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Brined Whole Turkey

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  • Prep 15 min
  • Total 12 hr 30 min
  • Servings 14
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When was the last time you truly enjoyed your holiday turkey? If it’s been a while, we suggest you give your regular recipe a rest and try out this whole turkey instead. As you might have noticed (from its 100-plus, five-star ratings), it’s been helping home cooks master succulent and tender-to-the-bone turkeys for decades now. And its success is nearly guaranteed—a bold promise, yes, but we’ll stand behind it. The reason this recipe turns out time after time is because it uses the brining technique. Brining, in this case, wet brining, involves soaking the bird in a simple solution of salt and water for an extended period of time (8 to 12 hours) prior to roasting. The soak breaks down tough muscle tissue and infuses the meat with flavor. So when we say you don’t have to suffer lackluster turkey again, it’s not a false promise, all you have to do is make this fan-favorite recipe. Our guess is that you’ll never go back to your old standard.
Updated Mar 11, 2020
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  • 2 gallons cold water
  • 2 cups kosher salt or 1 cup table salt
  • 1 whole turkey, not prebasted (12 to 14 pounds), thawed if frozen
  • 1 medium onion, cut into fourths
  • 1 medium carrot, coarsely chopped
  • 1 medium celery stalk, coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted


  • 1
    Mix cold water and salt in a large clean bucket or stockpot (noncorrosive); stir until salt is dissolved. Add turkey. Cover and refrigerate 8 to 12 hours.
  • 2
    Heat oven to 325°F. Remove turkey from brine; discard brine. Thoroughly rinse turkey under cool running water, gently rubbing outside and inside of turkey to release salt. Pat skin and both interior cavities dry with paper towels.
  • 3
    Fasten neck skin to back of turkey with skewer. Fold wings across back of turkey so tips are touching. Toss onion, carrot, celery and thyme with 1 tablespoon of the melted butter; place in turkey cavity.
  • 4
    Place turkey, breast side down, on rack in large shallow roasting pan. Brush entire back side of turkey with 1 tablespoon melted butter. Turn turkey over. Brush entire breast side of turkey with remaining 1 tablespoon melted butter. Insert ovenproof meat thermometer so tip is in thickest part of inside thigh and does not touch bone. (Do not add water or cover turkey.)
  • 5
    Roast uncovered 3 hours 30 minutes to 4 hours, brushing twice with pan drippings during last 30 minutes of roasting.
  • 6
    Turkey is done when thermometer reads 165°F and drumsticks move easily when lifted or twisted. If a meat thermometer is not used, begin testing for doneness after about 3 hours. When turkey is done, place on warm platter and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm. Let stand about 15 minutes for easiest carving.

Tips from the Betty Crocker Kitchens

  • tip 1
    The turkey’s skin may bake onto the rack during roasting. Avoid this by coating your roasting rack with cooking spray before placing the turkey on the rack.
  • tip 2
    The breast skin often separates from the meat when slicing. For a pretty presentation, slice slowly and keep the skin and meat slices matched up, so they look nice when served.
  • tip 3
    To keep a turkey warm after it has finished cooking, set your oven to 200°F and leave the turkey in the oven, whole, on the roasting rack. Another option is to carve the bird, then place the roasted meat on an oven-safe platter covered with foil.
  • tip 4
    Always remember, juices collect in the cavity of the bird during roasting. Be careful these juices don’t spill out and burn you when you move the turkey.
  • tip 5
    Turkey can be brined a day ahead. Rinse well, cover and refrigerate until time to roast.
  • tip 6
    Frozen turkey tastes just as good as fresh and is easily available at any supermarket. Just remember to allow enough time for thawing, since the turkey must be completely thawed before brining. To thaw this size of whole turkey, place the turkey (in its original wrap) in a pan in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.


325 Calories, 15 g Total Fat, 47 g Protein, 0g Total Carbohydrate

Nutrition Facts

Serving Size: 1 Serving
Calories from Fat
Total Fat
15 g
Saturated Fat
5 g
145 mg
620 mg
400 mg
Total Carbohydrate
Dietary Fiber
47 g
% Daily Value*:
Vitamin A
Vitamin C
7 Lean Meat;
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

More About This Recipe

  • This recipe is for those of you who could take or leave turkey. (No, it’s not blasphemy to be on the fence about this bird.) The enormous size of a turkey makes it a considerable challenge to cook correctly. To get the whole bird done, some parts, like the breast, end up getting cooked too long resulting in dry meat, which is precisely what so many people find off-putting about turkey. Luckily, there’s a way around this, and it’s called brining. Brining is a way to prepare your meat, so it turns out succulent and tender. It can be done two different ways with a wet brine, as this recipe calls for, or with a dry brine. When you wet brine a turkey, it means you immerse it in a salty liquid, a brine, for an extended period — in this case, 8 to 12 hours. The salty brine breaks down the tissue of the meat, which leads to better texture and flavor. So this Thanksgiving, roasting a brined turkey is the way to convert even the skeptics into turkey lovers! Just remember that if you start from frozen, you’ll need a few days to both thaw and brine your turkey. Refer to our handy poultry thawing chart to find out how much time your turkey will need to defrost. Then, get step-by-step instructions on how to brine a turkey and how to cook a turkey. And if you want to try another approach, we recommend our Lemon, Garlic and Herb Dry-Brined Turkey recipe, or skip the brining entirely, and explore a few more of our turkey recipes.
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