Brandy-Brined Turkey Breast

Brandy-brined turkey breast. It's a simple and sure way to guarantee moist turkey. (Hiccup.)

Brandy-Brined Turkey Breast  Recipe

This brandy-brined turkey breast is certain to banish any misgivings you may have about turkey white meat being dry and bland. All you need is a boozy brine and an Asian-inspired tangerine glaze. As an added bonus, it requires no fussy carving around a carcass. Simply slice, sit back, and let the accolades roll in.–Angie Zoobkoff

Brandy-Brined Turkey Breast Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 2 H
  • 18 H, 20 M
  • Serves 10

Ingredients

  • For the brined turkey
  • 2 quarts boiling water (1.9 liters)
  • 3/4 cup kosher salt (190 g)
  • 2 teaspoons pink curing salt (9 g), optional
  • 2 quarts ice water (1.9 liters)
  • 1/2 cup brandy or Cognac (120 ml)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 strips tangerine or orange zest (don’t fret on the size)
  • 1 whole turkey breast (5 to 6 pounds or 2.3 to 2.7 kg) , skin on, boned, rolled, and tied
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups cherry or other hardwood chips, soaked for 30 minutes, then drained
  • For the tangerine glaze
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce (120 ml)
  • 1/2 cup fresh tangerine juice, from 3 tangerines (120 ml)
  • 1/3 cup honey (113 g)
  • 3 tablespoons Asian (dark) sesame oil (45 ml)
  • 5 strips tangerine zest (1/2 inch or 12 mm each)
  • 3 garlic cloves (about 14 g), peeled and lightly crushed with the side of a cleaver
  • 3 scallions, white parts only (about 2 ounces or 60 g), trimmed, lightly crushed with the side of a cleaver
  • 3 slices fresh ginger (1/4 inch or 6 mm thick each (about 15 g total), peeled and lightly crushed with the side of a cleaver
  • 1 cinnamon stick (3 inches or 8 cm)
  • 1 star anise (optional)

Directions

  • Brine the turkey
  • 1. In a stockpot or large bowl, combine the boiling water, kosher salt, and curing salt, if using, and whisk until the salts dissolve, about 30 seconds. Stir in the ice water, brandy or Cognac, cinnamon sticks, and tangerine or orange zest. Let the brine cool to room temperature, about 1 hour.
  • 2. Pat the turkey breast dry with paper towels. If the turkey breast is tied with string, leave it intact. Place the turkey in a jumbo resealable plastic bag. Pour in the brine, seal the bag, and place in a large bowl or roasting pan to catch any unexpected leaks. Refrigerator for at least 12 hours or as long as 24 hours, turning it several times to evenly infuse the turkey with the brine.
  • 3. Remove the turkey breast from the brine, discarding the brine. Rinse the turkey and pat it dry. Place the turkey on a wire rack set inside a roasting pan and refrigerate until the surface feels dry yet tacky, 1 to 2 hours. Lightly brush the turkey breast with the olive oil.
  • 4. If you’re using a grill, set up the grill for indirect grilling and preheat to 350°F (180°C). Brush and oil the grill grate. Add the wood chips to the coals. Grill the turkey over indirect heat until the outside is golden brown and the internal temperature in the thickest part of the meat reaches 165°F (75°C), 1 to 1 1/2 hours. After 30 minutes, begin basting the turkey with extra-virgin olive oil, and continue basting every 15 minutes.

    If you’re using a smoker, light your smoker according to the manufacturer’s instructions and preheat to 250°F (120°C). Add the wood as specified by the manufacturer. Place the bird in the smoker. Smoke until the outside is bronzed with smoke and the internal temperature of the meat reaches 165°F (75°C), 2 1/2 to 3 hours. After 1 hour, begin basting the turkey with extra-virgin olive oil and continue basting every 45 minutes.
  • Make the tangerine glaze
  • 5. While the turkey is cooking, set a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir together the glaze ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat slightly and simmer, uncovered, until the mixture is thick and syrupy, 8 to 20 minutes. Strain the glaze into a bowl.
  • 6. During the last 5 minutes of cooking, baste the turkey with tangerine glaze. Transfer the turkey from the grill or smoker to a cutting board, cover loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Baste with more tangerine glaze. Remove the string and carve the turkey breast into slices. Serve the remaining glaze on the side.
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Recipe Testers Reviews

This brined turkey recipe is one of those that sneaks up behind you, taps you on the shoulder, and says, "Hey, look at me." This brined turkey was one of the most tender, juicy birds I've ever had. Simple ingredients, nothing fancy, but great flavors. The brining was key to that and definitely paid off. As for the flavor, the smoke and the citrus glaze made for a really tasty combination of sweet and savory. I'll be brining all my turkeys from now on. As for the flavor, the smoke and the citrus glaze made for a really tasty combination of sweet and savory. The Asian influence of soy, tangerine, ginger, garlic, scallion, sesame, cinnamon and honey, when boiled down into the thick lacquer (which took some time but worth it), really came through. And combining that intense flavor with the richness of a turkey breast smoked over hickory wood really made us stand up and take note. Our mouths were watering from the moment the turkey came off the smoker and they watered more as we enjoyed the meal because the brining step really helped keep the turkey super moist. The brined turkey remained very moist the next day when we sliced up what was left for delicious sandwiches (dressed with tangerine lacquer glaze, of course!).

This brined turkey satisfied my craving for turkey (when it was nowhere near Thanksgiving), didn't take up any space in my oven, and was a cinch to carve. Best of all, my guests RAVED about it. The turkey came out incredibly moist with a light smoke ring and subtle smoke flavor. I didn't really detect any of the brandy or cinnamon or orange flavoring in the turkey, but it was moist and delicious.

Comments

  1. I have a big crowd for Christmas and I wanted to make sure I liked this, so I made the recipe as soon as I saw it. This is a really great approach to turkey and may be the best turkey I have ever had—although I do love our chili rubbed New Mexican turkey a lot. As a matter of fact the traditional sides just pale by comparison so I made a Chimayo chili rissoto starter—courtesy of El Monte Segrado in Taos— and a green chili creamed corn, a sour dough choriso stuffing, and a mixed calabacita veggie plate.. The stronger local flavors in the side dishes really enhanced the flavor of the turkey. I think the meal would finish well with the beet cake from Ottolenghi’s new Sweet cookbook—unusual and very, very good. Instead of the usual Chardonnay, I paired this with a Pinot Noir which stood up well to the richness of the turkey and sides. If you want something really festive and a bit different from the usual Thanksgiving fare, this recipe is a winner.

    1. Magnificent to hear that you love this as much as we do, Diane! Thank you so much for taking the time to share your experience—and your menu—with us and our readers!

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