Sunday, September 1, 2013

Brined Whole Turkey (on the rotisserie)

I heard about brining a long time ago. I really never thought much about it - another way to cook a turkey (or a chicken, or pork, etc.).  Big deal.

Well, I was KIND of right.  It IS a Big Deal (capitals intentional!).
Finished turkey, cut up and ready to eat!

I've brined whole birds (turkey and chicken) and just cut up pieces.  I've brined pork chops and entire roasts. Without fail, every time I've brined something it's been indisputably better than the same thing I've cooked without brining.

I've also found that when talking about a whole bird, if you have a rotisserie and the time - it's definitely the way to go. I think I've had enough guests over to try it (foul AND pork) that from what they've told me afterwards, I'm not alone in that assessment.

Pork and turkey/chicken (the white meat) have a tendency to dry out quickly if they're overcooked - brining adds enough moisture to the meat that it is much more forgiving if you happen to overcook it (besides the incredible flavor it adds).

I've used my gas grill, my trusty Weber charcoal grill and even the Ronco Showtime electric rotisserie grill (especially in the middle of winter when I don't feel like freezing outside with one of my other grills).  My preference is the Weber, but all three of them work well and produce an excellent product.

This is my favorite brine - and I've used it for turkey, chicken and pork. The last time I brined, it was for a large cookout and in addition to the whole turkey I put pieces of chicken in the same container with the turkey and brined them all together (the chicken was then cooked on the grill, while the turkey was cooked on the rotisserie).

As always, if you try this please feel free to leave me a comment and let me know what you think!

Apple Cider, Maple Syrup and Orange-Lemon Brine

  • 7 cups hot water
    Turkey sitting in the brine
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 2 sliced oranges
  • 1 sliced lemon
  • 2 Tablespoons cracked black peppercorns
  • Whole turkey (this will work with any size - the most recent one I used was about 20 pounds)
  1. Stir the hot water and salt together until the salt is dissolved. 
  2. Add the apple cider, maple syrup, peppercorns, lemons and oranges.  At this point, if you want you can also add other herbs/spices.  I like to throw in some freshly chopped rosemary, thyme and sage if I'm cooking poultry and just rosemary if I'm cooking pork. 
  3. Cool to below 45 degrees F. in the refrigerator (if you want to speed this process, use about three cups of hot water and follow the same process as above, after mixing well, add four cups of ice water.).
  4. Remove the turkey from the packaging and rinse well.  Remove neck and any giblets that may be packaged in the cavity.
  5. Place turkey in a large pan or food safe bag (for a large bird, I bought an orange Home Depot bucket that I cleaned out well and keep specifically for brining).
  6. The turkey should stay in the brine for a minimum of 24 hours*.  I've kept it brining for 48 hours with no problems.  It also needs to stay cool while it's brining.  If your refrigerator is large enough, use that.  When I'm doing a whole turkey I'm also generally using my refrigerator space for other things so I have a VERY large cooler that I put it in along with a generous supply of ice.
  7. Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse well. 
  8. Truss the bird (one of my favorites, Alton Brown, has a great video on how to do that here.  It's well worth the three minutes it takes to watch.).
    The brined turkey on the spit.
  9. Put the bird on the spit and be sure the grill is preheated if it's gas or charcoal (if using one of the electric ones it's not necessary).
  10. If you want any herbs/spices on the skin, put them on now (I frequently use garlic powder, salt, pepper and rosemary powder.  I also like to put sprigs of fresh rosemary under the string, next to the skin).
  11. Place the spit in place and start it turning.
  12. Cook turkey to internal temperature of 180 degrees in thigh and 170 degrees in breast.
  13. How long it's going to take is a function of how large the bird is and the type (and temperature) of your grill.  For a small bird (i.e., a four pound chicken) it may only take an hour.  The 20 pound turkey I did recently took well over four hours.  A good rule of thumb is about 10 to 15 minutes cooking time per pound - but it's just that: a rule of thumb, not a hard and fast guide.
  14. When the internal temperature is right, remove the bird from the grill and then from the spit.  Let it rest for at least ten minutes to let the juices redistribute themselves.
  15. Carve and enjoy!
*If you're using this brine with pork, it typically doesn't take as long - you can cut the brining time back to 4-6 hours for chops and anywhere from 12-48 hours for a loin.


  1. Followed it to the tee,will try it tomorrow.Good eats everyone.

  2. Let me know how it comes out - we love it in our house!


  3. rotisserie...will this recipe work with an oven-roasted bird? Thanks, Gary.

    1. Hi - thanks for the question!

      Yes, this will work fine regardless how you cook the bird. I use it when I deep fry, roast, rotisserie, etc. I do the same thing if I'm cooking a chicken as well.

      This year I'll be deep frying one and wrapping a second with bacon and cooking in the oven - both will be brined first!

  4. Wonderful recipe, was searching for this long time:) Thanks much