This Turkey Brine recipe is a made with maple syrup, honey, cinnamon sticks, allspice, cloves, and other warming spices. Brining a Thanksgiving turkey is going the extra mile, and it will bring your turkey to the next level.
I'm certain this is one of the top 10 turkey brine recipes. Ever!
I've be making this turkey brine recipe for our Thanksgiving turkey for 10+ years.
Every year I think about whether or not I want to do something different, and I inevitably go back to this recipe. It's that good.
When you see the list of ingredients and imagine them seeping into your turkey, you'll understand why.
First, what is brine?
A brine is a salt solution that preserves and seasons while enhancing tenderness. It often includes additional flavors such as herbs, spices, sugar, caramel and vinegar.
Brining your Thanksgiving turkey will add moisture, flavor, and it will almost guarantee a very succulent, tender result. It doesn't matter what roasting method you use to cook the turkey; brining it first is the key to your success.
- kosher salt - Kosher salt is best for a brine because the flat, flaky crystals dissolve easily and quickly into water.
- black peppercorns - Not all peppercorns are alike. I use Kampot black pepper, which is especially great for a brine as it imparts is incredible flavor to the meat or poultry. Kampot is cultivated in Cambodia in the province of Kampot, and it has a unique flavor with notes of citrus. It’s very aromatic, pungent, bold, bright and delicious. (I get mine from The Pepper Project.)
- bay leaves
- allspice berries
- cinnamon sticks
- ground cloves
- maple syrup
- cheese cloth and butchers twine or a boquet garni bag
Recipe Tips and Substitutions
- Before you begin, make sure you have a vessel large enough to hold your turkey and the brine.
- If you don't have Kosher salt, you can substitute with table salt. Since Kosher salt is coarser than table salt, you you will substitute with half the amount (for this recipe, ½ cup + 2 tablespoons).
- This recipe calls for a bouquet garni (a small bundle of herbs and spices that impart their flavors into the brine and turkey). We wrap them this way because it's near impossible to collect all of the peppercorns, etc., once we're done with the brine, and they make their way into the crevices of the turkey. As I mentioned above, the easiest way to make this bundle is with a bouquet garni bag. Depending on how big they are, you might need a couple for this brine. Otherwise you can easily make one with butcher's twine and cheesecloth. (See above images and recipe instruction no. 1 in the recipe card below.)
- If you don't have the proper, or large enough, container, you can brine the turkey in plastic bags. However, if you do so, make sure that the bag has not been treated with any chemicals! These are a good choice.
- You will see pre-brined turkeys in many markets. The tip I offer here is that if time permits, make your own. Make this one! You won't find a pre-brined turkey with these flavors. That's for sure. Just saying. 🙂
How to Make it: Step-by-Step
- If you don't have bouquet garni bags, cut a double layer of cheese cloth into an approximately 8 x 8-inch square.
- Place it on a clean, dry surface and add the allspice berries, peppercorns and bay leaves to the center of the square.
- Bundle the cheesecloth around the spices, being sure there aren't any open areas, and then tie it with butchers twine. Set aside.
- If you use a bouquet Garni bag, it will look like this.
Boquet Garni is French for bouquet garnish, which is a small bundle of herbs and spices that impart their flavors to a liquid being cooked -- in this case the brine. In this recipe, cinnamon sticks and ground cloves go directly into the liquid, and allspice berries, bay leaves, peppercorns go into the boquet garni.
- Add the salt to a large pot (at least 8 quart.)
- Add the water and bring it to a boil.
- Mix to be sure the salt has dissolved and then lower the heat to a simmer and stir in the honey, syrup, ground cloves, cinnamon sticks, and the bouquet garni.
- Continue to simmer for about ten minutes. Then turn off the heat and cool to room temperature. (With a large quantity of liquid like this, cooling could take a few hours.)
- Once the brine has cooled to room temperature, pour it into a large plastic tub, or, if the pot is large enough, leave the brine there. (Make sure whatever you're using is large enough to avoid overflowing once you add the turkey.)
- Rinse the turkey with cold water, inside and out. Place the turkey into the brine slowly, making sure it’s submerged in the liquid, filling up the entire cavity. Leave the bouquet garni and cinnamon sticks in the brine.
- Cover, and brine the turkey in the refrigerator for about 18 hours and up to 24.
- Remove the turkey, pat dry with paper towels, and prepare according to the turkey roasting instructions.
(More detailed instructions are in the recipe card below.)
Can you make it ahead?
- You can make, cool and store the brine in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. (If you do this, remove the boquet garni and cinnamon sticks after 48 hours.)
- I make this maple turkey brine two nights before Thanksgiving, and then leave it on the stove to cool to room temperature. Then the next afternoon or evening I add the turkey to it. This timing works out really well.
Can you Brine a Frozen Turkey?
- Yes, you can actually thaw and brine a frozen turkey at the same time. If you do this, the brining time should be close to 48 hours.
Is brining your turkey worth it?
To brine or not to brine . . .
I'm definitely in the to brine camp.
Some think it might not be worth the time, but I've never had a brined turkey that wasn't fantastic -- and this turkey brine recipe, with the maple flavor and warming spices, is truly not to be missed.
If you make the mistake of overcooking your turkey (it happens) -- brining it first will help keep it from drying out. And dry turkey is really a bummer. Why risk it, right?
It's well worth the extra time it takes, and if you're anything like me in the kitchen, you might even think it's fun. Just saying.
I've been told my turkey, which always takes a bath in this turkey brine, is the best by everyone who has ever tasted it.
And remember, you don't have to wait for Thanksgiving or any other holiday to enjoy this as part of an incredible feast.
What Turkey Recipe to Use With This Brine
After using this turkey brine, I carry on with my favorite Thanksgiving turkey recipe: Bacon Roasted Turkey (pictured below). You can't even imagine how amazing the results will be!
More Thanksgiving Deliciousness
- Show-Stopping Thanksgiving Appetizers
- Garlic Confit Mashed Potatoes
- Ginger Mashed Sweet Potatoes
- Pecan Crusted Caramel Pumpkin Pie
- Butternut Squash Pie with Nut Crust
- Cornbread Stuffing with Caramelized Onions and Mushrooms
I hope you find this turkey brine recipe to be as special as my family and I do!
Best Turkey Brine Recipe
- Make a boquet garni. If you don't have bouquet garni bags, cut a double layer of cheese cloth into an approximately 8 X 8-inch square. Place it on a clean, dry surface. Add the allspice berries, peppercorns and bay leaves to the center of the square. Bundle the cheesecloth around the spices, being sure there aren't any open areas, and then tie it with butcher's twine. Set aside. This is called a Bouquet Garni, which is French for bouquet garnish -- it's a small bundle of herbs and spices, that will impart their flavors to a liquid being cooked.
- Make the brine. In a very large stock pot, mix the water with the salt, and bring it to a boil. Mix to be sure it's dissolved and then lower the heat to a simmer and stir in the honey, syrup, ground cloves, cinnamon sticks, and the bouquet garni. Continue to simmer for about ten minutes. Then turn off the heat and cool to room temperature. (With a large quantity of liquid like this, cooling could take a few hours — I usually do this the night before I want to add the turkey, and let it cool, covered, all night on the stove.)
- Add the brine to a container. Once it has cooled to room temperature, pour the brine into a large plastic tub, or, if the pot is large enough, leave the brine there. (Make sure whatever you're using is large enough to avoid overflowing.)
- Add the turkey to the brine. Rinse the turkey with cold water, inside and out. Place the turkey in slowly, making sure it’s fully submerged in the liquid, filling up the entire cavity. Leave the bouquet garni and cinnamon sticks in the brine. Cover with a lid, or plastic wrap if the lid doesn't quite fit. Brine the turkey overnight in the refrigerator for about 18 hours and up to 24. (If the container the turkey is in doesn't fit in the refrigerator, you can place it in a large cooler, surrounded by ice.) Remove the turkey, pat dry with paper towels, and prepare according to the turkey roasting instructions.I hope you'll try this amazing Smoky Bacon Roasted Turkey.
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