My apple cider brined turkey breast makes the perfect dinner with its flavorful, succulent meat.
After discovering brined turkey from Samin Nosrat's book Salt Fat Acid Heat may years ago, I haven’t looked back. Gone are the days of dry, rubbery turkey breast! Since the pandemic, we usually cook one turkey breast for our holiday dinner. Brining lends so much flavor to the turkey while keeping it juicy and tender from the oven to the dinner table. For our apple cider brined turkey breast, we make it all year long and hope you will enjoy it as much as we do!
- Turkey: fresh turkey works best for brining. Pick turkey from local farmers or farms known for quality turkeys. For frozen turkey, make sure it's completely thawed before adding it to brining liquid. A piece of turkey breast 3-3.5 pounds is enough to feed 4 people.
- Apple cider: apple cider is the main liquid for brining. If you don't have apple cider, substitute with apple juice.
- Aromatics: for the brining liquid, I used a combination of garlic, sage, thyme, tarragon, and peppercorn but feel free to use your favorite herbs and spices.
- Salt: coarse salt is the best to use for brining. The larger the crystal the faster and easier salt will dissolve in water. Kosher salt, sea salt, and Himalayan salt work best for brining.
What is Brining
Brining is a way to treat protein with a solution of liquid and salt to enhance its flavor and tenderness. The basic brine consists of salt and water. Juice, cider, alcohol, and buttermilk can also be used as a brining solution. A brine can be wet or dry and acts similarly to a marinade. Meat contains inherent salt water. When the meat is immersed in a liquid with a higher concentration of salt, the meat will absorb the brining liquid resulting in extra moisture. The salt breaks down the protein in the turkey making it more tender and protecting it from becoming dried out and tough. This technique works great for lean cuts of meat that tend to dry out during cooking.
What is the Perfect Brine Ratio
The basic ratio of salt to water for a brine is 4 tablespoons of kosher salt per 1 quart (4 cups) of water. If using fine table salt, reduce the amount of salt to 3 tablespoons. One cup of table salt can weigh twice as much as some brands of kosher salt.
How Long to Brine Turkey
The basic rule is brine 1 hour per pound of meat in the refrigerator. For this apple cider brined turkey, you need about 3 hours. I brined it overnight for 6 hours but you can brine it up to 24 hours. Flip the breast halfway through for the best flavor.
How to Make Garlic Herb Butter
To add more flavor to the turkey, I make a mixture of butter with garlic and thyme and stuff it under the skin before roasting. As the butter melts into the meat during roasting, it results in a flavorful, golden-brown skin. For the garlic, I used a pestle and mortal to pound it into a paste then mix it with chopped herbs and softened butter. Instead of making a garlic paste, you can also mince the garlic.
How to Prepare Turkey for Roasting
- Brine the turkey breast overnight for 6 hours. You can discard the liquid or keep the brining liquid for one more brine.
- Remove the turkey from the brine 1 hour before cooking.
- Pat the turkey breast dry and place it in lightly greased roasting pan lined with parchment.
- Stuff the butter mixture underneath the skin.
- Season the outside with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
- Slather it in olive oil then roast.
How Long to Roast Turkey
For the brined turkey breast, I roasted it it at 350°F for 60 minutes. To check if the meat is cooked, insert a meat thermometer into the thickest portion of the breast where it's not touching a bone. If the juices run clear and thermometer registers 170°F, it's done. Let the turkey rest for 15 minutes before you slice into it.
What to Serve Turkey With
My apple cider brined turkey breast goes well with garlic aioli green beans, harissa roasted carrots, honey roasted hasselback butternut squash.
Store any leftover turkey in an airtight container for up to 72 hours. Rewarm in microwave for a few minutes.
For more holiday main inspiration: lemon thyme poached turkey breast, fennel roasted pork belly, easy Thanksgiving turkey.
Apple Cider Brined Turkey Breast
- 1 turkey breast, boneless fillet (3-3.5 pounds), skin on
- 6 cups apple cider
- ¼ cup light brown sugar
- 6 tablespoons coarse kosher salt
- 4 sprigs of sage
- 4 sprigs taragon
- 6 sprigs thyme
- 1 tablespoon peppercorns
- 3 medium garlic cloves, smashed
Garlic Herb Butter
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 medium garlic cloves, smashed
- 1 tablespoon thyme leaves
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
Apple Cider Gravy
- ¼ cup unsalted butter
- juices from roasted turkey
- 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 1 cup brining liquid
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- Place the apple cider, sugar, salt, sage, tarragon, thyme, and peppercorns in a medium saucepan over high heat. Bring to the boil and cook for 5 minutes, stirring to dissolve the salt. Allow to cool slightly.
- Carefully loosen the skin from the flesh of the turkey breast. Add turkey breast, skin-side down into a non-reactive container.
- Pour the brining liquid over the breast. Cover and refrigerate overnight for 6 hours. If you have a chance, flip the breast halfway through for the best flavor.
- Take the turkey breast out of the brining liquid and pat dry with paper towels 1 hour before roasting and let it come to room temperature.
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Add garlic cloves to mortar and pound with pestle until it becomes a paste.
- Place the butter, garlic and thyme in a small bowl and mix to combine.
- Transfer turkey to lined baking pan. Using your hands, spread the butter mixture under the skin of turkey breast.
- Sprinkle the turkey with salt and pepper. Brush olive oil over the whole breast.
- Place roasting pan on middle rack and roast for 60 minutes until the skin is golden brown.
- To check if the turkey is done, insert a meat thermometer into the thickest portion of the breast where it's not touching a bone. If the juices run clear and thermometer registers 170°F, it's done.
- Let the turkey rest for 15 minutes before you slice into it. Serve it with your favorite sides and apple cider gravy.
Apple Cider Gravy
- To make the gravy, add butter and juices from roasted turkey to large sauce pan over medium heat until the butter starts to brown.
- Add the flour and stir for 4-5 minutes or until golden.
- Gradually whisk in the brining liquid and heavy cream. Cook for 6-7 minutes until the mixture boils and thickens, whisking frequently.
- Whisk in sugar. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Serve with turkey.
I tried this last weekend! It turned out so moist and flavorful!