To Brine or Not to Brine: A Thanksgiving Turkey Comparison

Brine Turkey with Memphis Grills

For this year’s upcoming Thanksgiving turkey, the team here at Memphis Wood Fire Grills did a side-by-side taste test with two identical birds, each prepared a bit differently. With the first, we prepared it simply using one of our favorite dry rubs. With the second, we took a popular turkey brine recipe from the Food Network and brined it overnight and then added the identical rub prior to cooking.

We cooked both turkeys on one of our amazing wood fire pellet grills but the brine and rub recipes should work with any cooking technique or appliance. The results were both expected and surprising. Check out our informal findings at the end of this post!

The Brine

Turkey Brine Recipe

  • 2 gal. Cold Water
  • 3 C Apple Cider
  • 2 C Packed Brown Sugar
  • 3/4 C Kosher Salt
  • 3 tbsp Tricolor Peppercorns
  • 5 Whole Bay Leaves
  • 5 Minced Garlic Cloves
  • Peel of 3 Large Oranges (cut into strips)
  • 4 Fresh Rosemary Sprigs (leaves stripped off)

Brined Turkey Preparation

(Instructions from Food Network.)

  1. Combine all of your ingredients in a large pot.
  2. Stir until the salt and sugar dissolve
  3. Bring to a boil, and then turn of the heat (covering with a lid)
  4. Allow to cool completely, and then place mixture in the fridge.
  5. Place your uncooked , fresh turkey in the chilled brine solution, and then refrigerate for 16 to 24 hours.

The Dry Rub

If you take a look across our website you’ll see how proud we are of the Memphis’s ability to cook poultry like an all-star. No matter what kind of bird, the mixture of convection roasting and wood fire flavor always seems to yield delicious, mouth watering dishes (crispy skin + moist, tender meat = whoa!). Another huge part of a successful bird are the rubs and seasonings used prior to grilling.

Turkey Dry Rub Recipe

  • 2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp dried sage
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder

Turkey Cooking Instructions

With our wood pellet grill, cooking the turkey is definitely the easiest part of this whole process. If using an oven, cook until the internal temp of the thigh is 165-170 F.

  1. Preheat your grill to 350F
  2. Cover both turkeys in the rub mentioned above
  3. Place your turkeys on the grill and cook until the internal thigh temperature reaches 165-170 F
  4. Once they have reached temperature, take them off the grill and let them rest for around 20 minutes before carving

The Results

Drumroll please…

Both turkeys turned out great! The outside was crispy and you could taste the subtle wood fire flavor in every bite.

Of the two turkeys we ended up liking the brined version a bit more. The bird was juicier and the citrus added a unique sweet and sour taste to its flavor profile. The un-brined (or is it non-brined?) turkey was delicious in its own right. If you do have a little more time for turkey prep this year, we definitely recommend giving brining a shot!