To Brine or Not to Brine

Every Thanksgiving, you likely see plenty of photos and videos of people brining their birds in preparation for the big feast. Those on Team Brine swear by it, but there are plenty of people who say brining isn’t actually that good for your turkey. Let’s separate fact from fiction to help you make the best decision to complete your Thanksgiving meal.

Turkey is a must, but it can be a little bland if it’s not prepared correctly. To give it a little oomph, many people turn to brining. A brine at its simplest is a salt solution, however, many people add sugar and spices for extra flavor. When you soak a turkey in a brine, osmosis occurs, transferring salt and water from the brine into its meat. This makes the turkey juicer and more flavorful.

Naysayers would argue that the extra moisture in the turkey is just water and not juice from the turkey. So, when you bite into your turkey, you’re getting watery turkey juice. Additionally, turkeys can be quite big and not everyone has space in their fridge for a vessel large enough to brine it in.

We polled a group of home and professional chefs to see which side they’re on.

Team Brine

Chef JT Walker, Executive Sous Chef at SoFi Stadium

“Ever since I first heard about brining turkeys, I do the technique every year now. It’s my cheat for keeping my turkeys moist, and my friends all follow the same basic formula.

For a 14-16lb Turkey:
1.5 Gal veg or chicken stock
0.5 C granulated sugar
0.75 lb salt
Additional spices to your flavor
8lbs ice

Bring stock thru spices to a boil. Combine with ice, to chill brine. Submerge Turkey for 24 hours.”

Grillmaster Gary Welch

“For me brining a turkey helps keep the meat moist and juicy throughout the cook, as well as the salt help tenderize the meat for delicious seasoned, tender, and juicy results.”

Grillmaster Ty Sherrell

“I prefer to brine my turkey; the main reason why is the added moisture and flavor it adds to the bird. I’ve made turkeys both ways and I always choose that extra step. It’s worth it.”

Chef Tyler Mentink

“I’m 100% down with the brine. I tend to call turkeys “big boring birds” so anything you can do to add some life in there I’m all for. Cajun is my favorite.”

Chef Michael Rockwood with MK Foodservice

“I always salt brine my turkey. The brine helps the turkey absorb moisture and flavor as well as the salt helps break down the proteins. During the cooking process, the brine helps the turkey stay juicy while the dark meat cooks to proper temperature.”

Team No Brine

Grillmaster Matt Groark

“I have honestly never been into brining my turkey! I learned a trick from Chef Chad Rosenthal to slather my bird in Mayo which will baste it during the smoking process resulting in moist and tender meat and a crispy skin! No brine needed!!”

No matter what, read the label: Some turkeys are packaged pre-brined and don’t need any additional brining. If the package says, “tender and juicy,” the turkey has likely already been brined. Cooking_with_caz shows an example of a turkey that has already been basted with broth, salt and seasonings.

While most of our chefs said they prefer to brine, it’s exactly that—a preference. We encourage you to try out both methods to see what works for you and whomever you are serving best!

If you choose to brine, we suggest these Cambro products:

Which team are you? Leave a comment with your preference!


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