This Brined Turkey Breast makes the juiciest turkey meat you can imagine with hints of sweet, savory and citrus flavors. Bake it for weeknight dinners, use leftovers for sandwiches and serve it for Thanksgiving.
A few years ago, I decided to change up my Thanksgiving dinner a bit. I was watching Let’s Talk Turkey on the Food Network, which happens to be my absolute favorite week of the year, and saw someone (I believe it was Alton Brown) brine a turkey before they roasted it.
My life was changed forever. That is all I can say about it. Life changing.
This turkey was the juiciest turkey that I have ever eaten. It was so good that this year it was the star of my Thanksgiving table.
What is Brine?
A brine is a solution of salt and water that adds moisture and flavor to meats.
To brine or not to brine is a common question, especially when it comes to turkey day.
What is Brining?
Brining is an act of pickling or preserving food.
I like to use a combination of salt and sugar with fresh herbs and citrus but there are endless possibilities to flavor and tenderize whatever you are brining.
Why Should I Brine My Turkey?
Brining meat increases the amount of moisture in meat cells, producing juicy and tender pieces of meat every time.
Brining accomplishes two tasks – increases the juiciness of the turkey and imparts additional flavor within the turkey meat (rather than it just sitting on the surface).
How Long Do You Brine a Turkey?
So how much time are we talking about? The general rule is 1 hour per pound. But I like to brine overnight when I can.
Most of the time, I stick it in the brine first thing in the morning, then roast it off late in the afternoon.
All it takes is a fresh turkey breast and a few additional ingredients including salt, brown sugar, orange, lemons, whole peppercorns, rosemary and water.
Turkey. Look for bone-in turkey breasts with the skin-on. These are easy to find around the Thanksgiving holiday season. They will usually be placed next to the chicken in the grocery store.
Salt. Use kosher or coarse salt for best results (table salt’s granules are too small). I know it may sound like a lot of salt, but most of the salt will get poured down the drain with the rest of the brine.
Tip: The general rule is 1 cup of kosher/coarse salt per 1 gallon of water. You will know that you have enough salt if a raw egg floats in the water.
How to Make // The Steps
For the most part, I make a turkey breast at least once a week. I am not a fan of deli meats. I would much rather make a turkey myself and use the sliced turkey breast for sandwiches
Even though brining is an extra step in the process, I promise you that it is worth the time. Simply:
- In a large pot or Ziploc bag, whisk the salt and sugar in a gallon of water until they have dissolved.
- Add the fruits, herbs and peppercorns.
- Add the turkey to the brine. Cover the pot. If you use a Ziploc bag, put it in another bowl in case there is some leakage.
- Put the pot in the fridge. Let the turkey sit in the brine for 4-24 hours.
- Take the turkey out of the brine. Rinse the turkey off and pat dry.
- Rub butter over the top.
- Season well with salt and pepper and some fresh rosemary.
- Bake at 400 degrees for 30-45 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer registers 165 degrees.
What Makes This Brined Turkey Breast So Good?
I cannot tell you how happy I am that I started brining my turkey. I love this technique so much because:
- Brined turkey means juicier, more tender meat.
- It’s simple enough for weeknights, yet elegant enough for the holidays.
- Leftovers keep for days and it’s great for meal prepped protein, too.
How to Store Leftovers
I love to have this turkey around to use in sandwiches, casseroles or whatever I feel like eating during the week.
Leftover turkey will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. Rewarm in 30-second increments in the microwave or over medium heat on the stovetop.
To freeze, slice the turkey and freeze it for an hour on a parchment-lined baking sheet covered with plastic wrap. Transfer to a Ziplock bag, seal tight, label, date and freeze for up to 3 months.
Double or Triple for Thanksgiving
As mentioned, the brined turkey breast was a hit at our Thanksgiving table, too. Four 1-pound turkey breasts will feed 4 people comfortably, while accounting for leftover Thanksgiving turkey sandwiches, too. Simply double or triple the recipe based on how many guests you are feeding.
Best Herbs to use for Brined Turkey Recipe
If you want the best herbs to use for brining your turkey you can use rosemary, sage, basil, oregano, bay leaves and thyme. You may also add spices like peppercorns and paprika.
If you want more aromatics then you can use lemon grass, garlic, chili flakes, and more. Use what you have on hand and try to mix and match what compliments the turkey. The sky is the limit!
What to Serve alongside Turkey Breast
If you want to have a feast for a king you need sides with your roasted turkey breast. A smooth and creamy mashed potato is a must. Mac and cheese is also a great pick. A corn salad will also go well for a veggie side. And for dessert you can never go wrong with a rustic apple pie.
More Turkey Recipes //
Originally published in May 2010, updated October 2020 with updated images and updated recipe card.