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How to Prepare a Turkey

How to Prepare a Turkey

Take your turkey from ho hum to yum with a choice of seasonings, brine mixes and marinades. They're a deliciously easy way to add flavor to your bird.


Basting a Turkey

Basting is an easy cooking technique that keeps meats moist while cooking and adds flavor. It's used when roasting or grilling meats. The meat is left to cook, and periodically coated with the juice. Generally, you'll baste turkey every 30 - 45 minutes. Common bastings for turkey include; melted butter, pan drippings, broth and oils.

Tip: Try H-E-B Basting Oil with a blend of thyme, garlic and parsley. It's nothing short of magical for roasting turkey. See recipe for Flavor Rocket White Wine Baste.


Marinating a Turkey
Marinades are a great way to add complimentary flavor to turkey. Here's some tips when choosing to marinade a turkey:

  • Allow about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of marinade for each pound of poultry. The marinade will penetrate the poultry about 1/4-inch from the cut surface.
  • Marinate meat for 2 to 8 hours.
  • Always marinate in the refrigerator, never at room temperature.
  • Use a container made from a nonreactive material, such as ceramic, glass, plastic, or stainless steel.
  • Never marinate meats in an aluminum container.
  • Marinating in a re-sealable plastic bag keeps the meat coated and makes cleanup easy. Turn the sealed bag several times during chilling to redistribute the marinade.
  • Do not reuse leftover marinade that's been in contact with uncooked meat.

Brining a Turkey
Brine adds moisture to the turkey before it's cooked. This helps the turkey retain juices during the cooking process. It's best to wet or dry brine a turkey for 24 - 48 hours prior to roasting, grilling, smoking or deep frying. 

Tip: Be sure to choose a turkey that isn't already brined. It's best to purchase a turkey with no added ingredients, like an H-E-B Natural Turkey.


What's the difference between wet and dry brine?
Wet brining requires submerging the whole turkey in a salt and sugar solution for a period of time; check the wet brine time chart to determine how long to brine. The turkey will soak in moisture and seasonings used in the wet brine solution.

Tip: You must wet brine for at least 1 hour per pound of turkey but no more than 24 hours.


Wet Brine Time Chart

 Turkey Size (in lbs)  Brine in Refrigerator
 12 lbs. or less  8 – 12 hrs.
 12 - 14 lbs.  9 – 14 hrs.
 20 lbs. or more  15 – 20 hrs.

Dry brining works in the same way, except no water is used. The turkey will be coated with dry herbs and seasoning for 48 hours in the refrigerator. The turkey will absorb the dry brine forming a salty liquid that is reabsorbed into the meat with a higher salt concentration.


Watch H-E-B Chef Scott demonstrate how to dry brine a turkey. Watch Video 

For more great tips, check out the full H-E-B guide to cooking turkey.


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