Brining a turkey requires submerging the entire fresh, uncooked bird into a water, salt and sugar solution containing other spices and seasonings. For best results, brine a turkey overnight or up to 24 hours, depending on recipe.
A simple brine recipe calls for 1 cup of salt, 1/2 cup of granulated sugar, a handful of your favorite spices, such as garlic, sprigs of thyme, whole peppercorns, bay leaves, and/or strips of lemon or orange zest. Combine this with 1 gallon of water in a large pot over medium-high heat. Stir until salt and sugar are completely dissolved, bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove mixture from heat and allow brine to cool; transfer brine and whole turkey to a large bucket, or use a brining bag. Make sure the entire turkey is submerged. This recipe should produce enough brine to cover a turkey up to 12 pounds; double for larger birds up to 20 pounds. Some recipes call for brown sugar, molasses or honey instead of granulated sugar, and different spice combinations produce different results. It is important to choose a fresh turkey for brining that has not already been injected with a sodium solution, as is the case with many frozen turkeys. Also, if you plan to make gravy from the drippings, be sure to taste first before adding any additional salt.