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I have a logistical problem that leaves me with no fridge room for 2 days before Thanksgiving... I always brine my turkey, so I don't have any questions about that, but typically it's only an 8 - 10 hour brine.

Is it possible to "over brine" a turkey? Lets assume I keep it covered and keep it cold (so that we're not discussing food safety as it relates to the turkey getting warm).

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9 Answers 9

up vote 12 down vote accepted

It is possible to over brine meat. If you leave it in too long it will get too salty.

If you use a more dilute brine it won't get as salty but you will wash out more of the natural flavor into the water as well.

You could submerge your turkey in its packaging in ice water in a cooler for a day before brining. You could even thaw the turkey in this manner if you made sure to keep it in ice water so it didn't get to 40F.

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I have brined mine over night and also like 2 to 3 days. I have to say the majority of the recipies that I read all say to brine it over nite, but the turkey that I brined for 2 to 3 days was the best I have ever had. Same recipie that I used for the over night brine. A cup of kosher salt per gallon of water or liquid, (vegetable stock or chicken stock or both) half of cup per gallon of brown sugar, then a few sprigs of Rosemary, some sage, a few oranges quartered and squeezed, sometimes other things I will add to it. That's a quick summary. Also when I make my gravy, both instances, the over night and the 2 to 3 days brining, it is amazing, not salty at all. I do a combination of giblet gravy and pan drippings. I think it is important to mention when you remove the turkey from the brine, rinse it very well inside and out, then pat dry with paper towels. One last thing, a long time ago on Emerils recipie for bringing I read to never buy a turkey over 15 pounds, preferably 14 pounds, I usually make 2, and ever since that is what I have done, haven't had a dry or bad tasting turkey since. Hope this helps someone.

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I always brine my turkey for at least 3 days and it results in the best moist turkey I've ever had.

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Using standard brine ratios, I can't see how that wouldn't be oversalted. What ratio of water to salt are you using? – talon8 Nov 21 at 15:29

What happens if you brine something for a long time depends on the concentration of your brine, much like temperature affects what happens when you cook something for long.

Thus, you can apply equilibrium brining and brine your meat for a longer time in a less concentrated solution. I haven't tried it, but according to linked source you'll get desired results if you brine white meat in 1-1.5% salt for 20-30% longer than you normally would. Since the solution isn't saltier than you want your meat, you can basically leave in the brine for as long as you like (standard food safety issues apply, of course).

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I have always brined my turkeys for anywhere from 5 to 7 days.

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Hi! Thank you for sharing your experience. But I think your answer would be much more interesting if you could describe how this long-brined turkey differs from a more common short-brined one. – rumtscho Nov 17 '14 at 17:33

I brined my turkey for 48 hrs in a lrg cooler.used salt fresh herbs and lemon slices. kept adding ice to keep cold. this deluted brine alitle and gravey was very good

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I have brined turkeys for 36-48 hours with no adverse affects in the turkey itself. As another answer mentioned, gravy made from the turkey juice may be a bit salty. I can attest to this first hand.

You did mention don't worry about food safety -- as long as it is below 40 degrees F you should be ok. This could mean keeping it iced, keeping it in a garage if you live in the North like I do, etc.

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To the over salty gravy issue....I would suggest, remove drippings from pan. Use a maderia or white wine you like to deglaze pan. Taste drippings to assess how salty they actually are. Make ahead a stock from the UNBRINED giblets and/or neck. Use that stock, and tied herbs, with the deglazed mixture in pan, and add the removed drippings a little at a time to get right salt balance.

I have read 1 hour per pound, and up to 48 hours for a whole big bird 20+ lbs, at different sites. One chef said up to 3 days!!! Another site said remove from brine 1 day ahead of cooking if you like crispy skin, and keep in fridge.

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The meat will be moist and delicious, but the gravy you make from the drippings will be so salty it will almost be inedible. Anything over 48 hours will probably be too much. You can soak in water after over-brining to extract some of the salts.

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I'm curious why this answer got downvoted? Is it just wrong? By osmosis it makes sense... I don't intend to brine and then un-brine my turkey, but that being said, was this guy's logic simply wrong or did it create a food safety hazard or anything? – Rikon Nov 28 '11 at 17:20
I'm not the downvote but I make gravy out of my brined turkey drippings every year. It surely doesn't need any extra salt but it is delicious. – Sobachatina Nov 30 '11 at 20:16
Nothing is wrong with making gravy out of the drippings of a brined turkey. My point was that if you brine for too long (more than 48 hours), the gravy will come out too salty as you reduce it. This is just my opinion based on experience, take it with a grain of salt ;) – Josh Stodola May 16 '12 at 20:17

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