This Apple Cider Sage Turkey Brine infuses roasted turkey with so much flavor and helps keep the meat moist. It’s a must have for me when I’m hosting Thanksgiving.
I have made a few different turkey brine recipes over the years. Last year I shared a recipe for Fresh Herb and Citrus Turkey Brine and before that I mostly used a recipe passed down to my by my Mother-in-Law.
Because this will be our first Thanksgiving in our new home and our first Thanksgiving with my sister living near by, I thought: why not mix things up a little bit with a new recipe for the big day. We tested this Apple Cider Sage Turkey Brine out in advance and we all agree that it is a winner.
Turkey Brining Do’s and Don’ts
Brining might sound complicated and lengthy, but once you get the hang of it the process is really not difficult. There are a few rules you should know about before you attempt brining a turkey. If you are wondering how to roast a turkey, check out my Turkey Roasting Tips.
Use a fresh, unsalted turkey.
Many frozen turkeys come pre-brined in a plain salt water solution. Additionally, a turkey labeled as “kosher” will already be salted. Brining in these situations would only leave you with an incredibly salty turkey.
Keep the proportions of the recipe.
If you need less or more brine for a smaller or larger turkey you will need adjust all of the ingredient amounts in the recipe. For example, all of the ingredients in this Apple Cider Sage Turkey Brine recipe would need to be doubled if you needed double the amount – not just the liquid.
Store safely and at the proper temperature.
I prefer to place my turkey and brine in a large zip-top bag. I recommend the Ziploc Big Bags (size large or extra large). If the turkey is small enough, place the bagged turkey inside something to contain any leaks (such as a roasting pan or foil tray) and store in the refrigerator.
If the turkey is extra large and will not fit in your refrigerator, place the bagged turkey in a cooler and surround the zipped bag with ice. Do not add ice to the brine as that would only dilute the ratios of salt to liquid. Then, store the cooler wherever it is coolest – the garage, basement, or even on the back porch if temperatures are cold enough.
Brine for the appropriate length of time.
How long you will brine your meat for largely depends on how big the piece of meat is. A simple boneless, skinless chicken breast or a couple of pork chops don’t need more than an hour. In contrast, a large 18+ pound turkey will need several hours or up to a full day to soak in the brine. Here is a quick run down of the timing.
Brining Time Guide
- Whole Turkey: 12-24 hours
- Turkey Breast: 3-6 hours
- Large Whole Chicken: 2-4 hours
What do you do if due to your schedule you need to brine the turkey earlier than 24 hours before roasting?
I suggest brining it for the 12-24 hours you need. Then, remove it from the brine and rinse it inside and out. Pat it dry with a paper towel and then store it in the fridge for up to an additional 24 hours until you are ready to roast.
Have you ever brined a turkey before?
Apple Cider Sage Turkey Brine
Yield: brine for one 14 - 16 lb. turkey
For the Brine:
3 quarts fresh apple cider
1 1/4 cup Morton kosher salt
4 bay leaves
3 tablespoons whole allspice berries
2 tablespoons peppercorns
packed 2/3 cup chopped fresh sage leaves
peel of 2 large oranges
3 quarts cold water
To Prepare the Brine:
In a large stockpot, combine everything except the water. Bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat. Turn heat off and cool to room temperature. Add cold water.
For smaller stock pots, you may have to allow the brine to cool and add the additional amount when pouring the brine into the bag in the following step.
To Brine the Turkey:
Place the turkey in a large zip-top bag. I recommend the Ziploc Big Bags (size large). Put the bagged turkey in a clean cooler. Pour the brine over the turkey, in the bag, making sure the breasts are fully submerged. Zip the bag closed. Place the cooler in a cool place, such as your garage or basement (if temperatures are cold enough), and allow the turkey to soak in the cold brine for 12-24 hours.
Use gel ice packs or bagged ice around the zipped bag inside the cooler, if necessary, to keep the brine below 40°F. (Adding more ice directly to the brine would only dilute it.)
Alternatively, if you have room in your refrigerator, you may place the bagged turkey in a large foil tray rather than a cooler and store it on the fridge shelf.
Rinse the turkey inside and out and pat dry the turkey with paper towels. Bring to room temperature for 2 hours before roasting. Roast according to your preferred method.
Depending on the brand of kosher salt you use, you'll need different amounts of salt because the different brands available on the market have different densities. I use Morton's kosher salt in this recipe, however here are the conversions and listings for the maximum amount of salt to use per gallon of liquid:
- Diamond Crystal 2 cups salt per gallon of liquid.
- Morton's kosher 1 1/3 cups salt per gallon of liquid.