Looking for an easy way to add some serious flavor to your Thanksgiving turkey? This citrus turkey brine recipe is the answer! Made with fresh herbs, orange slices and orange juice, this citrus brine for turkey will make your Thanksgiving turkey the star of the show!
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Are you in charge of making the Thanksgiving turkey this year? Wanna make this Thanksgiving turkey super flavorful and juicy? You’ve come to the right place.
This recipe for citrus turkey brine is an amazing way to infuse flavor the the meat of the turkey. The brine recipe is simple and can be done a day or two in advance of the big dinner.
In this post I’ll show you how to make a turkey brine, what you’ll need to make a brine, and how to brine a turkey.
What do I need to make a turkey brine?
For this citrus turkey brine you’ll need the following ingredients. Note that I’ve linked these ingredients to Target (affiliate), should you need to do a quick, same-day ingredient pick-up. Target has same day pick-up, drive-up and even delivery, where they do the shopping for you.
- Orange juice – any bottled orange juice from the refrigerated section of the grocery store will work.
- Kosher salt – I recommend using kosher salt for any turkey brine. Table salt can sometimes result in a metallic flavor, which can definitely ruin the flavor of a turkey.
- Brown sugar – Brown sugar will give the brine a nice richness, but will not make the turkey overly sweet. Feel free to use either light or dark brown sugar.
- Peppercorns – whole peppercorns will add a great flavor dimension to the brine.
- Fresh rosemary sprigs – fresh rosemary is wonderfully aromatic, and will provide a great herby flavor to the brine. Buy extra for garnishing the roasted turkey – it will smell amazing!
- Ground sage – ground sage will also provide a nice herby flavor. It’s an ideal herb for any poultry recipe.
- Whole cloves – whole cloves will add a wonderful flavor to the brine. Be careful – just a few cloves will go a long way. No need to add extra.
- Star anise – star anise is another spice that will go a long way with flavor. You’ll need just a few of these beauties to add a great flavor dimension to the brine.
- Whole cinnamon sticks – cinnamon sticks will add a mild spiciness to the brine without overpowering the flavor.
- Garlic cloves – fresh garlic cloves will bring a great complimentary flavor alongside the cinnamon, cloves and anise.
- Oranges – fresh oranges will be slices and simmered in the brine. The orange slices will add a great citrus flavor to compliment the brine.
Materials & Supplies Needed to Brine a Turkey
- Brining bag – make sure you’re not buying a roasting bag. A roasting bag is made of much thinner plastic and won’t hold up to the weight of the liquid and the turkey. It will likely spring a leak! Make sure to get a brining bag which is made of thicker plastic and build to withhold the weight of the turkey and gallons of liquid.
- Stock pot – any stock pot or Dutch oven will do. You’ll need this to bring your brine to a simmer on the stovetop.
- A roasting pan – I actually prefer a disposable turkey roasting pan, especially when I’m making Thanksgiving dinner. It’s makes the clean-up much easier, as I dispose of the turkey carcass and any unwanted remains all in the pan.
For exact ingredient amounts and full recipe instructions be sure to scroll down to the bottom of the post for the recipe. Thanks!
How do I make a turkey brine recipe?
To make a turkey brine, start by bringing out a large Dutch oven or stock pot. Add the salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, rosemary, sage, cloves, star anise, cinnamon sticks, garlic, orange slices, orange juice and water to the pot.
Stir the ingredients and heat over medium heat. Stir often to help the salt and sugar dissolve into the liquid. Bring the ingredients to a low boil, then remove the brine from the heat. Let the brine sit and come to room temperature.
Once the brine has cooled completely and is at room temperature, it is then safe to add to a raw, thawed turkey.
Note: we do NOT recommend adding a hot brine to a turkey. We also don’t recommend adding a hot brine to a frozen turkey to help it thaw.
Ingredient Substitutions and Recommendations:
- Substitute apple cider for the orange juice – check out my super popular recipe for Apple Cider Turkey Brine. It’s a Thanksgiving classic and thousands of people have raved about this recipe.
- Fresh sage in place of dry sage – often available in most supermarkets during the holidays, fresh sage is a great option in place of dried. Be conservative – just a few sprigs will go a long way.
- Swerve brown sugar substitute – if you’re like me and want to eliminate refined sugar, Swerve brown sugar substitute is a great alternative.
For exact ingredient amounts and full recipe instructions be sure to scroll down to the recipe at the bottom of the post. Thanks!
How do I brine a turkey?
Brining a turkey is surprisingly simple. Begin by placing your thawed turkey into a large brining bag. If you’re using a frozen turkey, make sure it is thawed and that you’ve removed the giblet bag and neck from the inner portion of the turkey.
Place the turkey breast-side down in the brining bag. This will help ensure the breast and thigh meat will be thoroughly submerged in the citrus turkey brine. The brine will help tenderize the meat, making it extra juicy while cooking.
Once your brine has simmered and cooled to room temperature pour the brine over the turkey and into the brining bag. If you have an extra large turkey, feel free to add more water to cover the turkey in the bag.
Wrap up the turkey and brine securely in the brining bag. Chip clips work well in securing the bag. (See photo above.) I like to sit the turkey in a roasting pan when placing it back in the refrigerator to chill. Should the bag spring a leak, the liquid will be contained in the pan.
Place the brined turkey in the refrigerator for 18 to 24 hours before roasting the turkey.
Frequently asked questions about making a turkey brine recipe:
A turkey can be brined anytime between 6-24 hours. The ideal time is 18-24 hours. I don’t recommend brining any longer than 36 hours, as the protein in the turkey will begin to breakdown and become grainy.
The brine amount is appropriate for almost all turkey sizes. The brine liquid will be a good amount for anything from a 10-20 lb turkey. Any larger and you may want to add some extra water.
Yes, a turkey breast can be brined before roasting. Simply place the turkey breast into the brine and refrigerate for 18-24 hours. Rinse thoroughly before roasting.
No, a brining bag and roasting bag are two very different products. A roasting bag is built to go into the oven and is a much thinner plastic. It is not meant to hold a large amount of liquid and will likely spring a leak. Instead, be sure to purchase a brining bag. This is specifically built for large amounts of liquid and able to withstand the weight of a turkey. It is much thicker plastic and is much more durable.
If you’re unable to find a brining bag, you can also use a cooler large enough to fit your turkey. If you are using a cooler, it is really important to keep your turkey cold while brining. Add ice to your brine along with the turkey. Keeping the turkey cold is essential in preventing growth of bacteria which causes food poisoning.
Tips and FAQ’s about cooking a turkey:
Cook a turkey 10-12 minutes per pound. For example, if your turkey is 15 lbs, then you’ll need 180 minutes, or approximately 3 hours. To test for doneness, make sure to use an instant read digital meat thermometer. The temperature of the breast meat should be 165 degrees and the thigh meat should be at 175 degrees.
A turkey is best when cooked at 325 degrees.
The turkey is done cooking when the internal temperature of the breast is 165 degrees and the thigh is 175 degrees. For best results, use an instant-read digital meat thermometer.
The drippings shouldn’t be overly salty. Because you have thoroughly rinsed your turkey prior to cooking, any excess salt was removed. However, if you would like to exercise caution, use half drippings, half water or chicken stock for your gravy.
Need some amazing side-dish ideas to go with your turkey? Here are some of our most viral side dish recipes:
- Ruth’s Chris Sweet Potato Casserole
- Everything Thanksgiving Stuffing
- Parmesan Mashed Potatoes
- Hasselback Sweet Potatoes
- Roasted Butternut Squash Medley
- Healthy Green Bean Casserole
- Roasted Rainbow Carrots
- Cranberry Fluff Salad
- Cranberry Citrus Salad with Pecans
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- 4 cup (1 quart) orange juice
- 1 cup kosher salt
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons whole peppercorns
- 2 tablespoons ground sage
- 3-4 fresh rosemary sprigs
- 1 tablespoon whole cloves
- 3-4 whole cinnamon sticks
- 2-3 star anise pods
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 medium oranges, sliced
- 1 gallon water
- To a large stock pot or Dutch oven, add all of the ingredients; orange juice, salt, sugar, peppercorns, sage, rosemary, cloves, cinnamon sticks, star anise pods, garlic, orange slices and water.
- Heat over medium heat, stirring well to help the salt and sugar dissolve well into the liquid.
- Bring the brine to a boil, then promptly remove from heat. Let the brine cool completely to room temperature.
- Place thawed turkey (breast side down) into a brining bag, removing any giblets and neck from inner cavity. Pour the cooled brine over the top of the turkey, including all ingredients that were cooked in the brine (herbs, orange slices, cinnamon sticks, ect.)
- Seal the brining bag and secure with clips if necessary. Refrigerate the brined turkey for 18-24 hours.
- Once the brining is complete, remove the turkey from the brine and bag. Discard the brine and bag - do NOT reuse.
- Place several dish towels in your sing and place the brined turkey on top of the towels. Thoroughly rinse the turkey with water both in the inner cavity and on the outer skin. Lightly pat dry with clean towel and prep for roasting.
Roasting time for a turkey: Cook a turkey 10-12 minutes per pound. For example, if your turkey is 15 lbs, then you'll need 180 minutes, or approximately 3 hours.
Turkey is done when the internal temperature of the breast meat reaches 165 degrees, and the internal temperature of the thigh meat reaches 175 degrees.
Remove turkey from oven to rest after cooking. Cover with foil, and let rest for 30 minutes before carving. This will allow the juices to settle into the meat.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 25 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 44Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 2451mgCarbohydrates: 11gFiber: 1gSugar: 9gProtein: 0g