How to use beer brine for turkey and chicken [recipe + cooking tips for BBQ & beer]

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  April 1, 2022

Always the latest smoking tips & tricks?

Subscribe to THE ESSENTIAL newsletter for aspiring pitmasters

We'll only use your email address for our newsletter and respect your privacy

I love creating free content full of tips for my readers, you. I don't accept paid sponsorships, my opinion is my own, but if you find my recommendations helpful and you end up buying something you like through one of my links, I could earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Learn more

As much as barbecue and beer both have their own separate sparkles, a combination of both brings pure magic to the table. Their relationship can only be compared to that of peanut butter and chocolate.

Beer plays almost the same role as the food and company in a successful barbeque.

Are you looking for a new way to flavor your turkey or chicken this year?

Check out this amazing recipe for beer brine – it will add tons of flavor to your poultry dish! You won’t believe how delicious this turkey or chicken turns out – the beer brine makes it so tender and juicy!

Beer brine is a mixture of water, salt, sugar, and beer that is used to tenderize and flavor meat. It can be used as a marinade for turkey or chicken, or it can be injected into the meat.

When you infuse turkey or chicken with a beer brine, it makes the meat so much juicier and tender.

With a beer brine, it’s easier to cook the meat at a higher temperature without drying it out. After all, who likes that dry chewy turkey?

What you need to know before using beer brine for turkey or chicken

  • Always use fresh herbs in your marinade mixture. Dried herbs will not have the same flavor impact.
  • The beer you use in the brine mixture can be any type, but a dark or hoppy beer will add more flavor to the meat.
  • If you are using a store-bought beer brine mixture, always follow the directions on the package.
  • You can use either a whole turkey or chicken pieces for this recipe.
  • Using kosher salt and brown sugar will give you the best beer brine for your barbecue.

But, you can just use what you have on hand because the combination of sugar, salt, and beer just works!

Beer brine for turkey & chicken with herbs and garlic

Joost Nusselder
This beer brine recipe combines the malty flavor of beer with caramelized sugar and fragrant herbs. Using this brine on poultry makes the meat juicy, tender, and flavorful.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Servings 1 large turkey or 2 chickens
Calories 576 kcal


  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 cup salt table salt or kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup white or brown sugar
  • 1 bottle beer you can use 1 can of beer too (any beer works)
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • 1 bunch fresh rosemary
  • 8 cloves garlic peeled and smashed


  • Combine the water, salt, sugar, and beer in a large pot or container and stir to combine. It's extremely important to stir the sugar until it dissolves completely.
  • Add the thyme, rosemary, garlic, and any other desired seasonings (such as pepper or paprika) and stir to combine.
  • Place the turkey or chicken in a large resealable bag or container and pour the brine mixture over top. Make sure the meat is fully submerged.
  • Place in the fridge and let marinate for 6-8 hours (or overnight).
  • Remove from the fridge and discard the brine mixture. Pat the turkey or chicken dry with paper towels before cooking.


Calories: 576kcalCarbohydrates: 121gProtein: 3gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 113383mgPotassium: 264mgFiber: 2gSugar: 100gVitamin A: 309IUVitamin C: 15mgCalcium: 271mgIron: 2mg
Keyword BBQ, Brine
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

There you have it – a simple, delicious recipe for beer brine that will take your turkey or chicken to the next level! So why not give it a try this year? You won’t be disappointed!

Cooking tips

  • If you are using a whole turkey, make sure the brine mixture has cooled completely before pouring it over the meat. You don’t want to cook the bird in the hot brine.
  • If you are using chicken pieces, you can marinate them for as little as 2 hours.
  • You can also use the beer brine mixture to brine other types of meat, such as pork or beef.
  • The beer brine can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Substitutions and variations

You’re probably wondering what type of beer to use for a beer brine?

For this recipe, any type of beer will do, but a dark or hoppy beer will add more flavor to the meat. If you’re looking for something specific, I recommend using an IPA or stout.

Dark beer and brown sugar are a great combo to use because they add that nice dark color to the turkey.

Salt and brown sugar make this recipe a winner. In fact, if you don’t add salt and sugar to the beer, it will lack that caramelized texture that makes the meat look and taste better.

If you’re not a fan of rosemary or thyme, you can use any other fresh herbs that you like. Basil, parsley, and cilantro are all great options.

If you’re feeling really creative, why not try adding some fruits or vegetables to the brine mixture? Some ideas include oranges, lemons, limes, apples, pears, onions, and celery.

The sky’s the limit when it comes to experimenting with beer brine – so have fun with it!

This recipe can easily be doubled or tripled if you’re feeding a large crowd.

Beer brine for BBQ: why is it good?

You might be wondering why beer is used in brine for poultry.

A beer brine is a mixture of water, salt, sugar, and beer that’s used as a marinade for turkey or chicken.

It can also be injected into the meat. The combination of ingredients helps to tenderize and flavor the meat.

When it comes to Thanksgiving, many people like to use a beer brine on their turkey.

The brine helps to keep the meat juicy and moist, while also adding a lot of flavors.

Some people choose to mix their own beer brine, while others can buy one that’s pre-made.

Beer is the best type of alcohol to use when brining poultry because it has a lower pH level than other types of alcohol.

This means that the beer will help to break down the proteins in the meat, which will make it more tender.

What does beer do in turkey brine?

Beer works as a marinade in two ways: flavor and tenderizing. The sugars in the beer caramelize on the surface of the meat, adding a sweet and savory flavor.

The malt in the beer also helps to break down the muscle fibers, making the meat more tender.

As an added bonus, the hops in the beer act as a natural preservative, keeping the meat fresh for longer.

Can you use beer to tenderize chicken?

Chicken has a similar texture to turkey therefore adding a beer brine to it makes it tender. So yes, you can use the beer brine to tenderize chicken too.

A beer brine imparts a lot of tasty flavors to the chicken. It also makes the meat juicier and it works wonders on chicken breast or chicken wings.

If the beer contains any protein-breaking enzymes or is lacto soured, it tenderizes the chicken meat even more.

How to use beer for BBQ

So yeah, beer and barbecue are a match made in heaven, and not just for drinking a beer when digging into your freshly smoked meat.

Let’s look at all the ways in which you can use beer when grilling or smoking!

Beer as brine or marinade

Nothing beats the flavor that is achieved by brining or marinating your dinner in beer for a few hours or up to 24 hours before cooking it. This almost guarantees a successful barbecue even before the grilling.

In this scenario, beer is the base of your marinade, which acts as an acid and softens the connective tissues in the meat that is being marinated.

Softening the tissues helps in melting the collagen in the meat, which in turn allows free flow of water in the meat resulting in the juiciest meat you’ve ever tasted.

You can add some aromatics, a little oil and some salt to the beer to improve the taste even further.

You can also use brine to achieve the same results as with marinating, even though it is a totally different approach.

It is a salty solution that provides intense flavor while also preserving the moisture in the meat while it’s cooked.

You can try adding beer rather than water to the brine solution next time you are at it and maybe you will have a memorable experience.

Fish and other leaner meats like poultry will provide amazing moisture while retaining moisture.

Beer as a humidifier

Beer can be used in providing flavor when using the rotisserie, smoking, or roasting the meat.

You simply add beer to your dripping pan, which collects drippings from whatever it is you are preparing so that you can use them for other purposes such as preparing sauces.

You can also add the beer to the water basin in your smoker. Adding beer to the mix not only improves the meat flavor to greater heights but also adds bulk to your gravy.

Beer will keep your meat moist, kind of like turning it around in a rotisserie to keep it moist.

The main purpose of the water basin in your smoker is to keep the grill temperature in check while preventing wild changes in heat.

The beer that evaporates from the water basin mixes with the smoke, which improves the meat flavor in the long run.

The evaporated liquid also makes the meat a little sticky such that the smoke particles are easily absorbed into the meat, leading to a smoke-flavored result.

Take beer and chicken to the next level with this delicious pellet smoker beer can chicken recipe

Beer as a braising liquid

Braising is when stewing a delicacy such as ribs or sausages in a Dutch oven, or any other covered container, just after lightly frying them.

In this case, you can use beer rather than water or juice when braising, before grilling the meat.

Using a beer that compliments the taste of what you are preparing will go a long way in improving the flavor.

When preparing sausages, throw them into a Dutch oven with a few cups of the beer of your choice and simmer them for about twenty minutes before grilling them for about five minutes using direct heat.

Beer as a spray or a mop

Those who know much about smoking meat know how important it is to keep it a little steamy. Using a water/beer pan goes a long way in improving the taste of the meat.

You can use a spray can to spray the beer over the smoking meat, or as a mop sauce to keep your meat a little wet for best results.

The wetness makes it easy for the smoke to be absorbed by the meat for that smoky flavor.

When mopping your meat, remember to keep the mop heating on low at all times making sure it’s not cold when applying.

It’s also important to note that dark beers will provide a relatively distinct flavor while lighter beers will give the meat a milder flavor.

Beer as sauce

Apart from being a beverage, beer has also proven to act as a great sauce for barbeque. It’s hard to ignore all the natural flavor improvers that come with that bottle.

You can mix the beer with a few spices such as sugar and simmer to easily come up with a barbeque sauce to match the delicacy.

To make it even better, you can always try using different beers to come up with unique tastes.


Beer is the type of versatile alcohol that can be used for brine, marinade, and as a refreshing drink, of course.

If you’ve been cooking your Thanksgiving turkey all wrong, the beer brine is the sure way to make it moist, juicy, and tender.

The good news is that you can use beer as brine and marinade for all your grilling and smoking recipes to give the meat that extra bit of something.

Also read: the top bbq smokers to buy this year

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Lakeside Smokers is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with BBQ Smoking (& Japanese food!) at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.