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.

david caricature

Why Our Testers Loved This

Tester Greg C. calls this grilled brined turkey breast “one of the most tender, juicy birds I’ve ever had.” All of our testers commented on how incredibly moist the turkey breast was and were delighted that it’s a holiday main dish that doesn’t take up oven space.

What You’ll Need to Make This

  • Kosher salt–Depending on the brand of kosher salt you’re using, you may need to adjust the amount of salt added to your brine. Crystal sizes in kosher salt can vary dramatically. So if you’re using Diamond Crystal kosher salt, use 3/4 cups, and if you’re using Morton kosher salt, use a heaping 1/3 cup. If you’re uncertain of the brand, weigh your salt. You should have 3.75 ounces or 109 g.
  • Turkey breast–Ask your butcher to bone, roll, and tie your breast for you. It will save you a lot of time and frustration.
  • Soy sauce–Regular or low-sodium will work, and if you’re keeping this gluten-free, use tamari or another gluten-free soy sauce.
  • Tangerine juice–If you can’t get tangerines, regular orange juice will work.

How to Make This Recipe

  1. Brine the turkey breast. Combine the brine ingredients in a stockpot and heat until the salt dissolves. Let it cool to room temperature. Place the turkey breast in a jumbo resealable bag, pour the brine over, and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours.
  2. Prepare the turkey. Drain the brine, rinse off the turkey, and let it sit in the fridge until the surface of the turkey begins to feel tacky.
  3. Cook the turkey. Use a grill or smoker, adding wood chips as needed, to cook the turkey breast over indirect heat until the internal temperature reaches 165°F. Baste the turkey occasionally with olive oil.
  4. Make the glaze. While the turkey is cooking, combine the glaze ingredients and boil until thick and syrupy. Strain.
  5. Baste the turkey. During the last 5 minutes of cooking, baste the turkey with the glaze. Carve and serve with extra glaze on the side.

Common Questions

What does brining do for a turkey breast?

The overnight brine will help draw the flavored liquid into the cells of the turkey breast, keeping it juicy and flavorful throughout the slow cooking process.

What’s the best type of wood to use for smoked brined turkey breast?

Cherrywood is excellent with turkey, but you could also use apple, hickory, or mesquite.

How much boneless turkey breast do I need per person?

Plan on at least 1/2 pound of turkey breast per adult. Children will eat a little less, but always err on the side of a little extra.

What should I serve with brined turkey breast?

This turkey is a great addition to any Thanksgiving meal and could be served with any of the classic Thanksgiving side dishes. Since you’ve got your grill or smoker fired up, we highly recommend making this grilled butternut squash along with black pepper mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts gratin, and cranberry upside-down cake, for dessert.

Helpful Tips

  • If you can’t find a large enough resealable bag to hold your turkey breast, put it in a canning pot and pour the brine over it. Make sure that the turkey breast is submerged in the brine.
  • If you don’t have fridge space to hold your turkey while it’s brining, you can put it in a cooler. Place the bag of brined turkey in a cooler and fill the rest of the cooler with ice. If you live in a cool climate, keep the cooler outside or in the garage.
  • This recipe is suitable for gluten-free and dairy-free diets.

More Great Turkey Breast Recipes

Write a Review

If you make this recipe, or any dish on LC, consider leaving a review, a star rating, and your best photo in the comments below. I love hearing from you.–David

A brandy-brined turkey breast on a wooden cutting board with a couple slices cut off, a basket of mandarins in the background, and some grilled red onion wedges scattered around.

Brandy-Brined Turkey Breast

5 / 5 votes
Brandy-brined turkey breast. It’s a simple and sure way to guarantee moist turkey. (Hiccup.)
David Leite
Servings10 servings
Calories370 kcal
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time3 hours
Total Time18 hours 20 minutes


For the brined turkey

  • 2 quarts boiling water
  • 3/4 cup Diamond brand kosher salt, or a heaping 1/3 cup Morton brand kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons pink curing salt, optional
  • 2 quarts ice water
  • 1/2 cup brandy or Cognac
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 strips tangerine or orange zest, (don't fret on the size)
  • One (5.5- to 6-lb) whole turkey breast, 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
  • 1/2 cup fresh tangerine juice, from 3 tangerines
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 3 tablespoons Asian (dark) sesame oil
  • 5 strips tangerine zest , 1/2 inch or 12 mm each)
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed with the side of a cleaver
  • 3 scallions, white parts only, trimmed, lightly crushed with the side of a cleaver
  • Three (1/4-inch) slices fresh ginger, each peeled and lightly crushed with the side of a cleaver
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 star anise, optional


Brine the turkey

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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

  • 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.
  • 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.


  1. Salt–If you’re uncertain about the brand of your kosher salt, weigh it. You want to use 3.75 ounces or 109 g of kosher salt in your brine.
  2. Turkey breast–Save some time and have your butcher bone, roll, and tie the turkey breast for you.
  3. Brining vessel–If you can’t find a bag large enough to hold your breast, stick it in a canning pot and cover it with the brine.
  4. Dietary–This recipe is suitable for gluten and dairy-free diets. Make sure the brand of soy sauce you use is gluten-free or use tamari.
Barbecue Sauces Rubs and Marinades Cookbook

Adapted From

Barbecue Sauces, Rubs, and Marinades

Buy On Amazon


Serving: 1 portionCalories: 370 kcalCarbohydrates: 13 gProtein: 55 gFat: 8 gSaturated Fat: 1 gMonounsaturated Fat: 3 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 135 mgSodium: 1425 mgFiber: 1 gSugar: 11 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Photo © 2017 Matthew Benson. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

This brined turkey breast 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.

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 hot turkey 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.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    Totally delicious! Even my 9 year old says “hey this turkey is good! Not like last year’s turkey!” ? Just used a standard grocery store turkey breast as didn’t read close enough. Took longer on the smoker – 4 hours or so for an 8-pound (including backbone) turkey breast. Thanks; made for a fabulous thanksgiving!

    1. Thanks, Ingrid! We’re so glad you gave this a try and that it was such a hit at your Thanksgiving table. Thanks for taking the time to let us know.

  2. I am dying to make this! Please tell me how to do this in the oven so it turns out perfectly juicy. I will do it and then report back to you. Would adding liquid smoke in some way help get the desired smokiness?

    I trust you because your recipe for loin of pork is excellent and the meat is juicy, which is hard to achieve with pork loin.

    1. Hi Janet. Although we’ve never tried it in the oven, we suspect it should work if you follow the same temperature directions as the grill method. The brine should keep the turkey nice and juicy. To add some smoke flavor, try adding 1 1/2 teaspoons liquid smoke to your brine. We can’t wait to hear how it turns out!

  3. 5 stars
    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!