Every year I test, and test and test recipes for Thanksgiving. But not my turkey brine recipe. It’s perfect, and I use the same one every single year regardless of how I make my bird.
Whether it’s roasted turkey or turkey in a slow cooker, I use the same brine on both of them.
There’s nothing quite like a perfectly cooked turkey and that 100% starts with a turkey brine. You CANNOT skip it. Trust me, I’ve tested enough to know that it really is a game changer.
Turkey Brine Basics
Brining a turkey needs two specific ingredients and then the remaining ingredients vary based upon your own individual recipes.
- Liquid- Your turkey breast (or whole turkey) will sit in a liquid anywhere from 8-24 hours. The kind of liquid does in fact make a difference as they will help to flavor the meat. Brining, as well as marinating, is not made to soak into the center of the meat, but to flavor the outside so well that as it cooks that flavor emerges.
- Salt- It’s preferred that you use Kosher salt for brining as it’s a more coarse salt which will help to break down the meat, soak in the liquid for a more juicy meat and finally, the salt helps to flavor the meat more than just a rub later on.
How to Brine a Turkey
Brining a turkey might sound fancy or complicated but it’s as easy as dunking a turkey in salty liquid with some extra flavors if desired and letting it sit. Easy peezy! The brine is used to lock flavor and moisture into the turkey.
A few simple ingredients is all you need for my favorite turkey brine:
- Apple cider
- Brown sugar
- Kosher salt
- Bay leaves
- Garlic cloves
- Fresh rosemary
- Orange peel
- Lemon peel
Grab a large stock pot and put all the ingredients into the pot. Stir everything together until the sugar and salt dissolve. Place the turkey carefully into the brine, put the lid on the pot, and set it in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
Why Do You Brine A Turkey?
Brining a turkey adds moisture and flavor to the final product. A basic brine is salt and water. We like to add several extra flavors, but the salt and water is what you need to brine. The turkey absorbs all the delicious flavors to make for the most flavorful turkey after cooking.
Brining breaks down muscle fibers and tenderizes the meat. In other words, forget that dry bird, brining will change your life!
Do You Rinse Meat After You Brine It?
No, just pat it dry. That way all those delicious flavors aren’t diminished. After brining, it’s important to let the bird rest in the fridge as it will dry out the skin which will bake up more golden and crisp.
If have never brined before, do it! It’s simple and totally worth it!. You’ll be using my favorite turkey brine recipe for every turkey you ever make! I guarantee it!
More Turkey Recipes You’ll Love:
- Deep Fried Turkey
- Turkey in a Bowl
- Herb Roasted Turkey Breast
- Turkey Pot Pie Soup
- The Ultimate Leftover Turkey Club
- Award Winning Instant Pot Turkey
- Thanksgiving Leftovers Turkey Tetrazzini
- Apple Pecan Smoked Turkey Breast
The Best Turkey Brine
- 3 Cups Apple Cider
- 3 Cups Orange Juice
- 13 Cups Water
- 2 Cups Brown Sugar
- 1 Cup Kosher Salt
- 5 Bay Leaves
- 5 Cloves Garlic, minced
- 4 Sprigs Rosemary, leaves stripped off
- 1 Orange peel
- 1 Lemon peel
- Place each ingredient of the brine in a large pot and stir until the sugar and salt have dissolved.
- Add the turkey and put a lid on the pot.
- Set the turkey in the brine in the fridge for 24 hours.
- Remove turkey from brine and pat dry. Allow the turkey to rest in the fridge so it can completely dry.
- Proceed with classic roasted turkey recipe.
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we are in the process. i will be grilling the Turkey tomorrow. so far i love the recipe
Yay! Let us know how you enjoyed it!
Absolutely amazing!!! This was a God’s sent!! Thank you for the help! Everyone loved this turkey. So moist! Even the breast were! 😍
Yesssss! I love to hear this Kathy! Thank you so much for the feedback!
Hi, my turkey isn’t completely covered by the brine, it’s sticking out maybe 4 inches (my pot is 64 qt 😬) should I add more apple cider, orange juice, or water? Or should I leave it how it is? Thanks!
You can leave it and turn it half way through if you want.
I used this brine last Thanksgiving. When I made the gravy it was really salty. Any tips for that?
Hi Karen! The brine shouldn’t be used to make the gravy. Did you make the gravy from the turkey drippings? Or the brine? Sorry, I’m just trying to understand everything before I respond.
Would this brine work well if I am going to smoke the turkey, or only if I am roasting it in oven?
Yes this brine would be great for a smoked turkey. We also have a recipe specifically for smoking if that interests you: https://ohsweetbasil.com/the-most-amazing-apple-pecan-smoked-turkey-breast-recipe/
How long do you recommend letting the turkey sit uncovered in the fridge?
I’m so sorry! This response is probably too late, but I usually just leave it overnight.
This is my new favorite way to cook a turkey. I have done a whole turkey and for Thanksgiving I am doing a whole breast. This turkey is so tender in the crock pot. I used my 8qt Instant Pot on the slow cooker setting. Brined right in the pot too!
Love to hear this! Thank you so much for the feedback Madeleine!
I’ve got an 11 lb turkey sitting in the brine since yesterday afternoon and only after I had set it up I realized I should have waited a day. Is it possible to over-brine? Is it better to keep it in the brine longer or pull it out and let it rest in the fridge? And for how long is can it sit in the fridge – is more than 24 hours too much to sit uncovered before roasting? I’m kinda freaking out over here!! Thank you!
Pull it out after 24 hours and let it sit with plastic wrap. The night before you roast it uncover it and you’ll be golden. Enjoy!
Can I brine the turkey then spatchcock the turkey? Put in the fridge to dry up.
Do you heat the pan to dissolve the sugar? It doesn’t say to, so just making sure.
Hi Amy! No, it doesn’t need to be heated up. Enjoy!
How many pounds of turkey would this brine work for?
We usually get a turkey that’s 12-14 lbs, but it could really be any size as long as your pot is big enough and it’s fully submerged.
Do I thaw the turkey breast first or put in frozen?
Hi Carol! It needs to be totally thawed!
What size turkey would your brine be for?
We usually get a turkey that’s 12-14 lbs, but it could really be an size as long as your pot is big enough and it’s fully submerged.
I have never bribed and want to try it. Sorry for the silly question but is it apple cider or apple cider vinegar? I am not sure I have seen apple cider in the stores.
Just apple cider. It can be a little more difficult to find at the grocery store. Sometimes I find it on the aisle by the apple juice and other times I find it in the refrigerated section by the orange juice. If you can’t find it, just go with apple juice.
We’re hosting Thanksgiving this year, can’t wait to try this!! Once we started brining our pork chops, we never looked back, definite game changer!! So I’m sure it’ll be the same with turkey!!
After you finished brining the turkey, do you put it in the fridge covered or uncovered? Also, does the salt in the brine make the turkey very salty? My husband can’t have alot of salt. Sounds delicious. Thanks for the recipe.
Hi Carol! Put the turkey back in the fridge uncovered after brining. The salt in the brine is mostly for tenderizing the turkey although it does add to the flavor. It’s not super salty though. Enjoy!!
Yes, total game changer! Try this and let us know what you think! Have the best Thanksgiving!
Betsy J Hollingsworth
Looks Great can’t wait for Thanksgiving.
Me too!! Thank you for taking time to leave a comment!