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How to Brine a Turkey In a Cooler

Handmade TV and Sarah Breckenridge
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Brining a turkey gives it great flavor and juiciness, but with a fridge already stuffed full of Thanksgiving goodies, who has room for a big pot of brine? Luckily, you can adapt any brine recipe to work in a large cooler. Make sure your cooler is completely clean, and just large enough to fit the turkey.

The trick is to keep all that melting ice from diluting your brine. So when you’re making your brine, add an extra 1/2 cup of kosher salt to whatever recipe you’re using. Depending on the size of your cooler, you may want to make a double batch of brine.

Make sure the brine is cold before pouring it over the turkey.

Next add enough ice to totally submerge the turkey-you’ll need 5 to 10 pounds, depending on your cooler.

Store the cooler in the coldest spot you’ve got-if that’s outside make sure it’s protected from animals, like on a screened-in porch. As long as the brine stays below 40 degrees F, your turkey will be safe to eat, so if you’re brining it overnight check before going to bed that there’s still plenty of frozen ice.

Find a basic brined turkey recipe, and plus more recipes and tips in our Thanksgiving Guide.

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  • karmadave | 01/06/2015

    Plastic garbage bags aren't food grade so I never put food in them. I bought a food grade 5 gal plastic bucket and lid from Lowe's for about $5-6. I think it will last forever. It happens to fit perfectly inside one of my coolers. I already know that 3 gal of brine in the bucket will cover up to about a 14 lb turkey. So I make the brine a day ahead and cool it in the fridge. About 12 hours before I'm going to cook the turkey I put the bucket in the cooler, empty a bag of ice on each side of the bucket, put the turkey in the bucket, pour on the cooled brine, put on the lid, cover that with a 33 gal lawn bag, top that with an old blanket, and set it on the back porch if it is a cool night. Even parked in my kitchen the brine probably would stay below 40 deg for as long as 24 hours. This would also work for any semi-large scale brining need, e.g. three or four chickens at once or a really big ham.

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