DIY: Brine Your Own Thanksgiving Turkey

Hey folks, this recipe has been rebooted! Click here to view the updated, 2013 version of DIY: Brine Your Own Thanksgiving Turkey.

We had the brining gear, we had Alton’s blessing, we ordered our local, conscientiously raised, chemical free, fresh bird – we were ready to brine our very first turkey!

I picked up our turkey on Sunday and we brined Tuesday night.


Things to know:
Turkey = 17 lbs.
Total brine time = roughly 36 hours

I used many different sources to inspire our brine recipe. Ultimately, this one is my own.

Domestocrat’s Thanksgiving Turkey Brine
2 cups kosher salt, divided
1/2 gallon apple cider
3/4 gallon water
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 orange
1 lemon
2 tbsp. black peppercorns
As many fresh springs of rosemary, sage, thyme you can get – we used a very handy “poultry mix” from Whole Foods


First things first, get the turkey in a brining bag. It’s worth a note here that these are one time use bags.


About 45 minutes prior to brining, boil about 2 cups of water and 1 cup of the salt over high heat until the salt has dissolved. Let the mixture cool completely before you brine.


When the salt water has cooled, add that to your brining bag first.


Next add the other cup of salt, peppercorns, and herbs.


Add in the orange, lemon, and maple syrup.


Finally, pour in the apple cider and water. Give the bag a good seal, pressing as much air out as possible.


Pick a spacious spot in your fridge, line with a towel, and rotate the brining bird every 12 hours or so.

I packed up our brining bag in our food grade bucket in case of any spills on the drive to New Jersey:


The bird made the trip to Jersey like a champ. No spills, nothing to worry about actually.

At about 8AM on Thanksgiving morning we took the turkey out of the fridge,


drained the brine,


loaded the bird into a roasting pan and rack, and let it rest at room temperature for about an hour.


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees while you prep the bird for cooking. We stuffed the cavity with an onion, orange, lemon, and two apples. We also rubbed butter and thyme up under the skin.


Bird in!


Roast the turkey on 400 degrees for the first hour. Then lower the heat to 350 degrees for the remainder of the cooking time. All told, our turkey took a little over 5 hours. The most important thing is that your meat thermometer (yes, you have to have one of these! don’t use the little plastic pop-up thingy!) reads 170 degrees. (The USDA says 165 is good, I think 170 is better, especially for dark meat.)

Our bird came out browned to perfection!


The turkey was flavorful, tender, but most of MOIST! It was the moistest turkey I have ever had. We still have leftovers (over a week later) and even they are still moist. Amazing.


Hands down, we’ll always brine! It’s extremely simple and not much more fuss than roasting a turkey the regular way. Plus the flavor and moisture is beyond better.

Author: Domestocrat

I'm a lady who enjoys photography, football, cooking, long drives with the windows down, This American Life, kettlecorn, hot yoga, pop punk, my nephews, my cat Reggie, and my home: Boston.

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