Turkey Brine Recipes

I prepared two turkeys for the Thanksgiving LAN party weekend, with different brine solutions based on some recipes I found on the net. For the first 15lb turkey (a Jennie-O brand young turkey), I used the following recipe with some amazing results:

1 gallon apple juice
1 pound brown sugar
1 cup salt
1/2 cup of garlic salt
2 cups pineapple/orange juice
1 gallon ice cubes

Combined the apple juice, sugar, salt and garlic salt in a large stock pot. Brought it to a boil and stirred it to dissolve the sugar and salt. I then poured the pineapple juice the ice cubes (which I hoped amounted to 1 gallon of water) to cool off the solution. After I tasted the solution I was rather appalled that it was too salty, so I added more ice. I then submerged the raw turkey in the brine, breast side down and made sure the cavity was filled. I refrigerated the pot overnight for no more than 18 hours, so that the turkey wouldn’t turn out too salty.

To prep it for roasting, I drained the turkey and coated it with virgin olive oil steeped with fresh chopped rosemary and chopped garlic. The remaining olive oil with pieces of crushed garlic went into the cavity along with a small branch of rosemary. With the oven heated to 500F, I decided to brown the turkey for the first 30 minutes. Afterwards, I reduced the heat to 350F, covered the turkey in foil and roasted for 2.5 hours. For the last half hour I took a baster and drenched the turkey in its own drippings.

During this time, I attacked the second turkey, a Kroger brand premium young turkey weighing a little over 12lbs.

1.5 gallons apple juice
1.5 pound brown sugar
1/2 cup of garlic salt
2 cups pineapple/orange juice
2 tablespoons of ginger shavings
1 dash of cinnamon
1 med navel orange sliced

Once again I combined the dry ingredients in a stockpot with a gallon of apple juice and brought it to a boil to dissolve. I added the last half gallon of apple juice and 2 cups of pineapple juice to cool the solution. I peeled part of a ginger root I had previously frozen and shaved it into the brine. Afterwards, I submerged the turkey, breast side down again. Added the orange slices at the end, and inserted one into the cavity as well, then it was off to be refrigerated for about 18-20 hours.

A word about the two turkeys: they were frozen and store-bought. I read on the labels that they had already been pre-injected with a solution that supposedly would make for a moist turkey. Also, I removed the giblets and necks and did not add them to the brine, but I added the necks to the turkeys while they roasted.

So back to Turkey 1. It roasted for a total of 2.5 hours, which of course, wasn’t nearly long enough since the bottom half of the turkey was still mostly pink. I suspect that I needed a bigger roasting pan, since it barely fit into the one I cooked it in. After cooling for 30 minutes, DH brought his carving skills to bear on the turkey, and resulted in slice after super-moist slice of turkey breast almost dripping off the bone. After taste-testing several parts, I was pleased to discover that the saltiness of the brine was barely detectable. The undercooked dark meat (already deboned, sliced, and shredded) went back into the oven for one more blast of heat, about 20 minutes uncovered. I also reserved the drippings and added it to my gravy.

On to Turkey 2. I brined it a little longer since I wasn’t overly worried about the salt content overpowering its flavor. Drained it and stuffed it with the orange slices and another small branch of rosemary. I also used the same rosemary-garlic-olive oil concoction to coat every inch of it. Then off it went into the oven at 350F, breast-side down and covered with foil to cook for an hour. For the next hour, I turned it over, breast up, covered with foil and cooked it for another hour. For the last half hour, I removed the foil to achieve browning and generously basted it with its own drippings.

Carving the second turkey revealed that it was superbly moist and juicy like its predecessor, but sweeter with no hint of saltiness. Maybe it was a little bit too sweet, and I didn’t detect the cinnamon at all. For future endeavors I might use a chipotle-raspberry or a sweet-chili sauce to glaze…also add more ginger and garlic. Again, the bottom was undercooked (though not as much as T1), even though it spent half of its cooking time bottom side up. I think I need a deep roaster pan with an actual rack to achieve even cooking. I reserved the drippings and used it only to wet the turkey when it went back into the oven to finish cooking.