Using my apple spice turkey brine recipe will add moisture, tenderness, and those amazing fall flavors of apples, fresh herbs, and spices to your turkey!
There are several ways to brine a turkey, some prefer a dry brine of just a ratio of salt and sugar on the exterior of the bird. I prefer a wet brine, where the salt mixture is suspended in liquid and the turkey is left to marinade in the chilled brine before cooking. In a wet brine, you have the opportunity to add infuse more flavor, like spices, herbs, and other flavorful liquids. That’s exactly what I’m doing today in my recipe for Apple Spice Turkey Brine.
Wet brining is a process that can take a day to get right, so be sure to plan ahead so you get the correct amount of time. During the brining process, the salt actually changes the cellular structure within the bird and helps retain a lot of moisture while cooking. This process will also slightly change the texture of the meat. I love the tender texture I get with a brined bird, but some people think it is too soft and like a little extra chew from an unbrined bird. That’s the joy of recipes, you kind of get the opportunity to test things out, see what you like, and adapt them for your own tastes.
For this recipe, I recommend using an unbrined turkey. Most people don’t realize that the grocery store turkeys they are buying are pre-brined. You will see on the label things lime “injected with a ___% saline solution” or “self-basting” and both of those terms mean your turkey has been injected or brined before it was ever sold to you. The people selling turkeys love to do this because they can charge more money per pound for what is essentially just salt water. If you have a pre-brined turkey, I would recommend skipping this apple spice turkey brine and going straight to either slow smoking or spatchcocking and grilling at a higher temperature.
Your bird needs to be in the apple spice turkey brine for at least 1 hour for each pound of turkey. You can brine in a large stock pot, in a big zip top bag, or in a small cooler, just be sure the turkey stays submerged and that the brine temperature stays below 40 degrees F. Once your turkey is brined, be sure to rinse the bird thoroughly and clean your sink and surrounding area with disinfectant. Rinsing poultry can spread bacteria, so try to keep it contained. Don’t skip this step though, or your bird can end up too salty. This turkey should be sufficiently seasoned and not really require anything else in terms of a rub, but I do recommend coating lightly in oil or melted butter to help crisp the skin. From here, you can either slow smoke your turkey or butterfly the turkey and grill at a higher temperature.
- 4 cups water
- 4 cups apple juice
- 1 1/2 cups kosher salt or 1 cup table salt
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 Tablespoon black peppercorns
- 1 Tablespoon candied ginger
- 10 cloves
- 2 sprigs each rosemary, sage, and thyme
- 6 cups ice cubes
- 4 cups apple juice
- 1 large apple quartered
- 1 yellow onion quartered
In a large stock pot, combine the water, apple juice, salt, spices, and herbs. Bring to a boil.
Remove the brine from the heat and stir in the remaining cold apple juice and the ice cubes. Once the brine is fully chilled, pour over your turkey. Nestle the sliced apple and onion in the brine around your turkey. Brine in a container that can keep the turkey fully submerged in the brine.
Keep your turkey and brine below 40 degrees F during the entire brining process. Brine your turkey for approximately 1 hour per pound of turkey.
Once your turkey has been in the brine for long enough, remove from the brine and rinse gently, both on the inside and the exterior of the bird. Pat completely dry and drizzle with a little cooking oil or melted butter for a crispier skin. You don't need to add any additional salt or seasoning to the exterior of the turkey before grilling or smoking. If you like, you can stuff the turkey cavity with the apple and onion slices from the brine.