In partnership withHolland House

Thanksgiving Cooking School: How to Brine a Turkey

published Nov 5, 2021
Brined Turkey Recipe

Use white cooking wine in the brine to make your Thanksgiving turkey extra flavorful.

Serves8 to 12

Makes1 (12-14-pound) turkey

Prep20 minutes

Cook2 hours 30 minutes to 3 hours

Jump to Recipe
Post Image
Credit: Photo: Christopher Broe; Food Stylist: Brett Regot

When the Thanksgiving feast revolves around roast turkey, there can be a lot of pressure to pull off a bird that’s flavorful and moist enough; one that doesn’t have to be drowned in gravy or cranberry sauce. But pulling off a turkey doesn’t have to be intimidating or hard if you do one extra step ahead of time: Brine it first.

During Kitchn’s Thanksgiving Food Fest, Kitchn’s Studio Food Editor Jesse Szewczyk teamed up with Holland House to walk you through how to use their White Cooking Wine to make a delicious brine that produces a stunner of a Thanksgiving roast turkey.

What Is Brining?

Wet brining is a technique where meats are submerged in a salt and water solution, usually with other flavorings like herbs, spices, sugar, or wine. Over time, the meat absorbs some of both the moisture and the flavors and cooks up more delicious and moist than meat that hasn’t been brined. For a big bird like a turkey, a wet brine is really worth making, and it’s not difficult to do if you have the right tools and know-how.

Credit: Photo: Christopher Broe; Food Stylist: Brett Regot

How to Wet Brine a Turkey

To make a wet brine, start by heating up some water, kosher salt, easy-to-find spices like black peppercorns and bay leaves, and garlic and onion. After the heat dissolves and the salt starts to bring out some of the flavors of the other ingredients, let it cool to room temperature.

Line a very large pot or bucket (just make sure that whatever you choose fits the turkey with room to spare and will fit in the fridge!) or a vegetable crisper drawer with a turkey brining bag, which is a very large food-safe plastic bag that usually has a zip top. A brining bag keeps all the brine and turkey together and makes cleanup a cinch. Remove any giblets and the neck from the cavity of the thawed turkey before throwing it into the bag. Pour in the brine, which is very concentrated at this point, then add more cold water to dilute it and mostly cover the turkey.

The final ingredient that goes into the brine is its secret flavor powerhouse: a bottle of Holland House White Cooking Wine. The cooking wine adds deep flavors and brightness, rounding out the other flavors from the spices and salt, and all you have to do is pour it in. Made for chefs and home cooks, cooking wine is an easy way to add flavor to and enhance both everyday and holiday cooking. Refrigerate the turkey in the brine for up to a day to give it time to absorb the delicious flavors.

Credit: Photo: Christopher Broe; Food Stylist: Brett Regot

How to Roast a Brined Turkey

When it’s time to roast the turkey, take it out of the bag (and pat yourself on the back that cleanup will be so easy) and wipe off any spices clinging onto it. Pat the turkey dry, place it in a roasting pan and rub it with some oil, then roast until golden brown on the outside and 165ºF in the thickest part of the breast and in the thigh. Let the turkey rest for a bit before carving into beautiful slices.

This brined turkey is perfectly seasoned, moist, and tender — a worthy companion to the other side dishes on the holiday table. Brining is an extra step, but one that can be done ahead of Thanksgiving and something that’s really not that hard to pull off. Try it this year and you’ll probably never make turkey any other way again.

Brined Turkey Recipe

Use white cooking wine in the brine to make your Thanksgiving turkey extra flavorful.

Prep time 20 minutes

Cook time 2 hours 30 minutes to 3 hours

Makes 1 (12-14-pound) turkey

Serves 8 to 12

Nutritional Info


  • 1

    (12 to 15-pound) whole turkey, thawed if frozen

  • 1

    medium yellow onion

  • 6 cloves


  • 6 quarts

    cold water, divided

  • 6 ounces

    kosher salt (1 cup plus 3 tablespoons Diamond Crystal or 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons Morton’s)

  • 1 bunch

    fresh thyme

  • 2 tablespoons

    black peppercorns

  • 1 tablespoon

    brown or yellow mustard seeds

  • 6

    bay leaves

  • 1

    plastic turkey brining bag

  • 1 (16-ounce) bottle

    Holland House White Cooking Wine

  • 2 tablespoons

    olive oil


Brine the turkey:

  1. Make sure the turkey is thawed. It will take about 1 day of refrigerator thawing time for every 4 pounds of turkey.

  2. Peel and cut 1 medium yellow onion into 8 wedges. Crush 6 peeled garlic cloves. Place both in a large saucepan. Add 1 quart of the water, 6 ounces kosher salt, 1 bunch fresh thyme, 2 tablespoons black peppercorns, 1 tablespoon mustard seeds, and 6 bay leaves. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring until the salt is dissolved.

  3. Remove from the saucepan from the heat and let the brine cool to room temperature. Meanwhile, line a vessel that holds at least 4 gallons (like a very large pot, bucket, or refrigerator crisper drawer) with a turkey brining bag. Make sure the vessel is large enough to hold the turkey and will fit in the refrigerator.

  4. When the brine is cooled, remove any giblets and the neck from the cavity of the turkey (discard or save for making stock or gravy). If there is a plastic cage or pop-up thermometer in the turkey, remove and discard. Place the turkey in the bag breast-side down. Pour in the brine, 1 bottle Holland House White Cooking Wine, and the remaining 5 quarts cold water. Press out the air and seal the bag, the turkey will be mostly submerged.

  5. Brine the turkey in the refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours, flipping the turkey halfway through (open the bag and reach in to flip the turkey rather than turning the whole bag around).

Roast the turkey:

  1. Arrange a rack in the lower third of the oven and remove any racks above it. Heat the oven to 350ºF. Meanwhile, place a heatproof rack in a roasting pan. Remove the turkey from the brine and wipe off the onions, garlic, and spices with paper towels. Discard the bag and brine.

  2. Pat the turkey dry inside and out with more paper towels. Place the turkey on the rack breast-side up. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine and tuck the wing tips under the turkey. Rub 2 tablespoons olive oil onto the skin of the turkey.

  3. Roast for 1 hour. Brush or baste the turkey with the pan juices (if there aren’t a lot of pan juices, baste with the cavity juices or tip the turkey so the juices run out into the roasting pan). Continue roasting, brushing or basting every 30 minutes and rotating the turkey as needed, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the inner thigh registers 165°F to 170°F and the juices run clear, 1 to 2 hours more. If the skin covering the breast is starting to get too brown before the turkey is done, cover loosely with aluminum foil.

  4. Let the turkey rest for at least 30 minutes before carving.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The brine can be made up to 1 day ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container.

Storage: Leftover roasted turkey can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.