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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. 

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.

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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

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
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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.

I love to create the BEST versions of your favorite recipes. If you love to cook, love to eat, or just have a deep appreciation for good food, you're in the right place! Stick around... I have hundreds of recipes for you to make.

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4.97 from 32 votes (23 ratings without comment)

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42 Comments

    1. Hi Olivia, I mean whole cloves. You can usually get them from the bulk spice section at most grocery stores. I use apple cider (the kind of juice you drink) and not vinegar for this recipe.

  1. 5 stars
    Hi, Krissy! I’m looking to try this amazing-sounding brine this year, but as it’s just going to be myself and my mom, we’re planning on doing just a turkey breast instead of a whole turkey – do you think it will work as well as for a whole turkey? And will just placing the oranges with the breast in the brine directly be acceptable?

      1. 4 stars
        I put garlic cloves instead of actual whole cloves lol I have no idea how it’s going to taste! I hope it will be okay.I had a 20lb turkey

  2. 5 stars
    I’m planning to try this for our Thanksgiving turkey this year. After rinsing and patting the turkey dry from the brine soak will it be ready to oil and sear before roasting?

  3. Hi I’ve never tried to cook Turkey before but I want to try this recipe. How long do you have to cook it in the oven lets say if its a 10-12 lbs Turkey? Thanks in advance.

  4. Can you make this without the bay leaves? It’s the only thing I’m missing from my pantry. Not a big fan!
    Thank you
    Lori Whitten

    1. Hi.. I’m anxious to try this recipe. I have been so excited to try this as I have never brined a turkey before. My question is… After we brine and dump the brine and prepare the turkey for roasting, should we still add salt and oils for flavor to the turkey? I would hate to over salt or over season if it will already have a lovely flavor from the brine.
      Thank you!

      1. Sorry for the late reply. I will often add a salted dry rub to the skin prior to cooking. As long as you don’t over do it, it won’t be too salty.

  5. 5 stars
    That brine sounds divine! And the tip to double check the fridge space is so true. 🙂 Trying to fit a big heavy pot into a fridge and realizing that there’s not enough space is simply not fun.

    1. Hello, I had that same issue and ended up using a cooler to brine my turkey. It worked great. I hope this help to anyone who needs to brine a large (20 lb) turkey.

  6. 5 stars
    This is one good looking turkey brine!! I love the photos which are so clear and beautiful. I am with you the kit sounds expensive and your way sounds delicious, cheers!