This is a tried and true EASY Turkey Brine with Apple Cider Vinegar that’ll make your roasted turkey moist, flavorful and simply delicious! Makeover your Thanksgiving turkey this year!
You’ve heard about brining a turkey but, you’re afraid to try it because what if doesn’t turn out right? What if you do it wrong? You can’t go wrong with this turkey brine recipe because it promises to deliver a juicy, delicious turkey every time. Don’t be caught on the most celebrated turkey day of the year with a dry, bland turkey. How embarrassing!
Give your turkey the “love” that it needs on Thanksgiving. It needs a little primping to become the best Thanksgiving turkey ever! It’s a gluten-free and low-carb brine recipe.
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For years, I never attempted to brine a turkey. I just didn’t know what to do and didn’t want to risk my turkey not coming out right. Old habits die hard I suppose. But one year, I hosted Thanksgiving for my Italian family who came from Italy. I wanted to impress them because they are really awesome cooks and I wanted to serve the best, and for some of them, their only, Thanksgiving meal ever. I even made fresh bread for them.
So, I researched turkey brine recipes and decided to try it out. I changed up the recipe I found because that’s just what I do. Shake things up! My Italian family curiously watched me making the brine the day before. Well, I served the brined turkey on Thanksgiving turkey and the Italians couldn’t wait to dig in soon after the pasta course. Yes, I had to serve pasta! They need their pasta.
They gobbled up that turkey! …pun intended. Plus, they told everyone in Italy what a great Thanksgiving meal they had on Facetime. LOL!
Now, I’m sharing this yummy recipe with you! If it’s good enough for critical Italians, it’s good enough for your family!
The aroma of the apple cider may be a bit strong but, that will not translate in the taste of the bird. When you pull your turkey out of the oven when it’s done roasting, it will be moist, juicy and flavorful! This turkey will be tender and delicious.
You will not regret going through a little extra effort to brine the turkey. Once you taste how good this turkey is, you’ll brine it every year and wonder how you ever got by without brine.
I took out my electric knife to carve this turkey and didn’t even need it. The meat fell off the bones…even the turkey breast! This meat was so tender, I didn’t need to cut it at all! How easy is that? Just what a hostess needs…easy!
How to Make Turkey Brine with Apple Cider Vinegar
*The full, printable recipe is in the recipe card at the bottom of this post. This recipe is enough for a 20 lb turkey.
- First, in a large stock pot, combine apple cider, water, kosher salt, some bay leaves, fresh sage, thyme, and rosemary along with peppercorns, quartered oranges and lemons. Bring contents to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes on low heat. Let cool completely before adding to turkey.
- Next, put the cooled brine into a brine bag big enough to hold the size turkey you have. If you don’t have a brine bag, use a clean cooler or a container that is deep enough to hold the turkey with the brine covering the turkey. Let the turkey sit in the brine 12-16 hours (8 hrs at the very least.)
- Next, prep the bird. Remove the turkey neck and giblets bag from the turkey cavity.
- Then, rinse the turkey under cold water. Add two cups of water to the bottom of a large roasting pan that has a lid.
- Then, add the turkey to the pan, breast side up. With about 8 inches of twine, tie the legs together as pictured. Fold the turkey wings under the turkey. Rub softened butter on the skin of the turkey. Season the turkey with freshly cracked pepper. If your turkey didn’t come with a thermometer, insert a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the breast. The one pictured below is a best seller on Amazon!
6. Last, bake the turkey, covered at 325F for about 2.5-3 hrs if the turkey is not stuffed (a stuffed bird will take longer). That may not seem long enough but, I don’t baste my turkey and when it’s brined, you don’t need to . Therefore, no heat escapes from the oven for the whole 2.5 hours! The internal temperature of the turkey should reach 165F in the breast area. Most turkeys come with their own thermometer.
To baste or not to baste is the question.
If you baste your bird every 15 minutes like some people do, it’ll take much longer to cook. My 20 lb turkey is done in under 3 hours which is up to two hours faster than the 4 hours it supposed to take. Mine isn’t stuffed so it doesn’t need as much time.
You can rub a nice herb butter mixture over top of the skin so it gets nice and brown for the optics of serving or taking pictures. I have to take pictures of my food… I just do. But, if you are baking it, cutting it up and taking it to your in-laws, like me, you don’t need it to look pretty because no one (except my friends on Facebook) will ever see it whole.
See more tips about cooking the turkey in our Thanksgiving Planner!
Can I use Table Salt Instead of Kosher Salt?
Here is the general rule for substitution: 1 part table salt = 2 parts Kosher salt
Therefore, for this recipe which calls for 1 1/4 cups of Kosher salt, you can use about 5/8 cups of table salt instead. However, if you’re measuring by weight, you may use the same amount.
Use half as much table salt as Kosher salt because table salt is saltier. Trust me…I made this mistake once. Also, read the instructions to your turkey because some turkeys already have extra salt added so, keep that in mind if this is the case.
What Does Vinegar Do In Brine?
Simply put, the salt and the acid in the vinegar tenderizes the meat. A marinade, which is essentially what a turkey brine is, will be composed of acid for this very reason. However, not all turkey brine recipes contain vinegar. Some are just made with salt, water and other seasonings.
When I serve my moist, flavorful roasted turkey, I serve Lemon Ginger Cranberry Relish along with it. It compliments the turkey perfectly! Plus, it was featured on Good Housekeeping 12 Easy Cranberry Relishes Recipes two years in a row!
Need extra white meat for your Thanksgiving dinner, make this Slow Cooker Turkey Breast with Gravy that will also save oven space for all of your delicious Thanksgiving side dishes like From Scratch Green Bean Casserole!
When you want a foolproof roasted turkey recipe that you know will be moist, flavorful and delicious, this easy turkey brine recipe will become your go to recipe! Don’t risk a dry, bland turkey, especially on a major holiday like Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter. Give that turkey some extra love and it’ll give you extra flavor! Plus it’s gluten free and low-carb!
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Citrus Apple Cider Vinegar Turkey Brine
- Squeeze the quarter lemons and oranges to extract the juice while adding them to a large stock pot along with the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer for 20 min on low heat.
- Let the brine cool to room temperature and then refrigerate until ready to place the turkey in it.
- Place the raw, defrosted turkey into a brine bag. Pour cooled brine over turkey, tie the bag and place in a roasting pan and place in your refrigerator for 8-12 hours. *Makes enough brine for a 20 lb turkey
- Let Citrus Apple Cider Vinegar Brine cool before storing in the refrigerator and place it in a large container or clean cooler where the whole, thawed turkey will be covered for 8-12 hours.
- 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.
- Here is the general rule for substitution: 1 part table salt = 2 parts Kosher salt
- Therefore, for this recipe which calls for 1 1/4 cups of Kosher salt, you can use about 5/8 cups 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.