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Want the Juiciest Most Tender Holiday Turkey? Brine Your Turkey!

Updated on December 22, 2013

Apple Cider - Honey Brined Bacon Wrapped Turkey

5 stars from 2 ratings of Apple Cider - Honey Brined Turkey

Is turkey on your holiday menu?

Holidays usually conjure up many traditions. For many families one of those traditions is the menu for the holiday meal.

What's on your table come Thanksgiving and Christmas time? Is it beef, ham, pork, chicken, pheasant, lasagna, enchiladas, or the all - American turkey?

I'll have to admit ye old turkey has shared many Thanksgivings and Christmases with my family. My confession? I was always a ham girl - yes, we were a two option family.

Turkey - Love it or Hate it?

Turkey can be one of those love it or hate it foods. Very few people are on the fence when it comes to turkey.

For me, turkey was a one or two day a year event and I was actually a fence straddler. I was a "white meat" gal when I did help myself to a slice or two of turkey.

But, I usually found turkey to be a little dry and tasteless - that's until I had my first brined turkey.

Believe me - after that, there's no going back.

What's a brine?

So, right about now you may be asking, "What's a brine?"

A brine is a salty liquid solution used for food. Years ago it was used to preserve food, especially when food was going to be transported long distances.

You may find a brine used with different types of foods. For instance, when pickles are made the salty, flavorful solution the cucumbers are submerged in is a brine. Okra can be pickled in a similar way. Who doesn't love to fish an olive from its briny solution and pop one into their mouth?

Some cheeses are washed in a brine. Limburger cheese gets it's famous odor from a brine that has developed a bacteria overgrowth.

Perhaps the most well known use of a brine is for meats and poultry. During this process the meat or poultry is soaked in the brine much like it would be a marinade. The brine uses a scientific process called osmosis to hydrate the muscle tissue of the meat and poultry. As a result, once cooked, you will have an incredibly tender and moist bird or piece of meat.

Some of the Many Flavor Enhancers that Can Be Used in A Brine

  • Spices - whole or ground
  • Fresh herbs
  • Garlic
  • Ginger root - fresh or crystalized
  • Honey, molasses or maple syrup
  • Brown sugar
  • Apple cider
  • Juicers
  • Vinegar
  • Beers

Is there only one brine recipe?

Is there only one recipe and one way to brine a turkey? Simply, no.

There's dozens of recipes and the turkeys can be grilled, roasted in the oven or smoked. The ingredient options is limited to imagination.

Also, don't forget you can brine chicken and meats.

Brining Our Holiday Turkey

My husband, Tall & Handsome is the grillmaster in our family. Over the years he has grilled several brined turkeys for our holiday meals. This year he did an exceptional job and a large part was because of the brine.

So, what exactly is in the brine? Well, the two basic ingredients are going to be a liquid like water or broth and kosher salt. Kosher salt will dissolve faster and is lower in sodium. The rest of the brine will vary and is made up of different flavor agents like spices, herbs and juice, etc.

This year's turkey was Apple Cider - Honey Brined Bacon Wrapped Turkey. Take a look and see if you don't agree this is a tasty looking bird.

Apple Cider - Honey Brined Bacon Wrapped Turkey

Apple Cider - Honey Brined Turkey This turkey can be grilled, smoked or roasted in the oven, but it won't have that extra smoky flavor ig cooked in the oven.
Apple Cider - Honey Brined Turkey This turkey can be grilled, smoked or roasted in the oven, but it won't have that extra smoky flavor ig cooked in the oven. | Source

Serve your juicy turkey on a lovely platter.

HIC Turkey Oversized Serving Platter, Embossed, Fine White Porcelain, 17-Inches
HIC Turkey Oversized Serving Platter, Embossed, Fine White Porcelain, 17-Inches
Your holiday turkey will look extra special on a platter designed just for the occasion.

Let's Get Started

You may think it's hard to make a brined turkey, but it's not. I'm going to break it down it steps for you. Some of the steps, like the brine and the rub can be made a day or two ahead of time for time saving steps. Just be sure to keep the brine cold and the rub in an airtight container.

First, the brine, then the rub, next the aromatics and herbs and finally the turkey and cooking directions.

So, let's get started.

For the Brine

8 cups apple cider

1 1/2 cups kosher salt

1 3/4 cups packed brown sugar

1 cup apple cider vinegar

10 whole allspice, crushed

1/4 cup fresh ginger root, peeled and crushed

1 cinnamon stick

1 cup honey

5 bay leaves

1 tablespoon whole peppercorns

1. In a large stockpot combine all ingredients with 8 cups of water. Stirring occasionally, bring to a boil over high heat.

2. Remove from heat and allow the brine to cool to room temperature. Then, place in the refrigerator until cold. (You can make this a day ahead.)

3. You are now ready to prepare your turkey for the brine. Remove the giblets from the turkey, wash the turkey and pat it dry with paper towels.

4. Place the turkey, breast side down in a container large enough for it and the brine. (we use an ice chest) Pour the brine over the turkey - don't be alarmed if the turkey floats. Add ice to the turkey and brine. We dump the whole tray of ice from the icemaker or use a bag of ice.

5. Close the lid and place the container in the fridge or if using an ice chest, in a cool dry place for 6 to 20 hours. (We let it brine overnight.)

Your Holiday Turkey in the Brine

Turkey in the Brine
Turkey in the Brine | Source

This cooler is similar to the one we use for our turkey and brine.

Spice rub for brined turkey

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon packed brown sugar

2 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground coriander

1/8 teaspoon cumin

1. Combine all ingredients and set aside. You can make ahead of time. Store in an airtight container.

Aromatics and Herbs for brined turkey

1 Gala apple, quartered

1 orange, quartered

2 cinnamon sticks

4 chunks of fresh ginger root, peeled and crushed

4 fresh sage leaves

4 sprigs fresh rosemary

1. Place all ingredients except fresh herbs in a microwave dish. Cover the aromatics with water and microwave for 5 minutes. Drain water and set aside with herbs until ready to insert in cavities of turkey.

Aromatics for the cavities of the turkey

Aromatics for the cavities of the brined turkey
Aromatics for the cavities of the brined turkey | Source

Herbs for the cavities of the brined turkey

Fresh herbs for the cavities of the brined turkey.
Fresh herbs for the cavities of the brined turkey. | Source

Now We're Ready to Prep the Turkey and Grill the Bird

For the turkey:

5 tablespoon vegetable oil

3/4 cup butter, divided

1/4 cup honey

about 2 pounds of bacon

2 cups hardwood chips - we used hickory and apple (soak in apple juice for 30 minutes)

1 cup apple juice in a spray bottle for basting

1. Remove the turkey from the brine, rinse it and pat dry. Discard the brine. In the meantime soak the wood chips in apple juice.

2. Rub the inside of each cavity with 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and sprinkle 1 1/2 teaspoon of the rub in each cavity.

3. In a small bowl combine 1 tablespoon of the rub with 1/2 cup soften butter.

4. Now, you will begin to gently slide your hands between the skin and the breast meat of the turkey trying not to tear the skin. With your fingers begin applying the butter - spice rub mixture between the skin and the breast meat and any where else you can reach.

5. It's time to fill the cavities. In the smaller cavity place one quarter apple, one quarter onion and one quarter orange plus one sage leaf, one chunk ginger root and one sprig rosemary. Add the remaining aromatics and herbs to the larger cavity.

6. Use twine and tie the legs together and tuck the wings behind the neck.

7. You're now ready to rub 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil over the turkey, followed by 1/4 cup honey and 3 1/2 tablespoons of the spice rub.

8. In a disposal roasting pan, place a flat rack. Line the rack with bacon where the turkey will sit. Place the turkey on the bacon and then cover the rest of the turkey with bacon. You can use toothpicks to secure the bacon.

9. If your grill has a smoke tray, add your wood chips now. If not, make smoke bombs by dividing the chips between two pieces of foil. Poke holes in the foil and place one of the "bombs" on the grill over an active burner.

10. Place the pan with the turkey in it on the grill and cover the grill. Cook on indirect heat for 2 to 3 hours until the bacon begins to turn dark. Then, remove the bacon, sprinkle with the remaining rub and put 4 tablespoon of butter, that have been cut in pieces on top of the turkey.

11. Begin spraying the turkey with apple juice every 30 minutes. Continue to grill until turkey temperature reaches 165 degrees. If turkey skin begins to get too dark, tent the turkey with foil. Allow turkey to set 20 minutes before cutting.

Be prepared to enjoy one of the best turkeys you've ever tasted - tender, juicy and full of flavor.


Martha and Emril brine a turkey together

© 2013 Beverly Hicks Burch


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    • BeverlyHicksBurch profile imageAUTHOR

      Beverly Hicks Burch 

      7 years ago from Southeastern United States

      I can second that outcome after years of eating excellent brined turkeys. And, several have been brined in different recipes. Awesome work by my grillmaster.

    • Reggie Burch profile image

      Reggie Burch 

      7 years ago

      Whether bake or grill if you use a brine I guarantee the result will be the best tasting and juiciest turkey you have ever had.


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