Cider-Brined Turkey

This post probably would have been more useful to you about a month ago, as you were prepping for Thanksgiving. Sorry, my bad.

It’s just that doing so would have meant making a turkey around Halloween, and I just wasn’t ready for that (not to mention, it seemed a little obnoxious to be thinking about turkey while millions of people were still without power after Hurricane-turned-Superstorm Sandy). Plus, I live alone, and that’s just way too much turkey.

I’m hoping you’ll overlook this indiscretion and and, if turkey is making an appearance on your holiday table this year, you’ll consider this version. I think you’ll be pleased.

Roasted turkey

Roast the turkey breast-down under high heat, then reduce the temperature and flip the bird

I made this on my first Thanksgiving on my own, 2004, and it’s been the centerpiece of my holidays ever since. The combination of brine and a high-heat roast keeps the meat juicy and flavorful. If you’re just making a turkey breast, cut the recipe in half.


Brining imparts flavor and moisture. Use a double layer of oven bags to prevent messy leaks in your refrigerator.


The turkey starts breast-down under high heat


Carved turkey breast is devoured quickly

Apple Cider-Brined Turkey

Adapted from Cooking Light

Serves 12

8 c apple cider

2/3 c kosher salt

2/3 c sugar

1 Tbs black peppercorns, coarsely crushed

1 Tbs whole allspice, coarsely crushed

8 1/8″ thick slices peeled fresh ginger

6 whole cloves

2 bay leaves

1 12-pound fresh or frozen turkey, thawed

2 oranges, quartered

6 cups ice

2 Tbs butter, melted, divided

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper, divided

1/2 tsp salt, divided

Special equipment: 2 turkey-sized plastic oven bags

In a large saucepan, combine first 8 ingredients (through bay leaves). Bring to a boil; cook until sugar and salt are dissolved, about 5 minutes. Cool completely.

Remove giblets and neck from turkey. (Reserve for gravy, if desired.) Rinse turkey with cold water; pat dry. Trim excess fat. Stuff body cavity with orange quarters. Place a turkey-sized oven bag inside a second bag to form a double thickness. Place bags in a large stockpot. Place turkey inside inner bag. Add cider mixture and ice. Secure bags with several twist ties. Refrigerate for 12-24 hours, turning occasionally.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

Note: now would be a good time to disable your smoke detector and open multiple windows.

Remove turkey from bags. Discard brine, orange quarters, and bags. Rinse turkey with cold water; pat dry. Lift wing tips up and over back; tuck under turkey. Tie legs together with kitchen string. Place roasting rack in pan, and arrange turkey, breast side down, on roasting rack. Brush turkey back with 1 tablespoon butter; sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bake at 500 degrees for 30 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Remove turkey from oven. Carefully turn turkey over (breast side up) using tongs. Brush turkey breast with 1 tablespoon butter; sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes. If the turkey is browning too quickly, shield the turkey with foil. Insert a thermometer into the meaty part of the thigh, making sure not to touch bone. The thermometer should read 170 degrees.

Remove the turkey from the oven; let stand 20 minutes.


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