1gallonwater(16 cups; 128 ounces), plus additional as needed
8cupsapple juice(1/2 gallon; 64 ounces), or apple cider
1 1/4cupskosher saltNOT table salt
1/2cupbrown sugarlight or dark
2teaspoonsallspice berriesor 1 teaspoon whole cloves plus 1 cinnamon stick
2peels of 2 large oranges
8big, heaping cups of iceor 8 cups cold water
1uncooked turkeyup to 16 pounds - see notes if making a larger bird
In an 8-quart or larger stockpot (see note*), combine 1 gallon water, apple juice, salt, brown sugar, bay leaves, peppercorns, rosemary, allspice, and orange peels.
Bring the liquid to a boil, stirring until the sugar and salt dissolve. Remove from the heat and let cool to near room temperature. (Budget time accordingly—after an hour, my liquid was still warm.)
To brine, remove the neck and giblets from the turkey (discard or save for gravy). Line a large bucket, tub, pot, cooler, or other similar vessel large enough to hold the turkey and brine snugly with a brining bag. Place your uncooked turkey in the bag.
Add the ice.
Pour the brining liquid on top (if it is still a little warm, the ice will melt and cool it down). If the turkey is not completely submerged when pressed to the bottom of the container, add cold water until it is just covered. If desired, tie the brining bag closed. If the turkey floats, weigh it down with a heavy pot, bag of ice, or similar (we top ours with a stack of dinner plates that is about the circumference of the bucket).
Let the turkey brine for 12 to 24 hours, ensuring that it stays below 40 degrees but above 32 degrees so that it does not freeze. You can place it in a refrigerator, in your garage or outside of it's cold (just make sure it's not below freezing), or place bags of ice or cooling bricks around the turkey. Check the ice periodically and refresh as needed.
When ready to cook, remove the turkey from the brine. Rinse it all over, inside and outside. Pat dry. Discard the brine and (if time allows), refrigerate the turkey uncovered for several hours (or up to 24 hours) to dry the skin. Cook as desired. See How to Cook a Turkey and Spatchcock Turkey for two of the best ways to cook turkey.
*STOCKPOT SIZE: If your pot is only 8 quarts, it will be VERY full but is manageable. If you'd like a little more spare room for the liquid to boil, hold back on 4 cups of the water while boiling, then add it to the brining bag with the ice at the end.
WHAT IF MY TURKEY IS LARGER THAN 18 POUNDS? For an 18- or 20-pound turkey, increase the water, salt, and sugar by about 1.25. For example: for a 20-pound turkey, you'd use 20 cups water, 1.5 cups salt, and 3/4 cup sugar.
Nutrition information was calculated using a 14-pound turkey. Since the brine is rinsed off, it is not included in the calculation.