Apple Cider – Honey Brined Grilled Turkey, by Beverly Hicks Burch

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This recipe is a reblog from last year and I’ve decided to go ahead and share it again for my new readers. Thanksgiving is coming up in a few days and many of us spend a great deal of time trying to find a way to serve up a turkey that will knock the socks of our family and visitors at our holiday table. This turkey is moist, juicy and full of delightful flavor.

Tall & Handsome is the grillmaster of the house. He grills year round. He has adapted the motto of the postal service: neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow…well, you know the rest, just insert, “shall prevent me from grilling my little heart out year round”.

Several years ago, maybe one of the first holidays we spent in Knoxville, T & H hit upon the brined turkey. I don’t recall if he stumbled upon the idea while watching a food show, or if he came upon it while he trolled one of his internet food sites. As I’ve said before, T & H trolls food, cooking and kitchen sites like some men troll porn sites. I have no complaints.

So, he has become quite finessed at brining a bird, let me tell you. And, he doesn’t depend on just one recipe – oh, no, not my T & H. He’s the Braveheart of the grill and ready to try any wonderful sounding brinded bird recipe his big baby blues lay their eyes on. Last year it was a Brined Applewood Bacon Wrapped Grilled Turkey.

May I pause here to say just one word – ecstasy. Pure and simple.

I didn’t think it possible to equal or out do last year’s bird, but I was sorely wrong. This year he did an Apple Cider – Honey Brined Bacon Wrapped Turkey for Thanksgiving. If I wasn’t already married to him, I’d marry him just for that bird. Really.

So, if you’re looking for something a little different and outstanding for your Christmas meal, consider today’s recipe. It will deliver for you.

Now, just a word about a brine. What is it?

Brining is a centuries old process that was used originally to preserve food for long transport. Food was immersed in a heavily salted solution that would preserve the food. Now the salty solution may be made up of many tasty ingredients that add wonderful flavor to the food. The food doesn’t become overly salty in taste, but the brine does add flavor, tenderness and reduces cooking time. The kosher salt in the brine opens the pores in the turkey and allows the seasoning to permeate the turkey but the heat from grill “melts” any excess salt.

So for this turkey, we took some ingredients we enjoyed from previous recipes, used inspiration from other recipes and eureka – here it is. Portions of the recipe were inspired by a recipe in the October – November 2012 issue of Fine Cooking.

Read through the recipe first, you might want to make the brine a day ahead. And, even the rub can be made a couple of days ahead. Just a some time saving tips.

Apple Cider – Honey Brined Bacon Wrapped Grilled Turkey

For the brine:

8 cups apple cider

1 1/2 cups kosher salt

1 3/4 cups brown sugar, packed

1 cup apple cider vinegar

10 whole allspice, crushed

1/4 cup fresh ginger, peeled and crushed

1 cinnamon stick

1 cup honey

5 bay leaves

1 tablespoon whole peppercorns

(*Note: you will also be adding 8 cups of water to the brine.)

1. Combine all the ingredients and *8 cups of water in a large stockpot – at least 8 quarts. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and allow the brine to cool to room temperature. At this point place in the fridge and refrigerate until cold.

2. Next take your turkey and prepare it for the brine. You can use a fresh or previously frozen turkey, just be sure it has thawed. Remove the giblets from the turkey. Wash the turkey and pat it dry with paper towels.

3. Now, place the turkey in a container larger enough to hold the turkey and the brine. We use a large ice chest. Place the turkey in the container and pour the brine over the turkey. The turkey will float so don’t be alarmed. Add ice to the brine. We usually dump all the ice from the icemaker into the brine, so maybe a bag of ice would be good.

4. Place container in a cool dry place and allow turkey to stay in the brine for 6 to 20 hours. We usually allow the turkey to stay in the brine overnight.

Turkey in the Brine

Prepare the Spice Rub:

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 tablespoon packed brown sugar

2 1/4 teaspoons smoked paprika

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground coriander

1/8 teaspoon cumin

1. Combine all ingredients and set aside. If making ahead of time, store in an airtight container.

Aromatics and Herbs for the turkey:

1 red apple, we used a Gala, quartered

1 orange, quartered

1 onion, quartered

2 cinnamon sticks

4 chunks of fresh gingerroot, peeled and crush

4 fresh sage leaves

4 fresh sprigs of fresh rosemary

1. Place all ingredients except the herbs in a microwave proof dish. Cover with water and microwave 5 minutes. Set aside until ready to add the aromatics and herbs to the cavities.

Aromatics for the Cavity

Herbs for the Turkey Cavity

For the turkey:

5 tablespoon vegetable oil

3/4 cup butter, divided

1/4 cup honey

about 2 pound bacon, applewood if you can find it

2 cups of hardwoods chips for smoking – we use apple and hickory

1 cup apple juice in a spray bottle for basting

1. Remove turkey from the brine. Rinse and pat dry. Discard the brine. Soak wood chips in water for at least 30 minutes so they will “smoke” and not burn up. For this turkey T & H soaked his chips is apple juice.

2. Rub the inside of each cavity with 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and the sprinkle 1 1/2 teaspoons of the rub into each cavity.

3. In a small bowl combine 1/2 cup of soften butter with 1 tablespoon of the rub.

4. Next, with your hands, gently slide your hands under the skin around the breast meat. Try not to tear the skin. Next, using you fingers spread the butter and rub mixture between the skin and breast meat and any other place you can get it under the skin.

5. Fill the turkey cavities with the aromatics and herbs. For the small cavity use: one quarter apple, orange and onion, one sage leaf, one sprig rosemary, one cinnamon stick a one chunk fresh gingerroot. The rest goes into the larger cavity.

6. Tuck the wings behind the neck and tie the legs together with twine if necessary.

7. Use the remaining 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil to rub down the turkey, followed by the 1/4 cup of honey and then 3 1/2 tablespoons of the rub.

8. Now, using a disposable foil roasting pan, place a flat wire rack inside the pan. Line the rack with bacon where the turkey will sit. Place the turkey, breast side up on the rack lined with bacon. Next, finish covering the top of the turkey with bacon. Use toothpicks to hold the bacon in place if you need to.

9. If your grill has a smoking tray, add your wood chips that have had the water drained. If you don’t have a tray, make two smoke “bombs” by wrapping the wood chips in foil, poking holes in the foil and placing the bomb over the active burner. Reserve one bomb to switch out about half way through cooking.

10. Put the turkey in the pan on the grill and cover. Grill on indirect medium heat. Grill until the bacon turns dark – about 2 to 3 hours. At that point, remove the bacon, sprinkle the turkey with the remaining rub (reserve 1 teaspoon for the gravy), put the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter on top and begin spraying with apple juice about every 30 minutes until the turkey reaches a temperature of 165 degrees. If the turkey begins to get too dark, tent with foil.

You can make your favorite gravy using the giblets if you like. I’m not a giblet gravy fan. If you use the drippings from the pan, use a fat separator and use just a tad of the dripping to avoid making the gravy too salty.

I recommend sautéing some onion (1), carrots and celery (2 each) in a tad of olive oil (2 tablespoons) adding some low sodium chicken broth (about 4 cups or so), the giblets if you like, a bay leaf and few whole peppercorns (1/2 teaspoon) and the rub seasoning. Simmer that for about 10 minutes, strain the veggies out, then make a slough with cornstarch and cold water, add to the broth and stir until thicken and presto – gravy!

Apple Cider - Honey Brined Grill Turkey

Apple Cider – Honey Brined Grilled Turkey


© 2013 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

Comments: 4

  1. ojhicks December 11, 2013 at 4:37 pm

    Sure was a “good old bird !” Tell Reggie “he did good.”

    • December 11, 2013 at 4:43 pm

      Thanks, I will. He just loves doing those brined turkeys 🙂

  2. Marlayne December 11, 2013 at 5:00 pm

    Oh lady you’ve made me hungry. Photos are excellent addition to your instructions. Some people learn by sight, so this is very helpful to see the images. I might add that I’ve ‘not’ removed the innards or giblets years ago and disastrous results. Learned my lesson needless to say. We also rub garlic salt inside the cavity and under the skin for extra flavor. Not sure it that would work here? Thanks for sharing another wonderful recipe!

    • December 11, 2013 at 8:53 pm

      You’re very welcome! These are usually Tall & Handsome’s pride and joy for the year. I chuckled when you mentioned the innards and giblets. You wouldn’t believe how many stories I’ve heard like that. I’ve decided it must be a time honored rite of passage. These are the most moist turkeys I’ve ever had in my life!

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