Can You Brine a Butterball Turkey? Mystery Solved

May 18, 2023
Written by Kristy J. Norton

You can brine a turkey from Butterball, but it’s recommended that you do so with a lower concentration of brine.

While there are no restrictions to doing so, you will want to watch how you apply the brine. As a professional chef, I have brined turkeys in various ways. I will explain what you need to know about brining, and how best to brine this type of turkey.

can you brine a butterball turkey

Can I Wet Brine a Butterball Turkey?

The short answer is YES. You can brine a turkey of this type, but you don’t need to. If you have to, there is a caveat.

Butterball turkey products are pre-salted turkeys, and you don’t need to brine them before cooking. The brine is added to turkey from Butterball to improve its shelf life and quality. If you feel you need more than this, proceed to add more brine to your piece.

I usually use less concentration of salt to prepare my brine. This way, I am adding the brine as an additive rather than the main ingredient. 

I will talk more about brining in the following sections.

What is Brining, and How Does it Help Meat?

Brining is the process of soaking meat in a salt solution to improve its flavor and moisture content.

When you soak a slice of meat in a saltwater solution for an extended period, (usually 1 hour per pound), you are brining or salting it.

The most preferred salt for brining is kosher salt since it dissolves quickly in water. It is less concentrated to avoid  overloading your turkey with salt. 

The effect of this solution on meat is that it transforms the protein strands. Once these strands dissolve, they coagulate together. The thickened proteins help to trap some moist so that you can have juicier, tastier turkey.

Because kosher salt or table salt adds natural flavor to foods, it gives your turkey a more flavorful taste. This taste permeates the fowl so you can enjoy every strand of it. 

In addition to the flavor salt provides, you can add your own flavor to the brine. I usually add some sweetener to my brine to give the turkey a sweeter taste. 

You can also add some garlic cloves. An alternate way to add flavor to your turkey is a dry rub.

The trapped moisture also adds some juicy taste and weight to your salted meat. 

According to this test done by America’s Test Kitchen, meats that have undergone salting for a minimum of 12 hours usually have a weight gain of about ¾ pounds. Meanwhile, you could retain 6-8 ounces more weight, after roasting the fowl.

In essence, salting adds more flavor, weight, and juice to your turkey.

A Step-by-step Guide to Brining Butterball Turkey

To brine this type of turkey, all you need to do is get the ingredients, prepare the brine solution, remove the turkey neck and giblets, then pour your turkey into the brining bag and brine. Next, remove from the bag and pat dry with paper towels after rinsing, then prepare it to your taste.

If you want more out of your turkey by complementing it with your brine, here is a step-by-step guide to walk you through the process.

Note: I will be using a lower concentration of salt to water since I am brining a pre-brined turkey. Generally, you use a cup of table salt for 2 gallons of water.

What You Need:

  • A gallon of water.
  • A 12-pound Butterball brand of turkey (leave it to thaw if iced).
  • 8 spoons of table salt/half cup of kosher salt.
  • A gallon of ice water.
  • 6 sprigs of fresh thyme or other aromatic vegetables and spices (optional).
  • 4 cubes of brown sugar or a cup of apple juice (optional).
Turkey Soaked in Flavored Brine


Step 1 

Using a large pot, boil one gallon of water.

Step 2

Add your kosher salt, herbs, and brown sugar. Then stir the mix till the salt is dissolved.

Step 3

Leave the mixture to simmer for five minutes.

Step 4

Get a large container that can comfortably accommodate the turkey and two gallons of water to submerge it without spilling.

Step 5

Pour your ice water into the container. 

Step 6

Add the brine to the ice water, then mix it.

Step 7

Take the temperature reading of the mixture with a kitchen thermometer. Make sure the water is below 40 degrees Fahrenheit before proceeding to the next step. If the water temperature is higher, you can add some ice cubes to make it warm.

Step 8

Remove the giblets, turkey neck, and hock locks to prepare your thawed turkey if available. Then rinse it in clean water.

Step 9

Pour the salt mixture into a brining bag.

Step 10

With the turkey breast side down, gently place your turkey into the brine mixture, making sure it is completely submerged.

Step 11

Cover and refrigerate it.

Step 12

The time duration for refrigeration is 45 to 50 minutes per pound. So, for this recipe, you can keep it in the fridge for 9 to 12 hours. Ideally, you should do this through the night.

Once the salting period elapses. Rinse the turkey and pat dry with paper towels.

Step 13

Cook the turkey using your best cooking method.

Note: If you wish to stuff your salted Butterball bird, I don’t recommend doing so as the stuffing can make it salty as a result of the brine. What I do is roast the stuffing separately. 

Are Frozen Butterball Turkeys Pre-brined?

The short answer is yes. Just like fresh whole turkey, its iced counterpart is pre-salted.

The difference between a fresh Butterball turkey and a frozen Butterball turkey is that the fresh one is never iced before packing. The iced versions are first placed in the freezer before being packed for sale.

Still, according to the Butterball, when it comes to brining, both fresh and iced bird undergoes the same process of salting. The frozen turkey version only differs because it’s iced before being packaged for sale.

So, to answer if iced turkey from Butterball is pre-salted. Yes, they are.

Related Reading

Turkey Marinated with Herbs and Salt Water

Are Butterball Turkeys Brined 4%?

According to Butterball, their whole fresh turkey contains up to 4% water, spice, and salt. However, sometimes, their products can contain up to 8% of this solution. In this case, you shouldn’t marinate it anymore. 


Brining meat gives it additional juicy appeal while enhancing its flavor. This is something you want to do for every type of meat for the best results. Butterball turkey is pre-salted, so you don’t need to brine it. However, there is nothing stopping you from doing so.

Tastes differ, and you may want to have some special herb flavor in your meat, through brining. However, if you are brining a Butterball turkey, you can’t use the same salt concentration as in regular brine.

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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