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What do you soak wild turkey in?

Wild turkey is a delicious type of poultry that is often enjoyed around the holidays. Before cooking a wild turkey, many people like to soak it in a brine or marinade. This helps make the meat moister, more flavorful, and more tender. When soaking a wild turkey, there are a few key things to consider regarding the type of brine, brining time, and brining method. In this article, we will explore the details around properly soaking a wild turkey before roasting.

Types of Brines and Marinades

There are two main options when it comes to soaking solutions for wild turkey – a salt brine or a marinade.

Salt Brine

A salt brine is composed mainly of water, salt, and often some aromatics like onions, garlic, peppers, herbs, and spices. The salt in the brine helps break down muscle fibers in the turkey to make it more tender and moist. Some good seasoning blends to use in turkey brines are cajun seasoning, jerk seasoning, or a simple blend of brown sugar and spices.


Marinades are similar to brines but often contain an acid like wine, vinegar, yogurt, citrus juice, or buttermilk. The acid helps further tenderize the turkey. Popular marinade flavors for turkey include herb marinades made with olive oil, garlic, and oregano or marinades with citrus, ginger, and soy sauce.

Brining Time

When brining a turkey, you generally want to soak it for 8-24 hours. Here are some guidelines on brining times:

8-12 hours

– For a 12 lb or smaller turkey
– Gives moderate moistness and seasoning

12-18 hours

– For a 12-18 lb turkey
– Provides thorough seasoning and moisture

18-24 hours

– For an 18 lb or larger turkey
– Maximizes moisture retention and flavor

Be careful not to brine for longer than 24 hours as the turkey can become too salty. If brining for the full 24 hours, use a lower sodium brine.

Brining Methods

There are two main methods for brining a turkey – a full submersion brine or an injection brine.

Full Submersion Brine

This involves fully submerging the turkey in the brine solution. To do this properly:

– Choose a container big enough to fully submerge the turkey and still have room for the brine to move freely. A large stockpot, clean bucket, or food safe container works well.

– Combine water, salt, and any additional seasoning in pot and stir to dissolve. Cool brine completely before adding turkey.

– Place thawed turkey in brine, breast side down. Weigh turkey down if it tries to float.

– Cover and refrigerate for desired brining time, basting turkey occasionally with brine.

Injection Brine

With this method, the brine is injected into the turkey using a meat injector tool. To brine inject a turkey:

– Combine brine ingredients and stir until salt and sugars dissolve. Place brine into injector.

– Inject brine deep into the breast, thighs, and legs using 2 inch injections and 1-2 ounces of brine per injection.

– Refrigerate turkey for 8-24 hours to allow brine to penetrate meat. Rotate turkey occasionally.

– Injection allows for a quicker brine but doesn’t penetrate as deeply into meat.

Ideal Brines for Wild Turkey

Here are some excellent brine recipes specifically tailored for brining wild turkey:

Apple Brine

– 1 gallon water
– 1 cup kosher salt

– 1 cup brown sugar
– 1 onion, chopped
– 3 apples, chopped
– 5 springs fresh thyme
– 1 tbsp whole black peppercorns
– 4 cups ice cubes

Citrus Herb Brine

– 1 gallon water
– 1/2 cup salt
– 1/2 cup brown sugar

– Zest and juice from 1 orange
– Zest and juice from 1 lemon
– Leaves from 5 sprigs fresh rosemary
– Leaves from 5 sprigs fresh thyme
– 6 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
– 2 bay leaves

Cajun Brine

– 1 gallon water
– 1 cup kosher salt
– 3/4 cup brown sugar
– 1/4 cup hot sauce
– 3 tbsp cajun seasoning
– 1 onion, quartered
– 4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

– 2 bay leaves

How Long to Cook a Brined Turkey

Brined wild turkeys generally require slightly less roasting time than an un-brined turkey. Here are estimated roasting times:

10-12 lb turkey

– Unbrined: 2.5-3 hours
– Brined: 2-2.5 hours

12-15 lb turkey

– Unbrined: 3-3.5 hours
– Brined: 2.5-3 hours

15-18 lb turkey

– Unbrined: 3.5-4 hours
– Brined: 3-3.5 hours

18-20 lb turkey

– Unbrined: 4-4.5 hours
– Brined: 3.5-4 hours

Be sure to use a meat thermometer to confirm the turkey reaches 165°F in the thickest part of the breast and thigh before removing it from the oven. Let it rest for 30 minutes before carving.


Brining is a simple but highly effective way to yield moist, flavorful wild turkey. A salt and sugar based brine for 8-24 hours will provide great results. Opt for a submersion brine when possible for the most penetrative results. Favor brines with apples, citrus, cajun spices, or fresh herbs to complement the flavor of the turkey. With a properly brined wild turkey, you will have a succulent and delicious centerpiece turkey for your next holiday feast.