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.

Turkey Brine

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 Recipe

The 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

Turkey Brine Recipe for Smoking

5 from 2 votes
Simple Apple Spice Turkey Brine
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
10 mins
Total Time
26 mins
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!
Course: Main Dish
Cuisine: Party Food
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
  1. In a large stock pot, combine the water, apple juice, salt, spices, and herbs. Bring to a boil.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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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15 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?

  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

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