Smoked Turkey Brine Recipe

April 6, 2018

Turkey brine with apple spice will add moisture, tenderness, and those amazing fall flavors of apples, fresh herbs, and spices to your turkey! This turkey brine recipe will become a regular for all your holiday gatherings.

The Best Turkey Brine

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 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, a simple turkey brine you will use over and over.

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.


Turkey Brine

Best Turkey for Brining

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 like “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.

Smoked Turkey Brine

How to Brine a Turkey

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.

Smoked Turkey Brine Video

[brid autoplay=”true” video=”411440″ player=”17446″ title=”Apple Spice Brined Smoked Turkey”]

Turkey Brine Recipe for Smoking

Apple spice turkey brine being poured over a whole uncooked turkey in a large stock pot.

Simple Apple Spice Turkey Brine

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!
4.87 from 15 votes
Prep Time : 15 mins
Cook Time : 10 mins
Total Time : 26 mins
Servings : 5 people


  • 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

After the brine is cooked

  • 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.
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Turkey Brine Recipe

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124 thoughts on “Smoked Turkey Brine Recipe

  1. Susie! I unwittingly purchased a pre-brined turkey… I know it’s not a good idea to brine it again as it would likely end up too salty, but I’d really like to add some of the flavor of your Apple Spice Turkey Brine. How do you think it would work if I just cut the salt out of your recipe?

      1. I also was fooled by a pre-brined bird. However, I just got done with the brine recipe when I noticed. Should I just throw it all out and start over, or can I just dilute the brine with more water and apple juice?

      1. I did this with a prebrined grocery store bird and cut the salt in half. I actually cooked a traditional turkey as well incase the my brining and smoked one didn’t go do well. It turned out amazing, absolutly love this recipe, even on a bird thats already brined. (cut the salt in half)

    1. I have smoked a Turkey for the last 5 years and have put it in a brine overnight every time, even though it was prescribed. Like everyone here says, just cut back on the salt. Looking forward to using this Apple Spice brine this year!

        1. I am smoking 2 turkeys this year. Back to back for different events. Am I able to use the same brine for the second turkey?

          1. I wouldn’t. Cross-contamination would be a real issue here. If there were something awry with the first turkey, you certainly wouldn’t want to pass it on to multiple other ones.

    1. You could, but because of the salt content I would be worried about it evaporating and leaving nasty salt deposits in your pan. I would stick with apple juice or water.

  2. The amount of liquid after the boil and adding the ice and juice doesn’t seem to be enough to fully submerge a 13lb turkey. Is it safe to add more apple juice to make sure it’s fully submerged?

      1. This Brine looks great! More on what Ryan said… I have brined a turkey once and it was great. i did not have enough to cover the turkey and added more brine (mainly salt and water brine) and water. Looking forward to trying this recipe. If there is not enough brine, do you recommend that another batch of brine be made? I use a Rubbermaid plastic storage container to Brine. It works great, but it is a little big sometimes… any ideas on a good container to brine in that does not involve a trip to the restaurant supply store? Thanks!!

        1. There are large brining bags I’ve found at grocery stores that work great! They are usualle either by the other zip top bags or on the aisle with disposable aluminum baking and roasting pans.

        2. The big ziplocks, that way you get away with squeezing it enough to cover the turkey…yum
          Tis the season

        3. Try a Home Depot Bucket and Brining bags from amazon. It works awesome every time. I usually do 17lb turkeys.

          1. I used a 5 gallon bucket with a bag in it. I also stuffed some towels in between the bucket and bag to take up space this made the recipie amount of brine cover the whole 20 pound turkey.

      1. Could I also add some fresh rosemary and sage in the turkeys cavity along with the apple and onion? Or would that overpower the flavors of the apple infused meat? I have been brining my turkey for years now and I must say that it makes a world of difference. Dry turkey is a thing of the past!! This year I just wanted to try a different brine out. 🙂

    1. I love your recipe and will do it next week for Thanksgiving. I cooked a Turkey yesterday and tried a salty brine. After cooking the bird we tasted it at midnight. It was horribly salty but still very moist. NOW….how do we get the salty taste out or cover it up so we can eat the guy???

  3. I am going to use this brine recipe this year. I am roasting so will use liquid smoke, have the Turkey butterfly (SPLIT INTO) this way I can use turn the Turkey in the brine and all the meat gets happy

    1. Hey Steph, I will be roasting my turkey as well. How do I use the liquid smoke?
      Thanks, in advance, for your help.

  4. I am too stubborn not to brine even thought we have a turkey with the “salt and spices added” To me it seems feasible to soak the bird in plain water, refreshing it several times to take away the flavor from the store. Does this seem like it could work to anyone else? Also, it’s a 16 lb. Bird and I am guessing 1.5 times the recipe should be the right volume to keep it submerged. Any input here too? Thank you!

    1. Last year my husband bought a pre-seasoned turkey and we did as you suggested. It ended up tasting AWFUL. I don’t suggest this. We ended up picking up a turkey from Luby’s Cafeteria just to try and save face. We’ll do it right this year.

    1. It is possible to extend the brining period, but that could mean an overly salty turkey and they can become mushy. I don’t recommend more than 1 hour per pound with my recipe.

    1. It is possible to extend the brining period, but that could mean an overly salty turkey and they can become mushy. I don’t recommend more than 1 hour per pound with my recipe.

  5. The only addition I included was adding a quartered orange along with the apple and onion. I also doubled the recipe since I cooked an 18-lb. bird. SOOOOO juicy and delicious!

    1. I’m giving a 5 star and I haven’t finished yet, doing a trial run for thanksgiving this year but after trying your cider brine pulled pork I’m more than confident this one will knock it out of the park as well. Bird is currently smoking but I had one question, do you baste the smoked turkey with the brine every hour as you do with the pork? I also added fresh cranberries to the brine and also stuffed the cavity with the apples, onions, herbs, and fresh cranberries. Excited to see how it turns out!!

  6. Hey there, I have one of the preinjected turkeys, as there really isn’t anywhere around here to buy one fresh one. It is still okay to brine, but just reduce the amount of salt?

  7. I would recommend doubling this recipe. After making the brine it wasn’t nowhere near enough to submerge my 16lb turkey. ☺️????

  8. Hey there. So if I leave my 13lb Turkey in the brine for about 16 hours will that be too long or will it be okay?

    1. I’m pretty strict about sticking to the 1 hour per pound instruction just because I wouldn’t want your turkey to be too salty. You can take it out, rinse it and keep cold until you are ready to smoke.

  9. I am going to try this brine out today. Is there an issue with using a dry rub on the turkey before I put it on the smoker?

  10. I have fresh Ginger root. I couldn’t find candied ginger. Would you use fresh ginger or turn into candied ginger from it?

  11. What would the brine recipe be for a 14lb turkey? I want to make sure the turkey is totally submerged but the herbs and spices not diluted.

  12. 8 cups of apple juice AND and Apple?
    Any reason for that?
    I just have one apple in the kitchen and it’s going in the dressing.
    I also substituted fresh ginger – all about what you have on hand.
    Brine made. Will pour it on the turkey before I go to sleep tonight. It will smoke on the Traeger tomorrow morning.
    Thanks for the recipe!

  13. So I made the spicy apple brine and soaked an 11# bird for 2 days prior to Thanksgiving. Took the apples, onions, and fresh herbs and stuck them in the cavity prior to smoking. Smoked at 225 for 5 hours then wrapped the bird in foil at 175 for about 45 minutes while everything else finished in the kitchen. From the three hour mark on, about every 45 minutes i brushed on another coat of olive oil. This turned out to not only be the prettiest bird I have ever cooked, but far and away the best tasting turkey I have ever had. The flavors were so wonderful I sit here on Friday morning amazed. Recipe saved and will be repeated. Thanks!

  14. This was the perfect amount of brine for our 16 pound fresh turkey. I used a turkey roasting bag and an Artic cooler to brine. We are super excited to smoke this thing tomorrow! Thanks for the recipe.

  15. For Thanksgiving I used this recipe for the turkey and your cider brined pulled pork for an additional main course. It was unanimous that it was the most tender and juicy turkey anyone had ever had and about 1/4 of the pulled pork never made it to the serving line because guests kept coming for another taste. The fall spices and apple juice made the perfect combination and I will never use another recipe.
    I did double the brine for my 19# turkey and used half the salt because I couldn’t find an unbrined bird at my local store. Cooked at 300 for approximately 6 hrs made the perfect bird. Thanks for the great recipes!

  16. Hi, I’d like to use this brine, however, instead of smoking it, I want to roast it in the oven. Can I do that?

    Thanks, in advance, for your help.

  17. I plan to part my turkey out before brining and smoking. Should I reduce the time it sits in the brine? It’s an 18lb whole turkey.

  18. I am not a turkey fan and haven’t been since I was very little. That being said I have tried many different ways to prepare our thanksgiving turkey. NOW I NEVER right reviews but this recipe is so good I am doing it again this year! I added one more Apple and a couple more cloves to this recipe and OMG our 16 pound bird was the star attraction. I had no bird left over. Please note I have a small family. My mom myself and my 12 year old son.

    I smoked the turkey with apple chips as well. ????

    Hands down an easy 5 star rating!

    Thanks to the one who shared this recipe!!!

  19. I plan on using your brining recipe this year.
    I have read some great reviews.
    I am having a hard time locating candied ginger, there is crystallized ginger. would you recommend using fresh ginger and using a candy recipe? What do you suggest…

  20. I used this recipe last year and got rave reviews. Going to use again and smoke with a combination of apple and pecan pellets. I forgot to rub it down with oil first, will have to remember that this year!

  21. I had one of those pre-basted turkeys but, really wanted to do this brine so, I used just half the salt. I want to say that it was absolutely amazing.

    I removed the backbone and ribs, then cut off the leg quarters to have 3 pieces. I smoked at 270 degrees on my Backwoods Chubby G2 for 3 hours on the leg quarters and about 4 hours on the breast until each were at 165 IT. Great color, tenderness, moistness, and flavor. I wish I could post pics but it looked like a pro job from this old back yard cook. Thank you for the awesome tips and recipes! Keep ROCKING!!!

  22. Trying this for the first time. My 13 lb turkey is spatcocked and I plan on cooking on my Traeger smoker grill. Any ideas on temperature and cooking time?

  23. I didnt have candied ginger so I used a thumb sized chunk of raw ginger and after discarding the peel I used the peeler to shave the ginger into thin strips and tossed it into the cooking mix. Great touch of spice!

  24. I used the complete recipe for a 3 lb turkey breast which am assuming is fine? Can I keep the brine until tomorrow then add the breast for 3 hours soaking? Will the flavor be as good or can I put in the brine now for overnight? I just do not want the breast to be too salty. Thanks.

  25. This is AMAZING!!! My turkey turned out phenomenal. Juicy, delicious, and flavorful. Thank you so much for this brine recipe.

  26. Amazing, thank you again for these. I went an extra step and also used mango orange juice as well. Best turkey I’ve made and actually sliced the rest into sandwich meat.

  27. Hi was wondering I thought the brine was chilled and forgot to stir it so put the turkey in the brine and then realized it was still a little bit warm, but then put straight into a cold fridge, I hope I didn’t wreck it. Snakeskin brine overnight

  28. Im picking up a 20 pound turkey from a farm. I will probably double the ingredients to this brine. What kind of wood do you recommend for smoking the turkey. I was thinking apple wood. Thanks for this recipe!

  29. I am going to make this brine for my Thanksgiving turkey this year. Is there anything wrong with making the brine a day in advance? I was going to make the brine on Tuesday and keep it refrigerated until pouring it over the turkey on Wednesday afternoon.

  30. Has anybody tried this with chicken? I am planning to smoke a couple of small 7#ers and about a couple dozen chicken wings and was going to try this with the wings too.

  31. I am smoking 2 turkeys back to back for different events. One tonight and one tomorrow. Is it possible to use the same brine for the second bird? Thanks

  32. Hi
    I’m using your smoked turkey recipe and your apple spice brine. In this apple spice brine recipe you said You don’t need to add any additional salt or seasoning to the exterior of the turkey but in the smoked turkey recipe you said to use the brine and you also suggest using your simple sweet rub. If I use both your brine and sweet rub will it make it to salty?

  33. I’m in heaven!! My wife normally just has a small bite of turkey because it’s so dry. This year was my first time cooking a turkey and Hey Grill Hey was my bible! The whole family was amazed at how tasty and moist the turkey was! And my wife said this was the best turkey she’s ever eaten! This brine recipe and the one for the smoked spatcocked turkey at high heat were so easy to follow. Thank you Susie, for making me feel like a hero! 🙂

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  34. Instant favorite! Turkey came out fantastic, and everyone loved it!!! We brined it (14lbs bird) for about 16 hours, rinsed/dried and let it sit for 5 hours. Threw it on the Traeger smoke setting for 3 hours, then cranked up the heat for another 3+ Gave it a great smokey taste and still so moist. Already got the request to make it for our Christmas. For anyone looking for a wet brine recipe, this is amazing. Very easy as well! Thank you.

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