Apple Cider is the perfect brine for a cozy fall inspired turkey. Just a little sweetness, paired with the warm spices of cinnamon, cloves, star anise and fresh oranges will get you into the holiday spirit.
Brining your Turkey
Brining your turkey is one of the sure-fire ways to guarantee a picture perfect, flavorful juicy turkey this holiday season. The brining process helps season, tenderize and most importantly, keeps your meat from drying out when you accidentally over roast, while trying to reach the 165F safe temperature. It’s the best kept secret.
You can apple cider brine a whole turkey or if you you’re staying home this year and only feeding a few people – a turkey breast maybe the better option – either way the recipe is the same.
Filtered v. Unfiltered Apple Cider
Apple cider comes filtered (what you see the most in the grocery store). Unfiltered apple cider is a little more rustic, less processed/refined. It is also less sweet. For this brine, to recommend using unfiltered apple cider but if you have a hard time finding it – I only see it in speciality stores, you can use filtered apple cider.
Schedule your Turkey –
A few days before: Make sure there is enough space in your refrigerator for your bird. It will need to rest there for a couple of days. If froze, make sure to follow the package to safely defrost. Note: You can start your brining process while your turkey is still semi-frozen – brine and defrost at the same time – easy peasy.
You will need a brining bag, large Tupperware container or something else that I haven’t thought of that will keep your turkey submerged in the brining liquid for 12-24/48 hours.
Apple Cider Brine – 12-24/48 hours. You can brine for as short as 12 hours and for as long as 48 hours, just do it whenever it fits your schedule. Brining solution is a 6% salt to liquid ratio, see the Apple Cider Brine recipe below, this can be used for a turkey up to 15lbs. If you have a bigger bird, you can double the ratio and have the same successful results.
You will want to clean out the turkey, remove the giblet package if it has one, the neck and any thing else that is stored in the cavity. You will also want to trim any large chucks of fat away. If your turkey is too frozen to remove the items in the cavity and you are brining and defrosting at the same time, you can remove it before roasting.
The Day of :
Before roasting: You will want to take your turkey out of the brine and give it a rinse (outside of the turkey to remove any brining seasonings that may have stuck onto the skin, and rinse out the cavity) Pat it dry. Let it sit out for about 30 minutes to take the chill off before putting it the the oven.
Carefully pull apart the skin from the meat to create a space to shove butter cubes in between. You will also want to spread butter on top of the skin all over the bird. This will allow the skin to become crispy and perfectly brown adding a deep level of flavor.
Timing: Check the chart on the turkey package to make sure you’re planning enough time. In my experience an 8-12 lb turkey takes about 3 1/2 hours. A 15lb turkey took roughly 4 1/2 hours, but again, use the package as a guide.
Resting: You will want to rest your turkey for about 1/3 of the entire cooking time. For example, if you roasted your turkey for 3 hours, you would want it to rest for 1 hour before serving.
Resting is very important, it allows the juices of the meat go back to the center. During roasting the temperature pushes the juice of the meat to the outer edge, if you do not give it time to become evenly distributed throughout, when you cut into the turkey it will most likely be dry the meat out.
This is also the perfect time to finish up any sides and gravy that may be accompanying the turkey on the table.
Cozy Apple Cider Turkey (Brine & Roasting Recipe)
- Brining Container: Large Brining Bag, Large Tupperware Container – something to keep your turkey fully submerged in liquid.
- Roasting Pan
- Twine or strong string
- Meat Thermometer
Apple Cider Brining Solution
- 1 > 15 lb Turkey or Turkey Breast
- 12 cups Water – divided
- 4 cups Unfiltered Apple Cider (you can use filtered if needed)
- 1 cup Kosher Salt
- 2 Bay Leaves
- 2 Cinnamon Sticks
- 1 Star Anise
- 1 tsp Whole Cloves
- 1 tsp Peppercorns
- 2 Oranges – cut in large slices
Roasting the Turkey
- 1 >15 lb Turkey – Brined see above
- 1 Onion – cut in quarters
- 1 Celery Stalk – cut into large chunks
- ½ Lemon – cut in quarters
- ½ Orange – cut in quarters
- 1 handful Fresh Sage Leaves
- 2 sprigs Fresh Rosemary
- 1 handful Fresh Thyme
- ½ cup Butter – cut into 6 TBSP cubes and 1 2-TBSP cube
Apple Cider Brine
- Clean out the turkey, remove the neck, and packet of giblets. Set aside.
- In a large pot, add 8 cups of water, 4 cups of apple cider, salt and all of the ingredients seasonings (bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, star anise, cloves, peppercorns, and oranges).
- Bring up to a boil until all of the salt is dissolved. Turn down to a simmer for 5 minutes.Take off it off the heat and let it cool down, add the rest of the 8 cups of cold water.
- Once the brining liquid is lukewarm or colder it’s ready. In your brining bag or large container, put in your turkey breast side down and pour the brining solution over the turkey. The turkey should be fully submerged in the liquid.It's okay if the back bone is out of the brine.
- Place your turkey bag on a sheet pan with parchment paper or a towel. Store the turkey in the brining solution on the lowest level-shelf in your refrigerator (should your bag leak you don’t want it to drip onto anything else). Let it brine for at least 12 hours, no longer than 48 hours. See Roasting Instructions Below.
Roasting your Apple Cider Brined Turkey
- Take your turkey out of the brine, rinse off and pat dry, let it come up to room temperature or at least get the chill off of it – about 30 minutes. You can continue with the prep steps during the 30 minutes so that you can save on time.
- Preheat your oven to 450F.
- Prepare your ingredients – have ready your all of your aromatics (onion, celery, lemon, orange, herbs) Divide your butter up, 1 TBSP and then 6 squares, 1/2 TBSP each.
- Prepare to truss your bird. Tuck the wings behind the shoulder of the bird, similar to if you were putting your hands behind your head to do a sit up. Then take a twine, or a large string and place the center of it underneath the turkey so that it lays across the shoulders.
- Stuff the cavity of the bird with your aromatics (onion, celery, lemon, orange, herbs)
- Truss the turkey. Pull your twine or string up and over the wings pulling it tight so that the wings stay close the body of the bird, but not too tight to pierce the skin. Pull the twine/string across the bird so that it falls between the thigh and the breast, tightly tie around the ankles of the bird. Be careful not to break the skin.
- Place your turkey on your roasting rack and in your roasting pan.
- Slowly and carefully pull the skin away from the meat of the breasts and stuff each side with 2 squares of the butter.
- Then near the same hole, you will do the same for the thighs, but only put in 1 square per leg.
- The bird should have all 6 squares of butter underneath the skin, then with the remainder of the butter, you will want to spread it over the top of the skin. This will help create a delicious crispy beautiful brown color.
- Roast at 450F for 15 minutes. This will help jump start the browning process.After 15 minutes, drop the temperature to 325F.
- Roast for 2 hours at 325F, without doing anything to it – just let it go.
- After 2 hours, baste with a baster, large spoon or I have even found it super easy to lift the roasting rack out of the pan, pour the pan juices in a measuring cup, once you put the roasting rack back on the pan, pour the juices from the measuring cup onto the turkey.
- Place a foil cover over the breasts to keep them from getting too brown.
- Put the bird back in the oven for another hour (total roasting time should be 3 hours and 15 minutes for a 12lb turkey). Before you pull it out TAKE HIS TEMPERATURE.Put a meat thermometer in the deepest part of the breast meat without going through into the cavity, and again in the thigh, making sure not to hit the bone, both checks should be at least 165F. Do not skip this step, even if you have a turkey with a "pop-up when done", I suggest to still use meat thermometer to check.