Skip to main content
Menu
Search
Menu
Close

We make mistakes so you don’t have to.

Try CooksIllustrated.com Free for 14 Days

Email is required
How we use your email address

How to Brine Turkey in a Cooler

By Lan Lam Published

Save refrigerator space this Thanksgiving by brining your turkey in a cooler.

Finding space in the refrigerator for a container large enough to hold a couple of gallons of brine and a turkey can be a tall order. One way to free up space is to place the turkey and brine in an oven bag and then stash the tightly sealed bag in a cooler or large Styrofoam box with ice. 

What You’ll Need: A turkey-size oven bag and 2 to 3 gallons of brine depending on the size of the turkey. The oven bag means you can use any size cooler that fits the bird. Plus, you won’t have to clean it.

Before You Start: Make sure that the turkey and brine are well chilled (no warmer than 40 degrees) before placing them in the cooler. This allows all the ice’s cooling power to go toward maintaining a food-safe temperature inside the cooler.

 

How to Brine Turkey in a Cooler

1. Combine the brine and turkey (thawed if frozen) in the bag and carefully remove as much air as possible before sealing the bag so that the bird is enveloped in brine.

2. Place the bag and 15 pounds of ice in the cooler or Styrofoam box (any size large enough to hold the bag will do) and do not open it until you’re ready to proceed with the recipe. We found that 15 pounds of ice was enough to keep a 20-pound turkey cool for more than 12 hours.

Brine Your Turkey in a Cooler and Then Make These Recipes

Recipe Roasted Brined Turkey

Since we introduced the brined turkey in 1993, we have tested dozens of techniques for producing the perfect Thanksgiving bird. Here's what really works.

Recipe Grill-Roasted Turkey for Charcoal Grill

How to take the guesswork out of grill-roasting the holiday bird over charcoal or gas.

Recipe Roast Crisped-Skin Turkey

In our continuing search for the perfect roast turkey, we find a way to produce a bird with very crisp skin.

Leave a comment and join the conversation!

0 Comments
Read & post comments with a free account
Join the conversation with our community of home cooks, test cooks, and editors.
First Name is Required
Last Name is Required
Email Address is Required
How we use your email?
Password is Required
JC
JOHN C.
16 days

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too. I've done this using a rimmed sheet pan instead of a skillet and put veggies and potatoes around the chicken for a one-pan meal. Broccoli gets nicely browned and yummy!

Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too.

MD
MILES D.
JOHN C.
9 days

Amazed this recipe works out as well as it does. Would not have thought that the amount of time under the broiler would have produced a very juicy and favorable chicken with a very crispy crust. Used my 12" Lodge Cast Iron skillet (which can withstand 1000 degree temps to respond to those who wondered if it would work) and it turned out great. A "make again" as my family rates things. This is a great recipe, and I will definitely make it again. My butcher gladly butterflied the chicken for me, therefore I found it to be a fast and easy prep. I used my cast iron skillet- marvellous!

CM
CHARLES M.
11 days

John, wasn't it just amazing chicken? So much better than your typical oven baked chicken and on par if not better than gas or even charcoal grilled. It gets that smokey charcoal tasted and overnight koshering definitely helps, something I do when time permits. First-time I've pierced a whole chicken minus the times I make jerk chicken on the grill. Yup, the cast iron was not an issue.