Should You Brine a Pre-Basted Turkey? (Many People Get This Wrong)

If the holidays are approaching and you’re planning to cook a fresh turkey, you’ll want to make sure that the turkey is as juicy as it can be.

To do this, you have two options: you can either baste the turkey or brine it. Both of these methods have their advantages, but if you are wondering whether you should brine a pre-basted turkey, the answer is not so straightforward.

The truth is that while there’s nothing wrong with brining a pre-basted turkey, it is rarely necessary because either basting or brining will do a great job of seasoning the meat and keeping it moist.

Pre-basted turkey brining

About Brining

When you brine a turkey, you soak the turkey in some type of liquid and some type of seasoning. The liquid can be water or broth, and the seasoning can include just salt or a combination of salt and a few other seasonings. Some people even use a little sugar when they brine a turkey. The longer you soak the turkey in the liquid, the less salt you need. In terms of brine time, many people soak their turkeys overnight and use less salt, or soak them for about four hours and use more salt. Either way, the salt and other seasonings will enter the turkey and make it tasty and moist.

About Pre-Basted Turkey

Chef pre-basting turkey before brining

A pre-basted turkey is also called a self-basting turkey, and it is different from a pre-brined turkey. Keep in mind that pre-basted turkeys are those that have been injected with some type of liquid and seasonings (usually salt), whereas brined turkeys have been soaked in liquid and seasonings, which means that liquid and seasonings originate on the outside of the turkey and not the inside like turkeys that are pre-basted.

If you’re going to either brine or baste a turkey, never do so with a frozen turkey. This is because liquid and seasoning cannot soak into the skin and meat of a turkey if it is frozen. It has to be raw and soft for the basting or brining to work.

How To Tell if a Turkey Is Pre-Brined

It is not always easy to tell if an everyday turkey has already been brined because this information won’t always be found on the label. Nevertheless, if you look at the list of ingredients and you notice that water or broth and seasonings are included on that list, chances are good that it has either been pre-basted or pre-brined. If you notice that the list of ingredients includes only turkey, that means nothing has been done to it.

What if You Brine a Turkey Twice?

Brining a turkey twice will not harm the turkey or the flavor of the turkey, but it is also not necessary. The worst that could happen is that the turkey will end up being too salty, which isn’t pleasant but isn’t serious, either. If you want to include brining in the cooking process, use one cup of table salt for every two gallons of water. Both brining and basting bring extra flavor to your juicy turkey, and they’re both super-easy processes.

You might be wondering if it’s okay to reuse the brine you made at a later time. See our post that covers why you should not reuse turkey brine.