If you want to make the juiciest roast turkey, chicken, or pork then check out this easy apple cider beer brine recipe to infuse flavor and elevate your next meal or holiday dish.
I feel like I have had one too many dried out slices of turkey or even chicken breast over the years. This is the last issue anyone wants to have when they go to serve a nice meal for friends and family (especially for special occasions or holidays).
One the easiest methods in the culinary world is to use a wet brine to help solve this very problem. Wet brines work really well to add additional flavor and juice to leaner cuts of meat like a pork loin, whole turkey, and any cut of chicken (I love it in my simple smoked pulled chicken BBQ recipe).
With keeping in line with holiday season and some festive fall flavors, I opted to make an apple cider turkey brine using my Smoked Apple Cider recipe. This recipe is great during the fall and winter holiday season, but designed to be a delicious option year round.
Grab all the culinary tips, techniques, and recipe details outline in the guide below. If you’re ready to dive in, simply jump to the recipe and get to brining!
- Large Pot
- Measuring Cups and Spoons
- Brining Bag or Large Dish/ Container
- Paper Towels
Use my outlined culinary notes below to help answer any common cooking questions, concerns, and address ingredient substitutions and more for the best recipe outcome. Happy cooking!
What is a wet brine? How does it help make lean proteins taste better?
Brining can be done in two forms; these methods are know as wet (the method I am using here) or dry brining.
Wet brining is a method I often use for lean cuts of meat like pork and poultry (mentioned above) because it’s submerged in a sugar and salt solution to help add flavor for a juicier outcome.
This works really well with proteins that are lean and tend to have less fat. As these meats cook, the lack of fat causes the meat to become drier as a result.
If you infuse your lean proteins with a wet brine, it allows the salt water solution to absorb into the meat, retaining it’s juiciness during the cooking process. I use this a lot for longer cooks when roasting or smoking foods on the grill.
What is the best formula for creating an apple cider brine for pork or poultry?
A standard rule of thumb for creating a wet brine salt solution is to use 1 tablespoon of salt per cup of liquid. I brined a 4 lb. turkey (pictured) when I made this smoked pulled chicken recipe. I used 6 cups of liquid total (a mixture of the smoked apple cider, beer, and cold water).
This recipe used 6 tablespoons of salt (or 1/3 cup) as a result. Sugar is not always necessary in a brine. I did not add additional sugars because the cider is naturally sweetened because of the apples and has some maple syrup in it as well.
You may need to adjust your ratios depending on the size of your bird (turkeys tend to need a lot more brine for example), so reference this formula if needed to adjust the amount of brine. You will need enough to submerge your protein.
Here is the basic breakdown of this cider based brine. Read through for a general idea of what’s in this recipe and possible ingredient substitutions to be more dietary and lifestyle friendly.
- Smoked Apple Cider: I use my smoked cider recipe for a unique flavor. You can use regular cider or even apple juice if needed.
- IPA or Lager Beer: I used a seasonal Oktoberfest beer. You can use any darker beer like a lager or IPA you like. Use a light beer for less carbs or just substitute for water instead if desired. The alcohol burns off once you bring it to a boil.
- Cold Water: Just colder water from your tap works fine here.
- Salt: Regular table salt or sea salt works for this recipe.
- All Purpose BBQ Seasoning: I really like to add some of my dry rub seasoning to this mixture. Check out my recipe or use any other rub that goes well with pork or poultry as desired.
- Whole Black Peppercorns: Whole peppercorns are best for brining. This will be removed when you strain the ingredients.
- Fresh Thyme Sachet: I like to add fresh herbs to my brine recipes when I can. Thyme works well with the apple flavor and doesn’t over power it. Tie some thyme sprigs together with butchers twine and toss into the pot when cooling the brine.
- Bay Leaves: Dried bay leaves add a nice flavor.
The beauty of brining is it’s ridiculously easy! All your ingredients should be added to a large stock pot and brought to a low boil.
Once boiling, you can remove it from the heat and allow it to cool completely before adding any proteins to the brine mixture. Place your brine in a bag or container that will allow you to fully submerge your protein.
Simple transfer the pork or poultry into the dish or bag and place in the fridge to allow it to safely brine at the proper temperatures.
How long should I brine my meat for?
Typically you want to brine your meat for a minimum of 24 hours. For smaller chickens and cuts of pork, even 12 hours usually will do the trick compared to a turkey which could brine for 36-72 hours if desired.
You need to allow the brining process to happen long enough to help the salt solution to fully absorb into the meat. This happens over several hours and is crucial for absorbing flavor and keeping your meat juicy as it cooks in the oven or on your grill.
How do I prepare my meat after it’s done brining?
Here are some helpful tips to prep your meat and poultry after the brine time has concluded:
- Remove your meat from the brine and discard your brine.
- I often like to rinse the turkey, chicken or pork after brining to help remove any excess salt.
- Place the meat onto a backing sheet and pat it dry with paper towels to remove excess liquid and moisture.
- You can leave your chicken or turkey uncovered at this point in the fridge until you’re ready to cook it (this helps dry out the skin a bit to get it crispier)
- Then follow the rest of your cooking instructions that are needed to complete your final recipe.
Besides cooking whole turkeys or chickens, try this brine recipe out on this oven baked BBQ chicken or these hot and fast ribs too!
Easy Apple Cider Brine Recipe
- In a large stock pot, add your salt, peppercorns, BBQ seasoning, and bay leaves.
- Pour in your water, beer, and smoked cider.
- Over medium high heat, bring the mixture to a boil. Once boiling reduce the heat and allow it to fully cool.
- Pour over your turkey, chicken, or pork into an appropriate container that will fully submerge the protein. Place in the fridge for 24 hours (minimum) and follow regular cooking instructions after brining.