Cranberry Turkey Brine Recipe

Switch up your Thanksgiving tradition with this turkey recipe.

Turkey is the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving table, so make it count. Chef Greg Baxtrom of Olmsted in NYC shares his recipe for a cranberry-brined turkey, packing herbs and spices into every bite. After roasting to golden perfection, the drippings are transformed into a hard cider gravy that puts this bird over the edge.

Brining a turkey is the perfect way to ensure juicy, well-seasoned meat. Baxtrom encourages you to not only pat the bird dry with paper towels, but to let it sit at room temperature for a couple of hours as well. This helps the center of the turkey return to room temperature, allowing for even cooking, and also air-dries any remaining liquid.

Making sure to pull it out of the oven at the right time is also key. "Everyone cooks it to 165 [degrees]," Baxtrom says. But if a 10 to 15 pound bird is roasted to that temperature and allowed to rest, it will overcook. "Don't be scared to pull it out at 155," he advises.

And if you don't yield two cups of turkey drippings during the cooking process, feel free to make up the difference with chicken or turkey stock. You'll have plenty of leftover turkey schmaltz, so save it to fry up eggs for breakfast the next day.

To learn more, read "Chef's Table."

Recipe adapted from Greg Baxtrom, Olmsted, New York, NY

Cranberry-Brined Turkey With Hard Cider Gravy
5 from 30 ratings
This alternative take on a Thanksgiving bird from chef Greg Baxtrom gets brined in cranberry and finished with hard apple cider gravy.
Prep Time
Cook Time
to 10 servings
Total time: 3 hours
  • For the Brine
  • 24 cups water
  • 8 cups cranberry juice
  • 2 cups kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • ½ tablespoon whole cloves
  • 2 oranges, thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic bulb, halved crosswise
  • 1 bunch thyme
  • 1 bunch sage
  • 1 bunch rosemary
  • For the Turkey
  • One 15-pound turkey
  • 3 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 garlic bulb, halved crosswise
  • 1 bunch sage
  • For the Gravy
  • 2 tablespoons reserved turkey fat
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup hard apple cider
  • 2 cups turkey drippings (see headnote)
  1. Make the brine: In a large pot, combine all the ingredients and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until the salt has dissolved, 1 minute, then let cool completely.
  2. Make the turkey: Add the turkey to the brine, making sure it is fully submerged and refrigerate overnight.
  3. The next day, transfer the turkey to a roasting pan fitted with a rack, and dry well with paper towels. Discard the brine. Let the turkey sit out at room temperature for 2 hours. Preheat the oven to 350º.
  4. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt the butter with the garlic over medium heat. Using the sage bunch as a brush, dip the herbs in the butter and brush over the turkey.
  5. Roast the turkey, basting with butter every 30 minutes, until golden brown and an instant-read thermometer reads 155º when inserted into the thigh, 2 hours and 15 minutes, to 2 hours and 30 minutes. If the legs or body begin to get too dark, tent the bird with foil to prevent it from burning.
  6. Transfer the turkey to a cutting board and tent with foil. Let rest for 30 minutes. Pour out all of the pan drippings into a measuring cup and let the fat separate from the liquid. Reserve 2 tablespoons of fat and 2 cups of liquid drippings.
  7. Make the gravy: In a small saucepan, heat the turkey fat over medium heat. Sprinkle in the flour and cook until combined and blonde in color, 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the hard apple cider and cook until reduced slightly, 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in the turkey drippings and cook until thickened, 5 minutes more.
  8. Carve the turkey and serve with the gravy on the side.
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