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The first time I brined a turkey, I had the same look on my face as a turkey right before the hatchet drops. I didn’t know what to do or how to do it.
I thought it was something professional chefs did. Boy was I wrong. It’s so simple!
When you’re working with poultry, you need to be careful but, I gave it the good old college try.
One thing I learned was that I didn’t give myself enough time to brine it.
So the following year, I started the brine Wednesday morning giving myself enough time to make the brine, cook it and let it cool before adding the turkey to it.
If this is your first time brining a turkey, TRUST ME, it’s worth the little bit of extra work especially for Turkey Day!
It only comes once a year…honor the turkey!
He needs lots of great side kicks too (a.k.a. Thanksgiving side dishes and desserts.)
Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I’ll receive a small commission that helps pay blog expenses.
Thanksgiving Turkey Brine Recipes
I started with a simple Citrus Apple Cider Vinegar Brine. This Apple Cider Cranberry Brown Sugar Turkey Brine is a spin off recipe of that. Using fresh cranberries, oranges, cinnamon, brown sugar and fresh herbs sounds like a great flavor for the turkey! Doesn’t it?
Apple Cider Cranberry Brown Sugar Turkey Brine
This recipe was updated on 11/17/21.
- 12 oz. of fresh cranberries (also make cranberry relish with additional cranberries)
- 1 naval orange, quartered (you can use other orange types)
- 2 large cinnamon sticks
- 2 cups of apple cider vinegar (try my Turkey Brine with Apple Cider Vinegar + VIDEO recipe)
- 2 gallons of lukewarm water
- 2 cups of dark brown sugar
- 1 and 1/2 cups of Kosher salt
- 6 twigs of fresh thyme
- 2 twigs of fresh rosemary
- 3 tbsp of black peppercorns
- 12 whole bay leaves
Don’t get flustered by the long list. Here’s why…
- Fresh thyme is often sold along with rosemary and sage and labeled as “poultry seasoning.”
- You can use light brown sugar if you don’t have dark brown sugar.
- You can use table salt instead of Kosher salt but it’s not a 1:1. Use 1 cup of table salt for this brine recipe. Here’s the Morton Salt Conversion chart for reference.
- Peppercorns are great for fresh flavor when you grind them. They’re worth having.
- Cinnamon sticks- can be pricey but, buying a big bag is worth it because you can use them for Christmas decor and in baking and heat them for holiday aromas.
- Whole bay leaves are wonderful flavoring for beef, pork or poultry. I always put two bay leaves in my pot roast.
- Buy extra bags of fresh cranberries and make cranberry relish. It’s easy and perfect for your brined turkey!
- Use orange peels instead of squeezing the whole orange. Let someone eat the inside.
- Apple cider vinegar is cheap.
*Full printable recipe is below in recipe card.
- First, clean the cooler.
- Next, in a medium/large sauce pan, squeeze juice from orange (or use orange peels) and add rind, cranberries, cinnamon, apple cider vinegar and cook for five minutes. Let cool.
- Then, add the orange/cranberry cooked mixture to the remaining ingredients and place brine in a clean cooler that is just the right size as pictured below. NOTE:
You want the brine to cover the turkey and be submerged. Place the turkey breast face down or on its side.
IMPORTANT: Don’t forget to CLEAN THE COOLER thoroughly after you remove the turkey. Raw meat leaves behind harmful bacteria you don’t want sitting in there by simply rinsing it.
You can also buy turkey brining bags however, you still need to put the bag in a cooler or tub in case of drips which, will be need to cleaned afterward.
Your turkey brine questions answered below!
Is Brining a Turkey Worth It?
OMG YES!!…to put it bluntly! It’s totally worth the little bit of extra effort. You’ll have a MOIST, delicious turkey WITHOUT BASTING! Therefore, your turkey will cook faster because you won’t be opening the oven door every 15 minutes letting the hot air escape to baste the turkey.
Trust me, it’ll be MOIST and delicious without basting!
Plus, most of the brine ingredients are cheap: water, salt, apple cider vinegar (for this recipe.)
How Long Should You Brine a Turkey?
Depending upon the brine recipe and weight of the turkey, usually the brining time is 8-24 hours. I’ve brined 20 pound turkeys for 8-12 hours and they come out perfect!
Do you Rinse a Turkey After Brining?
No, you don’t have to but, I do remove the herbs and peppercorns that stick under the turkey wings or inside the cavity. If it’s easier to rinse it off in order to accomplish this, that’s fine. It won’t erase any of the turkey brining that’s been done.
What does a brine do to a turkey?
Brine is a salt solution- water and salt, that tenderizes the turkey meat. A lot of brine recipes also include flavoring such as citrus, herbs and other fruits and seasonings.
Leave a comment or question below. I promise I’ll answer it asap!
Do you rinse a turkey after brining?
It’s best NOT to rinse the turkey after brining as it will help the skin to crisp during cooking in the oven. But if you do rinse it, it won’t ruin it. I’ve done it before unknowingly and it turned out great.
Do you have to cook immediately after brining?
No. You can place the brined turkey in your refrigerator, covered for up to 6 hours until you’re ready to cook it.
Can I use turkey brine for chicken?
Yes. I made a wonderful chicken salad using my Citrus Apple Cider Turkey Brine recipe. Do not use leftover turkey brine to brine chicken. Leftover turkey brine should be DISCARDED for safety reasons.
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I took this recipe to Weekend Potluck.
Apple Cranberry and Brown Sugar Turkey Brine
- In a medium/large sauce pan, squeeze juice from orange (or use orange peels) and add rind, cranberries, cinnamon, apple cider vinegar and cook for five minutes. Let cool.
- Meanwhile, add two gallons of luke warm water to a 3-4 gallon cooler or 5 gallon bucket with brine bag. Add remaining ingredients and stir until the salt and sugar melts into the water.
- Add cooled orange/cranberry mixture to the salt mixture and stir.
- Submerge the turkey into the container until it is covered by the liquid. If there's no room for all of the liquid, that's fine as long as the turkey is completely covered in the liquid.
- Put the container containing the turkey in a refrigerator overnight. Brine up to 24 hours with a minimum of 8 hours.
- When the brining process is complete, remove the turkey from the brine and any seasonings. Do not rinse turkey. Pat it dry with a paper towel and you may roast it immediately.
- You should brine your turkey in a refrigerator or outside if it's cold enough but, not freezing which is 32F or below.
- This recipe makes enough brine for a 20 lb. turkey. Discard the brine after it's been in the raw turkey. It's not safe to be consumed.
- The general rule for kosher salt substitution is: 1 part table salt = 2 parts Kosher salt
- Therefore, for this recipe which calls for 1 1/2 cups of Kosher salt, you can use about 3/4 cup of table salt instead. However, if you're measuring by weight, you may use the same amount.
Turkey Cooking Tips:
- I put a whole peeled onion in the turkey cavity. The onion steams and give the turkey more even more flavor.
- Rub butter on the breast area to give it a nice brown color.
- I sprinkle freshly ground pepper on top of the turkey before roasting.
- You may use a turkey roasting bag if you wish. Follow the bag instructions as it usually required two tables spoons of flour to be added.
- Place the turkey with the thermometer facing the oven window so you can see when it's done.
- If you cook a 20 lb unstuffed, brined turkey in the oven in a covered roasting pan, it will be done in 3 hours, if you don't baste it. Open the oven at 2.5 hour mark and remove the lid so you can see if the thermometer indicates its ready. Opening the oven every 15-30 minutes to baste it lets a lot of heat out and it will take much longer to roast.