Cranberry Turkey Brine

Cranberry Turkey Brine

The Spruce / Julia Estrada

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Total: 10 mins
Servings: 12 servings
Yield: 12 to 14 cups
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
41 Calories
0g Fat
9g Carbs
1g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 12
Amount per serving
Calories 41
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 9436mg 410%
Total Carbohydrate 9g 3%
Dietary Fiber 1g 2%
Protein 1g
Calcium 49mg 4%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

When it comes to the holiday season, it seems only fitting to brine your turkey with cranberry. This cranberry turkey brine is perfect for a traditional turkey dinner, combining cranberry juice, apple and orange juices, garlic, and fresh herbs. The slight acid of this brine really helps bring the flavor into the meat, resulting in a tender and tasty bird.

This cranberry turkey brine comes together very quickly, calling for simply combining all of the ingredients in a pot—there is no cooking required. The recipe makes enough brine for up to a 10-pound turkey; if the brine doesn't quite cover the bird, you can add more water. For a larger turkey, double the recipe.

A brine is similar to a marinade in that the turkey needs to sit in the mixture to in order for the flavors to penetrate the meat. However, a brine always contains salt, which helps ensure the meat is juicy and tender, ideal when cooking food that has a tendency to dry out—like a whole turkey. Food needs to brine for an extended period of time, often 12 to 24 hours, while marinating can be as quick as 15 minutes. The general rule for brining is one hour per pound of turkey.

Ingredients

  • 2 quarts cranberry juice
  • 1 quart water
  • 1 cup salt (or 1 1/2 cups Kosher or coarse salt)
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 12 cloves garlic (unpeeled and lightly smashed)
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 6 to 8 bay leaves
  • 1 whole turkey (up to 12 pounds)

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for cranberry turkey brine recipe

    The Spruce / Julia Estrada

  2. Combine all of the ingredients except the turkey inside a large pot.

    Cranberry Turkey Brine ingredients in a pot

    The Spruce / Julia Estrada

  3. Add the turkey to the pot, making sure that the brine covers the entire bird. If there isn't enough liquid, add more water to the mixture.

    Cranberry Turkey Brine in a pot with a turkey

    The Spruce / Julia Estrada

  4. Place in the refrigerator and brine for 1 hour per pound of turkey.

  5. Remove the turkey from the brine, discarding the liquid, and rinse the turkey thoroughly. Cook in whichever manner you choose.

Tips

  • Rinse all of the brine thoroughly from the turkey, inside and out, before cooking. Otherwise, the turkey will be too salty. 
  • If you don't have a pot large enough to hold the turkey and brine, you can use a brining bag or even a clean bucket or bin. If you use a bag, it is best to place it in another container as there's always a chance of leaking. Whichever type of container you choose, make sure it is food safe.
  • As a turkey in brine can take up a lot of space in the refrigerator, it's best to plan ahead and make room for it. If your fridge can't hold the turkey, you can keep the bird in the brine in a clean cooler; chill the brine first, and make sure the mixture remains at or under 40 F.