Brown Sugar–Brined Turkey

Brown Sugar–Brined Turkey

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A simple brown sugar brine gives this turkey deep, rich flavor and beautifully burnished skin. You can make a simple gravy with the pan drippings, but remember that brining increases the saltiness of drippings, so use salt-free or low-sodium broth in your gravy and taste it before adding additional salt.

Serves 10 (with leftovers)


  • 1¼ cups firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 8 cups ice cubes
  • 1 (13- to 14-pound) turkey, neck and giblets removed and reserved for another use
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • ¾ teaspoon ground black pepper


Combine brown sugar, salt, bay leaves, garlic and 8 cups water in a large pot. Place over high heat and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar and salt. Remove from heat, stir in ice and cool completely. Pour brine into a 4- to 5-gallon pot or other clean container. Add turkey and any additional cold water needed to just submerge it. Turn turkey a few times and then leave it breast-side down. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to 24.

Preheat oven to 475°F. Remove turkey from brine, pat dry and place on a rack in a large roasting pan. Brush with butter and sprinkle with pepper. Tie legs together with kitchen string, tuck wings under body and roast for 20 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 350°F and tent breast loosely with foil. Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh, without touching bone, registers 165°F or juices run clear (not pink) when you poke thigh with a paring knife, 2 to 2½ hours more.

Transfer turkey to a carving board, tent with foil and let rest for 30 minutes before carving.

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