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Herb-Brined Turkey

For an impressive main course, look here. The moist, flavorful bird will have guests counting the minutes until carving time. — Scott Rugh, Portland, Oregon
  • Total Time
    Prep: 35 min. + marinating Bake: 3-3/4 hours + standing
  • Makes
    14 servings


  • 2 cups kosher salt
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 5 fresh sage leaves
  • 1 fresh thyme sprig
  • 1 fresh rosemary sprig
  • 2 quarts water
  • 2 quarts cold water
  • 2 turkey-size oven roasting bags
  • 1 turkey (14 to 16 pounds)
  • 2 cups butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup packed fresh parsley sprigs
  • 1/3 cup fresh sage leaves
  • 1/3 cup fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper


  • In a stockpot, combine the salt, brown sugar, sage, thyme, rosemary and 2 quarts water. Bring to a boil. Cook and stir until salt and sugar are dissolved. Remove from the heat. Add the cold water to cool the brine to room temperature.
  • Place a turkey-size oven roasting bag inside a second roasting bag; add turkey. Carefully pour cooled brine into bag. Squeeze out as much air as possible; seal bags and turn to coat. Place in a roasting pan. Refrigerate for 12-24 hours, turning occasionally.
  • Drain and discard brine; rinse turkey and pat dry. Tie drumsticks together. Place the remaining ingredients in a food processor; cover and process until smooth. With fingers, carefully loosen skin from turkey breast; rub half of the butter mixture under skin. Secure skin to underside of breast with toothpicks. Rub remaining butter mixture over skin.
  • Place turkey, breast side up, on a rack in a roasting pan. Bake at 450° for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 325°; bake 3-1/4 to 3-3/4 hours longer or until thermometer reads 180°, basting twice during the last 30 minutes of cooking. Cover loosely with foil if turkey browns too quickly.
  • Remove turkey to a serving platter; cover and let stand for 20 minutes before carving.
Editor’s Note: It is best not to use a prebasted turkey for this recipe.
Nutrition Facts
10 ounces cooked turkey: 834 calories, 58g fat (25g saturated fat), 314mg cholesterol, 658mg sodium, 1g carbohydrate (0 sugars, 0 fiber), 73g protein.

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  • Monica
    Nov 28, 2019

    I’m Making this turkey as we speak using a oven cord digital thermometer. It’s the internal degrees of 180 for the inner thigh? All other recipes I have seen say the turkey is done at 165. I have the probe inserted in the thickest part of the breast.

  • Brandi
    Nov 24, 2017

    I used this brine recipe for thanksgiving turkey. I only used 1 cup of salt and added 8 peppercorns and 1 orange. My entire family said it was amazing! My 11 year old son who only likes Mac and cheese and Pizza said “Wow! This is so good” as soon as he tasted it so I knew it was a success. I didn’t use the herb butter because the turkey was fried and didn’t need anything additional.

  • Holli70
    Dec 9, 2016

    This was the first turkey I've ever made and it turned out awesome. The only thing I'll change on the recipe for me is the quantity of the butter. I only used about half and it was still delicious. I did use 2 quarts apple cider instead of water and stuffed the turkey with apples, lemons, celery, and herbs. so I guess I would change 2 things :)

  • lauramarielawson
    Dec 10, 2014

    So good! Best turkey I've had.

  • TJPitt
    Jan 29, 2014

    This was, by far and away, the best turkey I've ever had - let alone cooked. Be sure to rinse the turkey very well, or your gravy may be a bit salty. I will be serving this recipe for all my Christmases to come.

  • kyrajo
    Nov 11, 2013

    Yes, brined turkey is the only way to go. My family loves it.