Turkey is a staple for holiday meals. What would Thanksgiving be without it? But let’s be honest: Sometimes turkey can turn out a bit dry (though not when you add a made-from-scratch gravy). However, if you’ve got the right recipe and the right techniques, your holiday turkey should roast up perfectly juicy for a showstopping dinner (and amazing leftovers). Taste of Home‘s deputy editor and turkey master James Schend nominates this apple-brined turkey as the juiciest turkey recipe ever. Here’s the secret to what makes it so good.
The Secret to Our Juiciest Turkey Recipe: Brining
According to James, brining is the singular most important step when it comes to making a juicy holiday turkey. A brine is essentially a saltwater solution used to infuse poultry, meat or fish with extra flavor. (Here’s everything you ned to know about brining.) Soaking a turkey in a brine infuses it with flavor inside and out and helps keep the bird moist as it cooks. The salt in the brine also tenderizes the meat. Who doesn’t want juicy, fork-tender turkey?
For a simple brine, you can just use salt water. However, brining is a great opportunity to add more flavor (here are more ways to make a flavorful turkey). This five-star recipe relies on salt, apple juice, brown sugar, ginger, cloves, garlic, bay leaves and orange for some wonderfully autumnal flavors.
How to Brine a Turkey
To brine a turkey, first, create a brine. Our five-star apple-brined turkey recipe requires you to stir the apple juice, brown sugar and spices together and bring them to a boil. Once the salt and sugar are dissolved, stir in the oranges, add water and cool to room temperature. You can follow the same technique using your own preferred blend of spices, too.
With your brine ready and cooled, you can bring out your turkey. Submerge it in the cooled brining liquid overnight up to 24 hours. The easiest way to do this is to place the turkey inside a large roasting bag and pour the cooled brine over the top. You can seal with another roasting bag just to prevent any leaks and then let it sit inside a roasting pan in the fridge. Be sure to rotate the turkey every so often during the brining process to make sure all parts are submerged.
Because turkeys are so large, an extended brine is a good idea. If you’re only making a turkey breast, however, a few hours (rather than a full day) should work just fine.
Once brined, you can remove the turkey from the liquid and roast or grill as normal. Follow our step-by-step guide to cooking a turkey.
What to Put in a Turkey to Keep It Moist
You can stuff your turkey with all sorts of ingredients to give it more flavor. A few certain additions, however, will also provide the bird with more moisture. Filling the cavity with onions, fennel, apples or citrus fruits are all great ways to add moisture and flavor to your turkey. You can simply wash and quarter each of these ingredients and place them inside the turkey alongside some extra herbs.
What About Stuffing?
Yes, we know that stuffing a turkey with, well, stuffing is traditional. However, our Test Kitchen encourages you to think twice about this method. See, cooking stuffing inside the bird can often leave you with undercooked stuffing (which can make you sick) or an overcooked turkey, which can be dry despite all of your brining efforts.
Our Test Kitchen recommends you stuff your holiday turkey with aromatics and herbs and make the stuffing on the side. These Thanksgiving stuffing recipes are so good made right in a pan.
Got more turkey questions? Check out our ultimate turkey guide for tips on how to prepare your holiday showstopper.