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

Turkey Brine Recipe for Smoking

smoked turkey brine
Print Recipe
4.82 from 11 votes

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!
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Total Time26 mins
Course: Main Dish
Cuisine: Party Food
Servings: 5 people

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  • 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.

Turkey Brine Recipe

This post contains affiliate links. For more information on them, visit our Privacy Policy

80 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
          Cranberry-Apple
          Tis the season

      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

  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.

  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!

  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. ☺️????

    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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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!

  10. 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!

  11. 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.

  12. 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!

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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!!!

  16. 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…

  17. 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!

  18. 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!!!

  19. 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?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *