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How To Thaw and Brine a Turkey



U.S. History books record that the first presidential pardon ever given was by Harry Truman in 1947, to a turkey. Now, in honor of this pardon, 2 turkeys are spared annually. If your turkey hasn’t received the Presidential pardon, it’s time to get to prepping for Turkey Day.

If you haven’t purchased a turkey, today is the day. Race out and grab one as soon as possible to avoid a MAYDAY situation tomorrow. A wild turkey can run 25 mph at top speed, which is about as fast as an Olympic track star. So, if you have planned ahead, and have beat out the other turkeys to the store, you get a gold medal in Thanksgiving prep.

Tom the turkey likes to be the center of attention, he is ready and waiting to make you a Turkey Day hero. Let’s transform him into the most delicious bird your friends and family have ever partaken of. So shake that turkey leg and follow these simple steps to defrost the turkey and prep it for its brine bath. The key is to get started a day or two before Thanksgiving Day.

How to Thaw a Turkey:

There are 3 ways to defrost the turkey, one is a great idea, one is a good idea, and one is a definite no-go.

The best way to thaw a turkey is in the refrigerator. Pull the bird out of the freezer and put it breast side up in a pan in the fridge. Keeping it cool as it defrosts helps retain natural flavor and juices. It takes around 4 hours per pound to defrost it in the refrigerator. Keep it sealed and in a pan to catch any liquid that may seep out. The turkey will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of days. Thaw time:

1 day for up to a 7 pound turkey 2 days for an 8 - 12 pound turkey 3 days for a 12 - 16 pound turkey 4 days for a 16 - 20 pound turkey 5 days for a 20 - 24 pound turkey

1. A quick way to defrost a turkey is in the sink, submerged in cold water. This is a good way to thaw a turkey, however, Tommy the turkey needs to be babysat. The cold water must be changed out every 30 minutes with new cold water. It takes approximately 30 minutes per pound to thaw. It is imperative that the bird is consistently in cold water so it may retain the flavor and juices. This prevents the bird from getting warm or forming dry spots which can make sections of the bird dry out when cooked. When thawing a turkey in cold water, you must cook it immediately after. Thaw time:

2 – 4 hours for a 4 – 7 pound turkey 4 - 6 hours for 8 - 12 pound turkey 6 - 8 hours for 12 - 16 pound turkey 8 - 10 hours for 16 - 20 pound turkey 10 - 12 hours for 20 - 24 pound turkey

2. Thawing a turkey in the microwave is not a good idea, nor would we recommend it. There’s no way to ensure the bird will thaw evenly, and when a bird is slightly warmed, salmonella begins to run wild.

Foodborne bacteria can begin to grow at 40°F and meat will spoil if kept anywhere above this and up to 140°F while it’s raw. The average refrigerator temperature should never be above 40°F, it should hover around 35°F for optimal refrigeration. The most vital tip to thawing a turkey is to avoid a warm turkey at all costs. (We hope you didn’t just remember that you left yours in the trunk). Turkey should never be left out for more than 2 hours on the counter. It is ok if the center of the bird is still a bit frozen when you begin to fire that baby up.

Cold defrosting a turkey keeps the fresh flavor in so that it’s only unleashed during the cooking process. When it is cooking, the meat will stay tender, moist, and the natural flavors will be released.

How to Brine:

The best way to flavor a turkey is to brine it. Bathe the bird in cold herb, citrus, or salt and pepper water. Soaking the turkey prior to cooking will help maintain moisture throughout the process. We have a new and updated complete guide to brining a turkey.

1. Brine is the flavor maker. Let the soak infuse the turkey with spices and penetrate the meat to lock down a tender and flavorful Thanksgiving turkey. Brining overnight will give it optimal moisture for firing up tenderness. For a small turkey, use a stockpot, for a mega turkey, put the liquid in a 5-gallon bucket and submerge the turkey. You can use a few sealable bags of ice to weigh the bird down to make sure it stays submerged. Put it somewhere cold such as the refrigerator or a cold garage. Brining is simple, but the effects of the soak are above and beyond delicious compared to a non-brined turkey. Here are some flavorful brined turkey recipes to help your Thanksgiving turkey recipes explode with deliciousness.

Smoked Bourbon and Orange Brined Turkey Spatchcocked Turkey with Citrus Brine Beer-Brined Turkey

2. Once you’ve got your brine on, it’s time to pump that bird with a juice injection to make sure it’s extra flavorful and tender. Remove the turkey from the brine, and use a meat injector to bolster the bird with some of the remaining brine, inject it about every two inches around the whole turkey.

3. It’s all about that baste. Pour the bottom portion of the brine that holds all the remaining herbs and spices into a bowl and set it aside to use as a mop sauce during the smoked turkey or roasted turkey process. Mopping the bird as it cooks will create a toasty brown skin that is riddled with flavor. This is the good stuff that people hover around to try and gobble.

Only one thing left to do on that turkey is to seal in the juices with outdoor hardwood smoked Traeger flavor. Any way you flavor it, turkey is the centerpiece of a traditional Thanksgiving holiday, and cooking it low and slow on your Traeger ensures the most amazing flavor.

A brined bird creates a superb meal, you will create the most tender gobbler on the block. This year’s Traegered Thanksgiving turkey will go down in your Thanksgiving history as the pièce de résistance of all Turkey Day meals. So get stuffed, and gobble till you wobble. With Traeger smoke kissing every inch of the Thanksgiving turkey, you’ll taste the difference, the wood-fired flavor is memorable.

Feast your eyes on our 100% helpful graphic and get tips and tricks, a “how to” brine, do’s and don’ts of brining, and turkey flavoring ideas.

We’ve got recipes for traditional thanksgiving dishes that will make your mouth water, on our new and fresh website, we have organized our recipes by holiday, just go here. Get your Traeger on and let us help you fire up meals to remember.