Apple Cider Brined Turkey is a moist, juicy, and flavorful way to celebrate Thanksgiving! Learn how to brine a turkey, and then roast to perfection in the oven, rotisserie, or smoker.
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What is brining?
It's time for Thanksgiving which means its time for the age old debate of "to brine or not to brine". Brining is a technique where meat is soaked in a salt solution to improve or enhance moisture. Aromatics and spices are added to the brine to add lots of delicious flavor to the meat.
This recipes uses a wet brine which is designed to add moisture to the meat. A dry brine is designed to draw moisture out of the meat. You can read more about brining over at the the Kitchn.
A Thanksgiving Day to remember
The first time I cooked a turkey I made a Thanksgiving dinner for two the first year I was married in our tiny studio apartment. It was beautiful, and perfectly browned. It looked like it had jumped off the cover of a magazine! My sides needed work, but I was so proud that the star of the show turned out so well.
A little while before we sat down to eat Mr. MondayisMeatloaf asked where the bag of goodies were. As a young wife, I had searched the cavity of the turkey for the bag of goodies but didn't find it so I told him it didn't come with one. I proceeded to cook the turkey blissfully ignorant of the fact that there was a second cavity that had the little bag of goodies.
Thank goodness it was in a paper bag! LOL The bag of innards was safely steamed in the neck cavity of the turkey! It was found once the breast meat had been cut off and you could see down into the cavity of the bird. Lesson learned and shared. 🙂
Prepping the brining solution
Find a container large enough to fit your turkey and all the ingredients we will use for the brine. I use a five gallon bucket or a special brining bucket. I generally cook about a 12-pound turkey because we cook it on the rotisserie so there is a weight limit. However, you can use whatever size turkey you wish.
Thaw your turkey according to the instructions provided with it. Or, head over to the USDA website to see their instructions on how to properly thaw your bird.
In a large pot on the stove combine the apple cider or juice, the kosher salt, and brown sugar until the sugar is dissolved. When done set aside to cool for 15 minutes.
Put together a herb bouquet that has fresh thyme, rosemary, parsley, sage, chives, and basil. Around Thanksgiving you can find pre-made bouquet that have a variety of herbs so you don't have to purchase them individually if you don't already have an herb garden. Take this and place into the cavity of the turkey.
Quarter two oranges, and slice a generous handful of fresh ginger. I like to put a slice of orange into the cavity of the turkey as well.
Pour the apple cider/juice mixture into the brining bucket, and add ice leaving enough room to submerge your turkey. Add to this the remaining orange sections, the juice of two oranges with rind, garlic cloves, apple cider vinegar, and hot red pepper flakes, and ice to fill the bucket.
Put the turkey in, and add more ice if needed. Let this brine overnight until you are ready to cook your turkey the next day.
Remove your turkey from the brine, and discard the brining liquid. If you are using the Auspit rotisserie then truss your turkey and slide onto the rotisserie and secure. Cook until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 165-degrees. You can check this with a meat thermometer like a ThermoWorks MK4 Thermapen or ThermoWorks ThermoPop.
If you find yourself in a situation where you cannot keep the temperature up then you can always finish in a preheated 350-degree oven until done.
If cooking in the oven put the turkey on a baking tray breast side up. To cook in the oven preheat to 450-degrees. Melt butter, and soak cheesecloth in it then place on the turkey breasts. This will keep the meet moist.
Cook at 450-degrees for 15 minutes then reduce heat to 350-degrees. This has the effect of searing the chicken much like you would do for a beef or pork roast. Cook about 15 minutes per pound (17 minutes per pound if stuffed) or until the turkey reaches an internal temperature of 165-degrees. Continue to baste every twenty minutes then remove cheesecloth for the last 20 minutes of cooking to brown.
To smoke follow directions above then cook until done to an internal temperature of 165-degrees. Preheat the smoker to 225-degrees and plan to cook 30 minutes per pound.
Once cooked rest the bird in foil tent for about 15 minutes no matter which cooking method you used. Carve and serve with your favorite holiday side dishes! Of course, the leftovers are fantastic and can be stored in an airtight container for up to one week.
If you liked this you might enjoy this with some of these sides Pumpkin Pie, Instant Pot Green Beans with Onions (+Stove Top Directions), or Delicious Summer Squash Casserole.
Apple Cider Brined Turkey
- 12 pound turkey
- 1 herb bouquet (thyme, rosemary, parsley, sage, chives, and basil) a few sprigs each
- 1 gallon apple cider or juice
- 1 cup kosher salt
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- 1 large handful fresh ginger sliced
- 20 garlic cloves
- 4 naval oranges quartered
- ⅓ cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp hot red pepper flakes
- 1 ice enough to fill bucket once brining fluid has been put in
- Combine apple cider/juice, salt, and dark brown sugar in a large pot on the stove. Heat until sugar and salt have dissolved. Set aside for 15 minutes to cool.
- Stuff the cavity of the turkey with the herb bouquet, and a couple of orange sections. Place the turkey into a container large enough to hold the turkey and the brining liquid. I use a clean 5-gallon bucket. Pour the brining liquid into the container with the turkey.
- Add the garlic cloves, ginger, orange sections, apple cider vinegar, and hot red pepper flakes. Add ice to fill the bucket to cover turkey with liquid. Cover and brine overnight or up to 24 hours.
- Remove turkey from brine, and discard the brine. Truss the turkey, and position onto rotisserie skewer. Cook over open fire until turkey reaches an internal temperature of 165-degrees. Turkey will self-baste as it cooks.
- Preheat oven to 450-degrees. Place turkey on baking pan, breast side up. Melt 1 cup of butter. Place a cheesecloth on the turkey breast that has been soaked in butter. This will keep the meat moist to keep from overcooking while baking. Cook for 15-minutes then reduce heat to 350-degrees.
- Cook for 15 minutes per pound (if stuffed then 17 minutes per pound), basting every 20 minutes. Cook until turkey reaches an internal temperature of 165-degrees. Remove cheesecloth the last twenty minutes of cooking.
- Remove to a tray and tent with foil for 15 minutes prior to carving. Carve and serve immediately. Can be stored in an airtight container for up to one week.