Since I started doing holiday dinners, I've always brined my birds. I love the result, but I find that while the turkey comes out nice and moist, it doesn't pick up much flavour from the brine. For Thanksgiving, I had a delicious smelling brine with some star anise, cinnamon, and a few other things. The turkey didn't seem to pick up any of this flavour.

Any tips on solving this problem? Would injecting the meat help?

  • 1
    You can inject the solution into your turkey rather than brining it. It will make a difference.
    – justkt
    Commented Dec 17, 2010 at 13:10
  • @justkt: or do both. You'll still get the added juiciness of the brine.
    – Erik P.
    Commented Dec 17, 2010 at 14:29
  • @Erik - as I understand it, if you inject a saline solution into your turkey brining it will make it excessively salty.
    – justkt
    Commented Dec 17, 2010 at 14:37
  • 3
    You shouldn't inject the brining solution, just a mix of the flavors that you are trying to bring out. If you want to feature star anise, for example, you should make a marinade or a butter and inject that. Adding more brine will not have the desired effect. Commented Dec 17, 2010 at 20:22
  • Thanks @justkt and and @sarge_smith. Perhaps I'll try that for Christmas dinner this year :) Commented Dec 19, 2010 at 4:38

4 Answers 4


Many aromatic compounds are oil soluble, or need to be heated to really come out and 'open up.' Since brines I use are all water based, I've had some luck with heating, even briefly boiling dried spice components first, then cooling, adding the other ingredients, then using. Especially, don't boil vinegar or alcohol components, as they will lose potency.

Anyway, I find brines to have a tough job imparting too much of a distinct flavor, so consider straining some of this out of your brine and using it to make a gravy or pan sauce to accompany the roast bird, the flavors will then be further accentuated.

  • 4
    +1 for the solubility being the problem. What I've done before is make a "tea" of the spices by steeping them in boiling water (or water just off the boil) for a while, then dissolve the salt (easier in hot water), let cool and put the bird in. But you're still getting a mild hint of the flavour, not a strong, bold flavour.
    – Erik P.
    Commented Dec 17, 2010 at 14:35
  • That's exactly what I did, but it didn't make a difference. I couldn't taste any of the flavour in the meat. Commented Dec 19, 2010 at 4:36
  • @MM, wow, this is a tough bird to crack.lol. If you are not getting the flavor, there just could be too much bird and not enough other stuff. Many marinades and brines do impart a very subtle flavor. You could double or triple the quantities of the herbs/ other flavor components. Since it is in a brine, it won't overwhelm the preparation, especially if you are not getting it now. Commented Dec 20, 2010 at 13:09
  • Thanks @Eric. For this Christmas, I decided to try throwing some of the flavours in the gravy instead. It worked splendidly :) Commented Jan 4, 2011 at 20:10

Try using the same spices that you are using in the brine in the stuffing of the turkey. This might create a 'double-whammy' and impart more of the 'exotic' flavor that you are looking for.

  • nice idea, add the component to the stuffing, a sauce, etc... Commented Dec 20, 2010 at 13:10

I guess you should increment the amount of flavor (more star anise, etc). You could also brine longer. What percentage of salt are you using 2-3% should do it (that's 20-30 grams per liter)?

  • Not brining long enough may have been part of the problem. I had less time to brine than usual for this bird. Commented Dec 19, 2010 at 4:38

Spices and herbs are fat soluble. This means that they need to have fat to release the flavours. You will not get large flavour profiles from a brine. The best you will get are hints or what is in the brine. Smaller peices of protein will pick up more flavour then large ones. Brine is meant to protect the muscle fibres from becoming to dry or tough.

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