first turkey. Do I have to brine overnight?
What if I just smoke it?


Gone but not forgotten. RIP
OTBS Member
Joined May 1, 2007
I don't, I just rub a mixture of Butter and Cavendars seasoning under the skin and on the skin and smoke at between 275º and 300º... With a turkey you won't have to worry about getting through the danger zone in 4 hrs if you smoke it that high...

the dude abides

Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
Joined Jul 12, 2008
Nope.  You don't have to.  But if you do make sure you keep it completely submerged in a food grade bucket. 


Smoking Guru
OTBS Member
Joined Oct 18, 2007
Like they said you don't have to but I can't think of any reason not to other than if you were short on time. So much flavor and moisture in the birds when you brine them.


Smoking Fanatic
Joined Aug 13, 2009
Like they said you don't have too, but I certaintly recommend it. Whichever way you decide to go make sure not to overcook it.


SMF Hall of Fame Pitmaster
Staff member
OTBS Member
★ Lifetime Premier ★
Joined Jun 22, 2009
All of the above. Don't have to, but most believe it produces a more moist & tender bird.


Meat Mopper
Joined Jan 20, 2011
Hello folks another newbie (to the forum) here. I started Brining my turkey two years ago and swore I would never go back to non-brining. The results are great.  The brine recipe I use is on from “Alton Brown”. Using a cleanthermal 5 Gallon Drink cooler/dispenser works great too. I leave the ice in the bag and the weight keeps the turkey submerged.

Turkey Brine:
  • 1 (14-16) lb Turkey
  • 1 Cup Kosher Salt
  • ½ Cup Light Brown Sugar
  • 1 Gallon Vegetable Stock
  • 1 Tablespoon Black Peppercorns
  • ½ Tablespoon Allspice Berries
  • ½ Tablespoon Candied Ginger
  • 1 Gallon Cold Water
  • 8 lb bag of Ice
Combine all ingredients, except cold water, in a stockpot, and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve solids,then remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled. Early on the day of cooking, (or the night before) combine the brine and cold water in a cleanthermal 5 Gallon Drink cooler/dispenser. Place thawed turkey, breast side down in the brine; add 6-8lbs. of ice and cover. Allow to sit in cool area for at least 6 hours. Remove turkey and dry with paper towels before cooking.



Gone but not forgotten. RIP
OTBS Member
SMF Premier Member
Joined Mar 12, 2009

I have brine turkeys and I have not brined the birds too. I enjoy the brined alittle better but..........The un-brined birds are really good too. So either way you will come out with a good tasting and moist bird anyway.


Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
SMF Premier Member
Joined Jun 5, 2009
A tip for all you folks - Ziploc makes 3 gallon, 5 gallon, and 20 gallon storage bags that work awesome for brining. I use 3 & 5 primarily, but have used a 20 gallon for doing two 15 lb. turkeys at the same time! I put the turkeys and the brine in the ziploc, then put the bag in a big 48 gallon ice chest, and top it off with a 20 lb. bag of ice. It can sit in the garage for 24 hrs. no problem, the ice doesn't dilute the brine, I don't have to try and find room in the fridge for a big bucket, and when I take it out the cooler is still clean since all the turkey juice and brine was sealed in the bag.

And these are super heavy duty bags, probably about 3-4 times thicker than a reg ziploc, with two sealing strips.


Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
Group Lead
Joined Feb 28, 2010
Many of the major poultry producers inject their birds with a salt solution, brining these birds would be redundant IMHO.


Fire Starter
Joined Dec 5, 2010
You hit it right on the head cliff,  it seems harder everyday to find really any meat that hasn't been brined.  I go strait to the slaughter house for the majority of my meat anymore.  I'm beginning to think producers will do anything to extend shelf life anymore.

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