This 2011 Community Recipe Inspired My New Favorite Turkey Brine

Thanks, dymnyno.

November 19, 2019
Photo by Rocky Luten. Food Stylist: Samantha Seneviratne. Prop Stylist: Sophie Strangio.

We've partnered with La Crema Winery to share our new favorite turkey brine, just in time for Thanksgiving: a sage and honey-flavored wet brine inspired by a 2011 community member recipe.

Since day one here at Food52, the community (yes, that's you!) has been our not-so-secret weapon.

On top of making this little corner of the internet feel like home, our community members are the source of many a cherished recipe (like deensiebat's eternally popular one-pot quinoa and kale pilaf) and plenty of clever tips and tricks (say, HalfPint's innumerable uses for leftover egg whites).

This fall, I discovered another delicious contribution: sage honey-brined roast chicken, from longtime Food52er and four-time contest winner, dymnyno.

I've never been one to take the extra time to brine any bird (usually a healthy sprinkle of salt and pepper works just fine for me), but this honey-herbed version sounded too good to resist. So I whipped up the brine one Saturday evening, let it cool overnight, and brined the chicken for eight hours. The next day, I opened a bottle of my new go-to red wine this fall—a lush, earthy Pinot Noir from California with hints of toasty spice—and roasted the most succulent, flavor-packed chicken I've ever had.

This was in October, so by the time November rolled around, I started wondering if this brine would produce the same results for turkey.

I started by tweaking the ingredients just slightly: I scaled the volume of water and salt down to one gallon and one cup, respectively (my biggest stock pot won't hold more liquid than that, and you can scale the recipe up if your bird is extra large); I used plain honey, since it's available everywhere (you can order sage honey here, or for added herby flavor, you could infuse the honey with sage); and I decided to stuff the turkey with smashed garlic, a lemon cut in half, and sage.

I also adjusted the directions to be more turkey-friendly. While an eight-hour brine bath was perfect for a five- or six-pound chicken, I think closer to 24 hours works best for turkey, which are typically at least double the size.

You'll also want to up the cook time: 13 minutes per pound at 350°F. If you have a your own go-to roasting method, feel free to use that too, but our Senior Editor Eric Kim tested tons of turkey-roasting methods and that was the one he liked best (and so do I). If you check on your turkey about two hours in and notice that the skin is getting a little too browned, you can cover it in aluminum foil for the last stretch in the oven.

This tender, crispy-skinned bird is beyond worthy of any Thanksgiving table. And its subtle essence of sage and honey makes a lovely complement to other seasonal sides—from stuffing and zingy cranberry sauce. As a bonus: It pairs up perfectly with that same Pinot Noir; it's a super-versatile bottle that goes well with a variety of different dishes, so I'll have a few bottles stocked for the holidays this year.

Better yet, it's been proven to convert even the most ardent turkey-haters, like my friend Nic. After tasting one of my test batches he said, "Hmm, maybe I do like turkey after all."

What's your favorite way to roast a turkey? Tell us in the comments below!

In partnership with La Crema Winery, makers of delicious wines produced in the cool-climate growing regions of California, we're sharing the community-inspired turkey brine we'll be whipping up this Thanksgiving. Wet brining adds an extra level of juicy tenderness to any bird, and the additions of sage, honey, and black peppercorns give this particular turkey a subtly sweet, earthy touch that'll make it a standout on your holiday spread. When picking a bottle for the table, you'll want to pour something with balanced acidity and aromatic hints of spice to complement the brine, like La Crema's 2017 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir.

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Erin Alexander is the Associate Editor at Food52, covering pop culture, travel, foods of the internet, and all things #sponsored. Formerly at Men’s Journal, Men’s Fitness, Us Weekly, and Hearst, she currently lives in New York City.