Turkey Part 1: How to Brine a Turkey Without Using Fridge Space

I’ve made a lot of turkeys. I always start with this brine. 

l usually buy the biggest turkeys I can get my hands on, which are usually about 22-24 pounds. I cook two if them every November for our Friendsgiving, and I usually cook 2 more throughout the year.  Because I don’t have a stockpot big enough to fit a bird that size, or fridge space for a pot that big, I use a cooler and a trash bag. I know it sounds silly but it has worked for me time and time again and gives me lots of fridge space when I need it the most. I usually put the cooler out on my porch in a shaded spot and at night I put something heavy on top of it in case a raccoon wants to try to get inside. 

This is What You’ll Need:

  • brine ingredients (listed below)
  • turkey (mine was 22 lbs. but this recipe would work for a smaller or larger one)
  • large cooler
  • large garbage bag (make sure it’s not scented or anything)
  • ice

I start by defrosting the turkey in a fridge a few days in advance, and then remove the giblets and neck. I like to give the bird a quick rinse in the sink, and then I lay it out on a big sheet pan while I make the brine. When the brine is cool add 6 more quarts of water.  Put the turkey in a big garbage bag (make sure it’s not scented or anything weird like that which could seriously effect the flavor), and pour the brine into the bag to surround the turkey. Tie off the bag, making sure to get out most of the air, and then put it in the cooler. Add enough cold water and ice that the bird is floating in the water and continuously check the water to make sure it is cold, adding ice as necessary. After 72 hours of brining remove the bird from the brine and pat it dry. It is then ready to stuff and cover with butter (recipe to follow). 


How To Brine A Turkey
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Prep Time
45 min
Cook Time
72 hr
Prep Time
45 min
Cook Time
72 hr
  1. 1 cup kosher salt
  2. 1 cup sugar
  3. 4 cups water
  4. 3-4 dry bay leaves
  5. 5-6 fresh sage leaves
  6. 1 Tbsp whole peppercorns
  7. 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  8. 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
  9. 2 celery ribs, chopped
  10. 1 carrot, chopped
  1. In a large stockpot, add sugar, salt and water. Stirring often, bring to a boil over high heat.
  2. Remove from heat and add remaining ingredients.
  3. Bring brine down to room temperature. Add 4 quarts cold water, 5 quarts if you have a bigger bird.
  4. Put turkey in brining bag and add cooled brine.
  5. Tie up bag and add ice and water to cooler so that turkey stays cool, adding more ice as necessary.
  6. Brine for 72 hours.
Adapted from Bon Appetit
Adapted from Bon Appetit
The Sea Salt http://theseasalt.com/
 How to Brine a Turkey Without Using Fridge Space

How to Brine a Turkey Without Using Fridge Space