Thanksgiving Series: Turkey Brine for Roasting or Smoking

Leading up to Thanksgiving, the “Super Bowl of All Meals,” and my personal favorite holiday, I am going to feature some recipes, methods of cooking, and definitely some wine pairing guidelines. See the whole Thanksgiving Series.

Look at this beautiful bird!!

Normally we save the best for last. Turkey is the star of the show. But today? I need to prepare you for that big day. How? I need to share my recipe for Thanksgiving magic–the turkey brine. We use this brine for both smoked and roasted birds. My husband is my personal superstar on Thanksgiving; he smokes our bird.

There is a whole bunch of science-type reasons why we brine our birds before we smoke or roast them. If you want to know details, go here for a great article, or watch this awesome Alton Brown video. All I know is that NO ONE IN THEIR RIGHT MIND likes dry turkey. Please don’t overcook your bird past 165. Also remember there is always carryover. We actually remove from the smoker or oven about 5-10 degrees earlier to let it rest before carving.

Wine suggestions

White wine lovers definitely find a match with an oaked Chardonnay, a rich Viognier, or an aromatic Rousanne or Marsanne. Other food friendly whites that match nearly all the sides would be Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Riesling, and Gewürztraminer.

If you’re one of those people who are brave enough to deep-fry your bird, a Sparkling would be perfect! Plus it is Thanksgiving and bubbles are always perfect for celebrating!

Smoked birds like we have demand a bold red wine–one that has smoky notes and a touch of fruitiness. I will definitely reach for a California Zinfandel, Rhone Blend, GSM, or Sangiovese this year. Maybe I will try a Tempranillo! Turkey is also great with dry red blends such as an aged Bordeaux or Meritage, Rioja, or Chianti Classico. Other reds like Syrah, Carignan, Grenache, an earthy Pinot Noir or a lighter Gamay/Beaujolais are all great ideas too!

Turkey Brine

Great for Thanksgiving turkey or any roast or smoked chicken
Course: Main Course
Keyword: brine, chicken, poultry, turkey
Servings: 12


  • large bucket or brine bag


  • 1 gallon apple cider or apple juice
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 6 cloves garlic smashed
  • 2 tbsp peppercorns whole
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 large orange halved
  • 3 sprigs rosemary fresh
  • 1 gallon cold water
  • 1 large turkey or 2 turkey breasts or 2 roasting chickens


  • Pour apple cider into a large stock pot over medium heat. Stir in salt and sugar. Add garlic, peppercorns, bay leaves, and rosemary. Squeeze orange halves into cider, and add the squeezed oranges too. Bring to boil. Cover, and let cool.
  • Place your bird(s) with giblets, etc removed, into a large bucket or brine bag. Pour brine over birds. Add in gallon of water.
  • Let your bird brine for at least 8 hours. We do this the night before Thanksgiving usually.
  • Remove bird from brine and rinse. discard brine. Cook bird as you prefer. We love ours smoked!
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