One of the most important projects in our Thanksgiving Test Kitchen was brining a turkey better than anyone else. For that, we called upon the Thanksgiving master skills superstar chef Amanda Freitag. She stopped by our daylong event to brew up a batch of her famous pomegranate and fresh herb brine, and show us exactly how to brine a turkey at home, step-by-step.

Update: We’re celebrating the 10-year anniversary of this how to brine a turkey demo, from way back before Amanda Freitag had the “Celebrity Chef” prefix attached to her name. The recipe worked out very well in the Test Kitchen, and again when our editors tried this at home. The turkey browned beautifully and was indeed more moist than the average Turkey Day bird. Here’s the recipe for cooking the turkey, also courtesy of Amanda Freitag.

Brining your turkey seals moisture and flavor into the meat and prevents your bird from drying out during roasting. Pretty much every chef we polled endorses brining turkey for 24 hours before transferring it to the oven, so we’re inclined to do the same. Chef Freitag’s expert tip: a brined turkey browns more quickly, so have foil handy to cover it. In fact, have lots of foil. Lots and lots. It’s Thanksgiving.

Updated November 1, 2022

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 7 quarts of water
  • 2 cups Kosher salt
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup pomegranate molasses
  • 1/4 cup whole black peppercorns
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 head garlic
  • 2 Spanish onions
  • 1 bunch sage
  • 1 bunch thyme

Photos by Gabi Porter.

Prepare your mise en place
Prepare your mise en place, so all ingredients are ready to use in the brine.
Slice the garlic head in half
Slice the garlic head in half.
Make the brine
Bring 1 quart of water to a boil in a large pot and dissolve salt, then lower heat to a simmer and add remaining water, pomegranate molasses, garlic, onions and sugar.
Cool the brine
Remove from heat and cool to lukewarm.
prepare the brining bucket
Prepare the brining bucket; lower your turkey into the bucket.
add fresh herbs on top
Add fresh herbs and peppercorns to the the top of your brining solution.
Pour the brine over the turkey
Pour the brine into the bucket with the turkey.
Let sit in the refrigerator overnight
Store in the refrigerator overnight to get the turkey ready for the big day.