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Chinese Brined Turkey (Extra Juicy and Crispy on All Sides)

5 from 2 votes
Let me introduce you to a marinade that is so much better than your average brining mixture. It creates the juiciest turkey that is extra flavorful and crispy on all sides.
This recipe teaches you a way to use minimum ingredients to marinate the turkey properly. But, you do need the right size container and some extra effort to make it work. For an easier and more expensive alternative, use the proper amount of marinade for the whole bird. To determine how much marinade you should use, place the turkey into the container you’re planning to use and add cold water to cover it completely. Remove the turkey and then measure the amount of water in the container. This recipe makes 4 cups (1 liter) marinade. Increase it according to your needs.
Prep Time: 2 d
Cook Time: 3 hrs
Total Time: 2 d 3 hrs
Course: Main
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: thanksgiving
Servings: 10 to 12


  • 1 young turkey , 14 to 16 pound / 6 to 7 kg
  • 6 cloves garlic , sliced
  • 2 inches (5 cm) ginger , sliced
  • 2 white onions , quartered
  • 3 to 4 citrus fruits (I used lemon, grapefruit and orange) *(Footnote 1)
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil


  • 2 cups soy sauce
  • 1 cup oyster sauce
  • 1 cup Japanese sake (or Shaoxing wine, or dry sherry)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon five spice powder (or make your own)



  • Combine all the marinade ingredients in a bowl. Stir to mix well.
  • Remove the neck and giblets from the turkey cavity. Save them to make stock later or discard them.
  • Line a turkey bag over a large container *(Footnote 2). Place the turkey into the bag, neck side down.
  • Spread garlic and ginger in the turkey cavity, and stuff with white onions. Tie turkey legs together with twine, so the onions won’t fall out.
  • Pour the marinade on the inside and outside of the turkey. Carefully massage the bag to dispense the liquid evenly.
  • Try to squeeze as much air from from the bag as possible, and seal it with a clipper. Crumble and stuff old papers into the bottom of the container to lift the bag, so the marinade will rise higher and submerge 2/3 of the bird. Place the container into the fridge and let it marinate for 24 hours.
  • Once the breast side is marinated, transfer the container onto kitchen counter. Open the bag. Flip the turkey by lifting the legs with your one hand and use the other hand to hold the neck side. Squeeze the air from the bag and seal it. Rearrange the paper padding if necessary, to let the marinade submerge 1/3 of the bird. Place the container back into the fridge and let it marinate for 24 hours (or 12 hours if you’re in a hurry).

Prep for cooking

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 C).
  • Remove the turkey from the bag and place onto a big tray. Discard marinade liquid. Remove kitchen twine and discard the onions. Pat dry the turkey with a paper towel.
  • Remove the rind from the citrus. Cut into half if too large to fit into the turkey. I used lemon, orange, and grapefruit, but any other combination works too. Place the fruits into the turkey cavity.
  • Use toothpicks to seal the bottom of the turkey, so the fruits won’t fall out.
  • Use kitchen twine to tie turkey legs again. Pat dry turkey with paper towel again.
  • Prepare a roasting pan with rack inside. Brush a thin layer of olive oil thoroughly onto the top side (breast side). Move the turkey onto the roasting rack, breast side down. Brush a layer of olive oil onto the back side.


  • Place roasting pan at the bottom of the oven, or the position that allow the bird to sit right in the middle of the oven.
  • Bake at 400 F (200 C) for an hour.
  • Lower the oven temperature to 350 F (180 C). Cook for another 20 minutes to an hour for turkeys that are 14 pounds or larger (less time for smaller turkeys), or until the turkey back turns dark brown.
  • Remove from oven. Wear a pair oven mitts with several layers of paper towel on top, hold both ends of turkey and flip, so the breast side is up.
  • Insert a remote probe thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh, from the bottom of the turkey towards the breast in a horizontal position.
  • Return turkey to oven and set thermometer monitor alarm at 165 F (74 C) *(Footnote 3).
  • Once the turkey is done, remove it from the oven and use a instant thermometer to measure the other thigh and the thickest part of the breast. The breast should register 160 F (71 C).
  • Once the turkey is fully cooked, cover loosely with aluminum foil with a cross cut on top (*footnote 4). Rest for 30 minutes (up to 60 minutes).
  • Carve and serve.

How to make ahead and serve later

  • Let the turkey rest after cooking, then carve the turkey into legs, thighs, breasts, and wings. Do NOT slice the meat, as it results in dry turkey. Wrap the meat in aluminum foil, then seal in ziploc bags. Store in the fridge for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to a month.
  • You should thaw the turkey in the fridge a day before serving, so it defrosts completely.
  • To reheat, preheat the oven to 300 F (150 C), or 350 F (180 C) for faster heat up. Unwrap the aluminum foil and place the turkey and the foil on a baking sheet, skin side up. Baking uncovered for 30 to 40 minutes. Slice the meat and serve.


  1. The purpose of the citrus is to fill the turkey cavity. A mix of citrus is best, but use whatever you have on hand! You just need enough to fill the turkey.
  2. The container should be large enough to hold the turkey and fit inside the fridge. I found the fridge vegetable drawer (the one on the bottom) works perfectly in this case.
  3. USDA recommended safe temperature.
  4. The small window on the top will let steam out and keep the turkey skin crispy.


Serving: 1serving, Calories: 341kcal, Carbohydrates: 3.9g, Protein: 35.3g, Fat: 19.1g, Saturated Fat: 4.9g, Cholesterol: 108mg, Sodium: 520mg, Potassium: 483mg, Fiber: 0.2g, Sugar: 2.3g, Calcium: 32mg, Iron: 3mg