This turkey breast brine is perfect for Thanksgiving! Wet-brining turkey breast is the best way to infuse white turkey meat with tons of savory, sweet, aromatic, and citrus flavors. It also makes the meat incredibly moist and tender and helps you achieve a gorgeously golden brown skin.
Turkey Breast Brine
If you want a perfectly moist and flavorful turkey breast, this turkey breast brine will do the trick! It’s made with a delicious blend of salt, sugar, aromatic herbs, garlic, lemon, and apple cider. This simple brine for turkey breast will ensure your Thanksgiving turkey is the centerpiece of the meal!
Once the turkey has a chance to soak in an easy turkey brine that was simmered with rosemary, thyme, garlic, and lemon, it gets infused with all of those flavors. That, plus the subtle sweetness from the brown sugar and apple cider, creates a turkey that’s packed with flavor. Soaking the turkey for several hours gives it a chance to tenderize, which makes a turkey breast that is so delicious, tender, juicy, and moist.
If you’re looking for the best easy way to cook turkey breast with perfect golden brown skin, I love brining it with this recipe first, and then cooking it with this air fryer turkey breast recipe.
Water: Water is the base of this brine. It allows the salt, sugar, and flavors to penetrate the meat so that the turkey is seasoned from the inside out.
Kosher Salt: Kosher salt helps to tenderize the meat and enhance its flavor. Look for pure kosher salt without any added iodine because that can give your brine a metallic taste.
Brown Sugar: Brown sugar adds a touch of sweetness to the brine and helps to balance out the saltiness. It also helps achieve beautifully browned turkey skin.
Garlic Cloves: Fresh garlic adds an aromatic flavor to the brine. Look for firm, plump cloves with a strong garlic smell. Avoid cloves that are shriveled, soft, or have green sprouts.
Fresh Rosemary and Thyme: These hearty herbs infuse the brine with wonderful herb flavors. Fresh herbs are best for maximum flavor. Look for sprigs that look vibrant and have a strong, fresh scent.
Black Peppercorns: Black peppercorns add a touch of heat and complexity to the brine.
Lemon: Lemon adds a fresh, citrusy note to the brine. Choose lemons with a smooth skin that feel heavy for their size (this indicates that they are juicy).
Apple Cider: Apple cider adds a sweet-tart flavor to the brine that complements the turkey perfectly.
Ice: Ice is used to cool down the brine quickly so you can add your turkey sooner.
How To Brine A Turkey Breast
Prepare the pot: Begin by selecting a large pot and placing it on the stove. (See the recipe card below for the full printable instructions.)
Combine ingredients: Add water, kosher salt, brown sugar, and garlic cloves to the pot. Stir until the salt and sugar are completely dissolved.
Add flavor: Once dissolved, add the thyme, rosemary, black peppercorns, and lemon slices. Allow the mixture to come to a gentle simmer.
Add apple cider: After simmering, switch off the heat and stir in the apple cider.
Cool down: Allow the brine to cool down to room temperature before adding ice to finish cooling it down.
Prepare the turkey: Place your turkey breast into a large brining bag or a clean bucket.
Submerge the turkey: Pour the cooled brine over the turkey breast, making sure it’s completely submerged.
Refrigerate: Chill the turkey in the brine in your refrigerator.
Rinse and cook: After brining, remove the turkey breast from the brine and rinse thoroughly under cold water. Pat it dry before cooking it. See the recipe card below for the full written instructions, including ingredient amounts, cooking times, and helpful tips, etc.
- Give it time: Refrigerate the turkey in the brine for at least 6 hours, but no longer than 12 hours. This gives the turkey enough time to absorb all those delicious flavors.
- Avoid over-brining: If you leave the turkey in the brine for too long, it can become overly salty, and the texture can become mushy.
- Rinse and pat dry: After brining, it’s important to rinse your turkey breast under cold water to remove any excess salt. You’ll also want to pat it dry before cooking, this helps to achieve that perfect, crispy skin once it’s cooked.
- Keep it cool: Always make sure your brine is cooled down before adding your turkey. If the brine is too hot, it can start to cook the turkey, which isn’t what we want!
- Fully Submerge: When brining, make sure your turkey is fully submerged in the brine to ensure it’s evenly flavored and tenderized. If needed, you can use a heavy plate to keep it submerged.
Is It Worth Brining Turkey Breast?
Absolutely! Brining not only seasons the turkey from the inside out, but also helps to keep the white meat moist and tender.
What Is The Formula For Brine?
The basic formula is 1 cup of kosher salt to 1 gallon of water. Some people also like to include an optional 1/2 cup of sugar. You can also add other flavors to your brine, like herbs, garlic, spices, or fruit depending on your taste preference.
What Is The Ideal Brine Time For A Turkey?
The ideal brine time depends on the size of the turkey. For a turkey breast, 6 to 12 hours is perfect. If you’re cooking a whole turkey, aim for 24 hours.
What Happens If You Brine Turkey Breast Too Long?
Be careful not to over-brine! If the turkey is left too long in the brine, it can become overly salty and the texture can turn mushy.
Can You Brine A Turkey With Just Salt Water?
Yes, but why would you want to? Adding herbs, spices, and other flavorings to your brine makes your turkey even more delicious.
Can I Use Table Salt Instead Of Kosher Salt For Brining?
Technically, yes. But keep in mind that table salt is more concentrated, so you’ll need to use less of it. Table salt also doesn’t dissolve as quickly in water, and the iodized versions can add a metallic flavor to the meat. If you’re going to use table salt, look for one that doesn’t contain iodine, and use 1/2 cup instead of 3/4 cup.
Is Sugar Required For A Brine?
Sugar isn’t necessary for brining, but the sweetness does help balance out the saltiness, it helps the meat retain moisture, and it also helps with browning.
Should Turkey Be Fully Submerged In Brine?
Yes, for the best results, your turkey should be fully submerged. If it floats, use a heavy plate to weigh it down. If part of the turkey floats up out of the brine, that portion won’t absorb the moisture or flavors and will taste dryer than the rest of the bird after it cooks.
Should I Rinse Turkey Breast After Brining?
Yes, it’s common to rinse your turkey after brining to remove the excess salt from the surface of the meat. Just be careful not to rinse it in a way that causes splatter, which can spread bacteria.
Do Brined Turkeys Cook Faster?
Yes, brined turkeys often cook faster than unbrined ones. This is because the brine relaxes some of the protein structure of the turkey, which allows heat to penetrate the turkey more quickly. This can speed up the cooking process. Always use a meat thermometer to make sure your turkey is fully cooked. Turkey breast is done when the internal temperature at the thickest part of the breast reaches 165F on an instant read meat thermometer.
Can You Brine A Butterball Boneless Turkey Breast?
Many boneless turkey breasts are pre-brined or pre-seasoned. That means that they have already been injected with a solution containing salt to help keep the meat moist and flavorful. If you brine a turkey that’s already been pre-brined or pre-seasoned, it could end up being too salty. It’s best to always check the packaging to see if your turkey has already been brined or pre-seasoned.
Can You Brine A Frozen Turkey?
It’s best to thaw your turkey first before brining. The brine works best when the turkey is fully thawed, which allows the salt and any additional flavors to fully penetrate the meat.
Keep In Touch
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If you like this recipe, be sure to check out all of our other Thanksgiving recipes. Some reader favorites are:
- Paula Deen Green Bean Casserole Recipe
- Turkey Tenderloin Recipe
- Boneless Turkey Breast Roast
- Turkey Gravy without Drippings
- Stove Top Stuffing
- Crock Pot Stuffing
- Air Fryer Turkey Breast
- Velveeta Mac and Cheese
- 12 cups water
- 3/4 cup kosher salt
- 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
- 4 fresh thyme sprigs
- 2 fresh rosemary sprigs
- 1 Tablespoon black peppercorns
- 1 lemon, sliced
- 1 cup apple cider
- 4 cups ice
- Pour the water into a large pot and place it on the stove over medium heat. Add the kosher salt, brown sugar, and garlic cloves, stirring until the salt and sugar are completely dissolved.
- Once dissolved, add the thyme, rosemary, black peppercorns, and lemon slices. Allow the mixture to come to a gentle simmer, then let it simmer for 5 minutes.
- After 5 minutes, turn off the heat and stir in the apple cider. Allow the brine to cool to room temperature. This should take about 20 minutes.
- Once the brine is at room temperature, add the ice to help it cool down further.
- Place your turkey breast into a large brining bag or a clean bucket. Pour the cooled brine over the turkey breast, making sure that it is completely submerged. If needed, you can place a plate on top of the turkey breast to keep it submerged.
- Refrigerate the turkey in the brine for at least 6 hours, but no longer than 12 hours.
- After brining, remove the turkey breast from the brine and rinse it thoroughly under cold water. Pat it dry with paper towels before cooking.
- If you're looking for the best easy way to cook turkey breast with perfect golden brown skin, I love brining it with this recipe first, and then cooking it with this air fryer turkey breast recipe.
This makes enough brine for a turkey breast that weighs between 5-7 pounds.
If you make the brine in advance, you can store it in the refrigerator for up to 2 days before using it. Make sure it is chilled before adding the turkey.
Make sure your turkey breast is thawed before placing it in the brine.
To make enough to brine an entire turkey this is how much you’ll need of each ingredient:
- 2 gallons water (32 cups)
- 2 cups kosher salt
- 1.5 cups packed light brown sugar
- 10 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
- 10 fresh thyme sprigs
- 5 fresh rosemary sprigs
- 3 tablespoons black peppercorns
- 3 lemons, sliced
- 3 cups apple cider
- 12 cups ice
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 82Total Fat: 0.2gCarbohydrates: 20.8gFiber: 1.7gSugar: 16.6gProtein: 0.7g
Nutrition information isn’t always accurate.
I hope you love this recipe as much as I do! This turkey breast brine recipe is the perfect way to make sure your Thanksgiving turkey turns out juicy, tender, and packed with flavor. Brining might seem like an extra step, but it’s well worth the effort!