My family and I don’t celebrate Thanksgiving. It’s not a cultural tradition of ours. While we don’t take part in the celebration, November is turkey season at every grocery store that I shop at. Now, I’m a bargain shopper. I use my grocery store weeklies to plan out my family’s meals for the week so when turkeys are on sale, I try to stock up. Who passes up the opportunity to buy a turkey for the price of a chicken when you have a family of 8?
I have made turkey dishes many times over the years. I look forward to having warm turkey sandwiches for lunch, and turkey pot pies for dinner. If I’m in a pinch for time, I tend to stick to turkey breasts instead of the whole turkey. While I haven’t had the experience of burning or undercooking a turkey, I have had my fair share of having dry, overcooked turkey. Over the years I have stuck to a turkey brine recipe that I love and makes a nice juicy turkey every time.
The first time I heard the word brine I was confused. It seemed every turkey recipe was referencing a step that I didn’t know I needed to take. My initial thought was, “What the heck is a brine and what does it have to do with my turkey?” In my research I found out that a turkey brine is a soaking method of water and salt used to soak whole turkeys to help moistening of the turkey meat and helps with flavoring. The brine breaks down some of the proteins in the meat and allows liquid to be absorbed into the turkey.
The most important part of brining a turkey is making sure that your turkey is fully submerged in the brine. You’ll need a pot large enough to accomplish this feat. Many stores carry turkey brining bags if you don’t have a pot large enough. Here’s a tip, make sure your turkey is fully thawed before adding it to your brine.
A turkey brine is a mix of water, salt, sugar, herbs and spices. In the recipe that I use, the ingredients include kosher salt, peppercorns, brown sugar, apple cider, lemons, oranges, garlic, and rosemary. I add all of the ingredients into a large stock pot to dissolve the salt and sugar. After letting the brine cool. I add the turkey and let the brining begin.
Here’s where trial and error have served me well. I have found turkey brine recipes where the brining time called for 48 hours. In my opinion, a prolonged brining time can over salt the turkey. I stick to a 24 hour brine time, 18 hours if I’m running behind.
When removing your turkey from your brine, make sure to pat your turkey dry using paper towels. Roast your turkey for about 20 minutes per pound. Insert your thermometer into the thickest part of the turkey thigh to check if it’s done. Your turkey should be 165 degrees fahrenheit.
If this is your first time brining a turkey you are in luck! I am including my favorite turkey brine that I have used over the years that has served me well. Disclaimer: this is NOT a recipe that I created. After using it for so many years, I no longer need the recipe, nor do I remember where I picked it up from.
2 cups apple cider
1 ½ cups kosher salt
2 gallons of cold water
1 cup brown sugar
5 garlic cloves smashed
2 oranges thinly sliced
2 lemons thinly sliced
2 tablespoons peppercorns
4-5 rosemary sprigs
Place all the ingredients in a large pot over medium heat, bring to a simmer. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until salt and sugar have dissolved. Turn off the heat. Allow the brine to cool. Place whole turkey in the brine fully submerged for 24 hours refrigerated. Before cooking turkey, remove from the brine and rinse with cool water. Pat the turkey dry with paper towels. Use your favorite turkey recipe to roast your turkey.