Apple Cider & Herb Brined Turkey for Thanksgiving

Ali Segersten Nov 20, 2014 18 comments

To brine or not to brine...that is the question. I have found that brining a turkey produces very flavorful, juicy, and tender meat. In this post, I'm going to show you how to brine a whole turkey. Brining is the process of soaking the bird in a salt solution. Water from the brine is absorbed into the meat thereby increasing juiciness of the final roasted bird. I like to add flavoring agents as well such as sliced onions, garlic, oranges, and fresh herbs. A flavorful brined turkey will certainly impress your Thanksgiving guests!

I prefer to purchase turkeys from one of my favorite local organic permaculture farms. They are humanely raised and slaughtered right there on the farm. In our town there are a number of farms who raise organic turkeys and sell directly to the consumer. Sometimes you can ask your local Farmer's Market or health food store for the names and numbers of these farms. Often times you need to pre-order, though sometimes they have extra turkeys that they need to sell. Buying direct from a local, organic farmer is by far the healthiest and most sustainable way to enjoy a Thanksgiving turkey!

So now onto the actual process of brining a turkey! There are a few really important things to consider before embarking on this project. First, you will need a very large pot or container to hold the bird, brine, and flavoring agents. I use a 42-quart stainless steel pot. Some people use small coolers (this would work well if you can keep the temperature below 40 degrees, such as in a cold storage room or cold garage). Others use plastic bags. I prefer not to brine in plastic for various reasons, but if you do then you need to make sure you are using food-grade plastic, not plastic garbage bags. Second, you will need a space in your refrigerator to store the pot or container during brining. We have an extra refrigerator in our garage that I use. So as long as you have the right container and the space, then go ahead and try this recipe.


About the Author

Ali Segersten

Alissa Segersten holds a Bachelor's of Science in Nutrition from Bastyr University and a Master’s of Science in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine from the University of Western States. She is a Functional Nutritionist, the mother of five children, a whole foods cooking instructor, professional recipe developer, and cookbook author. She is passionate about helping others find a diet that will truly nourish them. Alissa is the author of two very popular gluten-free, whole foods cookbooks and guidebooks: The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook and Nourishing Meals. She is also the co-author of The Elimination Diet book. Alissa is the founder and owner of Nourishing Meals®.

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Hello, I’m wondering what the quantity of apple cider is for this brine, I’m not seeing it included. Thank you!

Hi Michelle,

1 GALLON. It looks like there was an editing mistake when we transferred this recipe over to the new site. Thanks for catching that! :)

Thank you, looking forward to trying it!

Yes of course you can leave out the garlic. It's just in there for flavoring. You can add or subtract flavorings as needed. Enjoy! :)

I would like to try this but my dad believes he is allergic to garlic (respitory reaction). Do think it would taste ok without?

I did not know that. I am referring to organic unfiltered apple juice or fresh pressed apple cider here…NOT hard cider. Thanks for posting your question here. Hope nobody makes that mistake. :)

I wanted to make this turkey for Christmas, but I live in Vancouver, Canada and it seems like that the term Apple Cider refers to alcoholized cider over here and I can't find non alcoholic version in stores... Am I correct in assuming that Apple Cider in the recipe is unfiltered apple juce? Or can I substitute it with unfiltered apple juce?
Thanks, Regina

Thanks Janice for the feedback! :)

I followed this recipe for my Thanksgiving turkey and it was absolutely delicious, the best I've ever had! The meat was moist and delicate and greatly appreciated by all.

Thanks Monica! Happy Giving Thanks Day to you too! :)

Hi Peter- no not at all. I don't flip the turkey but you certainly can do that to help keep the breast meat as juicy as possible.

Wonderful recipes, thank you for sharing.
Wishing you and your family a perfect Thanksgiving celebration,

Do you find that the turkey gets soggy from sitting in the liquid? Do you flip the turkey to brown the bottom? Thanks!

I use a slightly coarse French grey sea salt. The finer the salt, the saltier the brine will be. You can adjust accordingly. Last Christmas I brined a 22-pound turkey with 1 1/2 cups of salt and it was perfect.

How course was the salt you used for this? I'm excited to use your recipe, it sounds wonderful. This will be the first time I've brined a turkey!

I can't wait to try this next week! It sounds delicious.

With about 2 gallons of liquid and 1 cup of salt the meat actually doesn't taste salty, just flavorful. You can certainly rinse the bird before roasting as I know some who prefer this. There is still quite a bit of turkey flavor using these ratios of liquid to salt (traditional brining recipes usually call for 1 cup of salt per gallon of liquid). I would not post a recipe that was overly salty.

I have always rinsed my turkey after brining, as the salt content becomes overwhelming. It's purpose is to tenderize and add flavor...Dressing with more salt and roasting in brine increases the sodium level even more—what happens to the inherent flavor of the turkey??

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