Ingredients in Brined Turkey Breast
When I’m creating a brine, I want as much flavor as possible. The mixture of citrus and fresh herbs takes this bird right over the top! Keep scrolling for the full recipe and ingredient amounts.
FOR THE BRINE YOU’LL NEED:
- Water – You’ll need lots of water to carry those flavors, impart them into the meat, and completely cover the turkey breast.
- Salt – I used kosher salt. The granules are a lot bigger than table salt, so if that’s all you have then use half the amount that’s called for in the recipe.
- Sugar – The sugar helps balance out the saltiness of the brine. It’ll add the perfect touch of sweetness that you’ll barely notice when taking a bite, but really makes a big difference.
- Garlic – I used full fresh cloves for this recipe.
- Cinnamon stick – For a brine, it’s much better to use a cinnamon stick versus powder. The powder will stick to the breast too much, making it way too cinnamon-y.
- Fresh sage & rosemary – Again, rather than using the powdered versions I like to use fresh leaves. You will still get that amazing warm herb flavor without it being overwhelming.
- Lemons & orange – I juice these and add them whole to the brine. You can’t get too much citrus in here!
- Ice – After cooking all these flavors into the brine, we want to cool it down right away before adding the turkey. The heat from the brine will cook the outside of the turkey and it won’t be able to absorb the brine.
How To Brine Turkey
It may be a labor of love to take this extra step in making your turkey, but I promise you’ll never go back. The flavor is unbeatable!
- Prepare the brine: Bring the water to a boil. Add the orange peels, orange juice, squeezed oranges, lemon juice, and squeezed lemons. Add the rest of the brine ingredients, other than the ice, and boil until the sugar and salt have completely dissolved. Add the ice to the brine to cool it completely. Now you can add the turkey breast to a pot and cover it with a plastic wrap, or add the brine and turkey to a brining bag. Let it brine for at least 12 hours in the fridge.
- Roast the turkey: After it has brined for at least 12 hours, remove the turkey and pat it dry. Add onions and garlic to the pan, and place the turkey breast on the onions so that it’s elevated and doesn’t touch the bottom of the pan. This will ensure even cooking. Brush the turkey with the melted butter and season with salt and pepper. Pour the chicken broth into the roasting pan and cover everything with foil. Roast at 350F for 1 1/2 hours, remove the foil, then roast for a final hour, or until the breast registers 165F t the thickest part.
- Make the gravy: Strain the onion and garlic from the pan drippings and discard them. Add the drippings to saucepan and skim off some fat if you’d like. Pour in the broth and bring everything to a simmer. Mix the cornstarch with the water to create a slurry, and add a little bit at a time while whisking until you’ve reached you desired thickness. Keep in mind that as the gravy cools it will thicken up.
Tips for Making the Best Brined Turkey
- Buy the right size turkey breast. I used a whole turkey breast (two breasts, still joined at the breast bone) that weighed about 5 pounds, which is enough to feed 4 to 6 people. Plan on serving 0.5 – 1lb of turkey per person.
- Make sure the turkey breast is fully thawed before brining it.
- Make sure you know what type of salt you’re using. Kosher salt or coarse salt will work perfectly for this recipe. If you use table salt, use only 1/4 cup.
- Don’t chop the ingredients up very small. When there’s a lot of substance and pulp floating around in the brine, these pieces will block the meat and make it very hard for the brine to penetrate. Bigger pieces are better.
- Brine for at least 12 hours to get lots of flavor into the meat.
- Use an instant read meat thermometer to determine when your turkey is done baking. These are super cheap, and will make your life so much easier!
- Let the turkey rest for at least 15 minutes before carving it. If you carve too early, the juices will come out and leave the meat dry.
- 8 cups water
- ½ cup kosher salt
- ½ cup brown sugar packed
- 8 cloves garlic smashed
- 1 cinnamon stick
- ¼ cup sage fresh
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 2 lemons
- 1 orange
- 4 cups ice
- 2 medium onions quartered
- 4 cloves garlic smashed
- 5 lb turkey breast bone in, thawed
- 1 tsp salt or to taste
- 1 tsp pepper or to taste
- 8 tbsp butter melted
- 1 cup chicken broth low sodium or no sodium added
- pan drippings
- ¾ cup chicken broth low sodium or no sodium added, or water
- 1 tbsp cornstarch or more for a thicker gravy
- 1 tbsp water
Brining the Turkey Breast
- Add the water to a large pot and bring it to a boil. For the orange, peel it using a potato peeler or a knife, then cut it in half. Cut the lemon in half and juice it. Add the remaining brine ingredients to the pot (excluding the ice) and bring to a boil to dissolve all the salt and sugar. Add the lemon halves and orange halves after they’ve been juiced to the brine as well as the orange peel, lemon juice and orange juice, they will provide more flavor. Remove from heat and cool completely. To speed this up add about 4 cups of ice to the brine. I used my instant pot for this but any big pot that will fit the brine and the breast will work.
- Once the brine is cooled, place the turkey breast in the brine making sure it’s fully submerged in it. You may have to weigh it down with another pot of water. What I did is wrapped the pot with plastic wrap, then placed a plate over it, and then a pot of water over the plate. This worked for me because the brine and turkey came up to the top of the pot. Another option is to use a brick or rock wrapped in plastic wrap. Store it in the fridge overnight or at least for 12 hours, so make sure you have enough room in your fridge.
Roasting the Turkey Breast
- Preheat your oven to 350 F degrees. Remove the turkey breast from the brine solution and pat it dry with paper towels.
- Place the quartered onions and smashed garlic in a large metal roasting pan then place the turkey breast on top of the onions. Season it generously with salt and pepper on both sides.
- Brush the turkey with melted butter, keep remaining butter for basting later. Add the chicken broth to the pan.
- Cover the pan with aluminum foil and place the roasting pan in the oven. Cook covered for 1 1/2 hours, basting with the melted butter (remelt again if necessary) every half hour. After 1 1/2 hours, remove the aluminum foil and roast for another 1 hour or until golden brown. The breast is done when a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the breast registers at 165 degrees F.
- Transfer the turkey breast to a platter or cutting board and let it rest for a full 15 minutes before slicing into it.
- Skim some of the fat from the pan drippings if necessary.
- Place the pan on the stove over medium-high heat. In a little bowl whisk together the cornstarch with the water, then add it to the pan. Whisk everything together. If the gravy is too thin and you prefer a thicker consistency, feel free to add more cornstarch until you reach the desired consistency. Cook for a few minutes, until the gravy thickens a bit. Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper as necessary.
- Strain all the liquid into a bowl, then press all the liquid out of the onion and garlic using a spatula, for additional flavor.