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During the holidays,  what better way to celebrate than by treating your loved ones to a mouthwatering Thanksgiving turkey? If you’re looking to up your culinary game and leave a lasting impression on your guests, consider trying out my Apple Cider Turkey Brine recipe. Just a few simple ingredients and some time will completely transform your turkey.

slicing a whole turkey with an electric knife
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Once you taste turkey that has been brined in this mixture, I’m convinced you will agree it is the best turkey brine recipe. Be sure to check out all of my other Thanksgiving recipes to plan your entire feast!

Why Choose an Apple Cider Turkey Brine?

  • A Symphony of Flavors – The star of this recipe is, undoubtedly, the unfiltered apple cider. Unlike the sharpness of apple cider vinegar, using pure apple cider imparts a subtle sweetness and a depth of flavor to the turkey. This natural sweetness is balanced by the savory notes from kosher salt, creating a brine that harmonizes beautifully with the poultry.
  • Enhanced Moisture Retention – One of the primary reasons to brine a turkey is to ensure a moist and succulent end result. The salt in the brine works its magic by altering the protein structure of the meat, allowing it to retain more moisture during the cooking process. The apple cider adds an extra layer of moisture and flavor. The brining process ensures that the turkey stays moist during cooking, and the result is a crispy skin that gives way to incredibly tender and flavorful meat. 

The Brining Process: A Step-by-Step Guide

Whether you opt for a fresh turkey from your local grocery store or a frozen one, ensure it is fully thawed before beginning the brining process. A frozen turkey will require up to a week of refrigeration to be fully thawed.

Remove the neck and giblets from the cavity of the turkey and use them to make the best turkey giblet gravy.

Step 1: Create the Brine Mixture

In a large stockpot, combine the apple cider, kosher salt, black peppercorns, allspice, cloves, and bay leaves. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally to let the salt dissolve completely. Allow the brine to fully chill in the refrigerator. This step can be done in advance.

Step 2: Prepare the Turkey

Place the whole turkey in a brining bag, breast side down. Stuff the cavity with the orange quarters. 

Step 3: Add Brine and Ice

Pour the chilled brine over the turkey. Add the ice to the bag. 

Step 4: Let the Brine Do It’s Magic

Removing as much air as possible out of the bag, twist the bag shut, and secure it with a clip. Place the brined turkey in the refrigerator (if it will fit) or in a large cooler. Let the turkey brine for 12-24 hours for the best results.

When you’re ready to cook the turkey, you’ll need to remove it from the brine solution and remove and discard the orange wedges. Be sure to discard brine as well.

You will also need to pat the turkey dry to ensure a crispy skin. The easiest way to do this is to line a very large bowl or rimmed baking sheet with paper towels and set the rinsed turkey on top. You can then pat it dry with additional paper towels.    

whole thanksgiving turkey with dry rub

Recipe Tip

I like to use my water bath canning pot because it’s the perfect size and very light weight. For the bag, I highly recommend using a turkey roasting oven bag. You can find them at the grocery store in the same aisle where the disposable aluminum roasting pans are. They’re food grade quality and big enough.

Impress your Thanksgiving guests by serving some Damn Good Roast Turkey. Its unbelievably moist from the apple cider brine and flavorful from all the herbs.

FAQs

Can I use apple cider vinegar instead of apple cider in the brine?

No, it’s essential to use unfiltered apple cider for its natural sweetness. Apple cider vinegar has a sharper taste and won’t provide the same flavor profile.

Can I brine a frozen turkey?

You can buy a frozen turkey, but you must ensure the turkey is fully thawed before brining. Brining a frozen turkey can result in uneven brining and potential food safety issues.

How long should I brine the turkey?

For optimal results, brine the turkey for 18-24 hours. This allows the flavors to infuse and ensures the meat stays moist during cooking.

Can I brine a turkey in a regular pot instead of a brining bag?

Yes, you can use a large pot, but a brining bag is recommended for even distribution of the brine and easy refrigeration.

Do I need to rinse the turkey after brining?

No, it’s not necessary to rinse the turkey after brining. Pat it dry with paper towels before roasting to achieve a crispy skin.

Can I use sea salt instead of kosher salt?

Yes, you can use sea salt as a substitute for kosher salt. Use the same measurement, as they have similar saltiness levels.

What’s the purpose of adding ice cubes to the brining bag?

Ice cubes help maintain a cool temperature in the brining environment. It’s crucial to keep the brine cool for food safety and optimal results.

Can I add additional herbs to the brine for more flavor?

Absolutely! Experiment with herbs like fresh rosemary, thyme, or sage to personalize the flavor profile of your turkey.

What should the internal temperature of the turkey be after roasting?

The internal temperature should reach 165 degrees F (74 degrees C) as measured by an instant-read thermometer for a perfectly cooked turkey.

Can I use this brine for a smaller turkey or just turkey breasts?

Yes, this recipe is perfect for smaller turkeys or turkey breasts. You can adjust the brine quantities for larger turkeys. Ensure the meat is fully submerged for even flavor infusion.

Other Favorite Thanksgiving Recipes

Now that you’ve made the most flavorful moist turkey, here are more recipes that will complete your Thanksgiving spread.

Apple Cider Turkey Brine

Prep15 minutes
Cook5 minutes
Brine time18 hours
Total18 hours 20 minutes
Servings 16 people
This easy-to-make Turkey Brine recipe is made with lots of apple cider, salt, and all the right spices. Your turkey will be so incredibly moist and delicious.

Equipment

  • brining bag turkey roasting bag works great
  • water canning pot or large bucket to help hold the brining bag
  • large cooler if there's not enough space in the refrigerator

Ingredients 

Turkey Brine:

Turkey:

  • 12 pound turkey ensure its fully thawed if previously frozen, turkey size can vary, double the brine recipe for turkeys 20+ pounds
  • 2 valencia oranges quartered

Instructions 

  • Combine apple cider, salt, peppercorns, allspice, cloves, and bay leaves in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook 5 minutes until salt dissolves. Cool completely in refrigerator.
  • Remove giblets and neck from turkey, refrigerate until ready to use, and reserve for gravy. Rinse turkey with cold water and pat dry. Trim excess fat. Stuff body cavity with orange quarters. Place a turkey-sized oven bag inside a large stockpot. Place turkey inside bag. Add cold cider mixture and ice. Squeeze as much air out of bag as possible. twist top and secure with twist tie or tuck end so that it stays put. Refrigerate for 18 to 24 hours, turning turkey occasionally.
  • Once done, remove turkey from bag and discard brine and orange quarters. Pat the turkey dry with paper towels.
  • Cook turkey using your favorite method.

Notes

  • Nutritional information is based on the brine only, but you don’t really eat the brine, so I’m not sure why I bothered.
  • I use my canning pot to hold the turkey with the brine. It works perfectly and fits on the bottom shelf of my refrigerator as long as I clear everything else out.

Nutrition

Calories: 57kcal, Carbohydrates: 14g, Protein: 1g, Fat: 1g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Sodium: 4721mg, Potassium: 132mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 11g, Vitamin A: 3IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 18mg, Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Did you make this? Leave me a comment below

This post was originally created in 2019 but has been updated to include more helpful information. The recipe has remained unchanged.

Hi! I’m Krissy.

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42 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    If I double the recipe, does that everything doubles even the ice? I have made the brine before but never doubled. I have a 20 lb Turkey.
    Thanks

    1. I recently did a 20 pound turkey and I did double the brine amount. I don’t think I even measured the ice… I just made sure that there was enough liquid and ice in the bag so that when all the air was squeezed out, every part of the turkey was covered.

  2. You had me in stiches about the nutritional value of the brine! Love your sense of humour! Happy Thanksgiving to you!!!!

  3. Planning to fry my turkey this time. Could this brine be used it? Husband wants to inject but not I. I’ve roasted with your brine…so freaking GOOD!! Fry, YES?

      1. I have a question what is the best way to cook the turkey after this like what do you put on the turkey in the turkey things like that?

  4. I have a 16 (almost 17 pound) turkey that I will cook for Christmas will this be enough brine for mine or will I have too up the recipe a bit?

      1. Hi Krissy,
        I love this brine for my Thanksgiving turkey! Have you ever brined 2 days ahead? I am trying to do as much ahead as possible, but I am not sure if that is too long to brine a turkey…
        Thanks for your help!

    1. I think you can leave as is. The surface area of your turkey will be larger, but it still should be enough brine to cover all surfaces once you squeeze all the air out. Enjoy!

    2. You can also make sure that your turkey is breast down since that’s the part that really needs to be in the brine.