Citrus and Herb Brine Chicken and Turkey

Ah, Thanksgiving. That glorious time of year full of mashed potatoes, and stuffing, and pie, and yams, and pie, and whipped cream, and pie, and dried out turkey. But no more! Well, no more dried out turkey at least. Use this delicious citrus and herb brine to ensure flavorful and moist turkey (and chicken!) every time!

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Citrus and Herb Brine for Chicken and Turkey - Happy Bison

Why Brine?

We discovered how to brine poultry a few years ago. Amanda talked Mike into raising a couple of turkeys for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Thus ensued the Summer of Adventures with Bonnie and Clyde. We won’t go into details, but it was a summer to remember. So were the Thanksgiving and Christmas meals. (You know that saying how to not name livestock that is meant to be eaten? Yeah… don’t name your holiday dinners.)

Mike wanted to make sure he cooked the turkey to perfection after all the hard work that had gone into raising it. After much study, he decided to use a brine. After a glorious Thanksgiving meal with the most delicious and moist turkey anyone had ever had, it was decided that from then on, Mike would be cooking every holiday bird.

This recipe, like all recipes, has been tweaked over the years, but we really do believe it is now perfect. This Citrus and Herb Brine is now our go to for all turkey and chicken dinners.

The Science Behind It

A lot of people are intimidated by brines because of the amount of salt, but they are a really safe way of preserving food and adding more moisture into food. What the salt does, is it actually denatures or “breaks down” the protein in the meat that you’re brining and allows that protein to kind of form a wall and trap in the moisture which then cannot escape during cooking. It also works through osmosis into the cell body in the meat, so the salt water basically goes in, the contents of the cell cannot leave, so it fills with more moisture. It is just an all around great process for adding moisture to any meat.

– Chef Mike

Watch Mike through this process start to finish and use the recipe below.

Citrus and Herb Brine

Enough brine for one chicken. Double or triple the recipe for turkey. There must be enough brine to completely submerge the meat.

1 gallon water

1 cup kosher salt

1/2 cup sugar

1 sprig fresh rosemary

2 lemons, cut in half

1 branch fresh sage

1 small bunch fresh thyme

2 bay leaves

1 large (or 2 small) Vadalia onion, sliced with skin

1 large (or 2 small) head of garlic, cut in half widthwise with skin

3 Tablespoons course black pepper or fresh cracked black peppercorns
Happy Bison Original Spice Rub – however much it takes to completely cover the bird.

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Add all ingredients, minus pepper to a large pot. Squeeze the lemon juice into the brine, and then add the whole lemon to the brine (rind and all). Do not peel the onions or garlic. Simply cut and add everything to the brine.

Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Add black pepper to brine. Allow to steep for 10 to 15 minutes.

Pour brine into the container you will be using to brine the meat. For chickens, a small bucket or large bowl will be enough. Turkeys may need a small cooler, depending on the size of your bird. No matter what you use, just ensure the meat is completely submerged in the brine liquid and can be kept refrigerated below 40 degrees F. Pie plates work very well as weights to help keep it under the surface level.

For best results, allow chicken to brine for 4 to 6 hours and turkey 8 to 12 hours, or overnight. Remove bird from the brine and rinse in cold water very well. This will keep it from being too salty. Don’t forget to rinse out the inside of the bird too. Don’t worry about over rinsing- all that glorious flavor of the citrus and herb brine is trapped inside the meat.

After the Citrus and Herb Brine

Allow the bird to dry and rest on a rack on a baking sheet. This allows airflow all around the bird. Refrigerate at 40 degrees F or less uncovered for a minimum of three hours or overnight. This gives it time to form a pellicle, which is a thin layer of protein which allows smoke and flavor to adhere to the skin during the grilling and smoking process. You’ll notice a tackiness to the meat. If you are roasting your bird in the oven, this step is not necessary, but still helps to add great flavor and helps additional seasonings to stick to the skin.

Sprinkle the Original Spice Rub all over  and inside the bird. Rub it in by hand to ensure complete coverage.


On the Grill

After seasoning, allow the meat to rest outside of the refrigerator for at least an hour before placing on the grill. Meat grills the best when it is at room temperature and not right out of the refrigerator. If grilling the chicken, now is the perfect time to prep your grill and get it heated up. You want the grill right around 325 degrees F.

Place the bird breast-side-down on a baking sheet which has been covered in aluminum foil. This will help retain moisture around the meat and makes for easy clean up! If using a grill, keep your fire on one side of the grill and place the bird on the rack on the opposite side. You don’t want the bird over direct heat; you want indirect heat to cook the bird.

Roasting in the Oven

If roasting your bird in the oven, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Cover the bird with foil to ensure an even cook. Remove the foil for the last 10-15 minutes if you want the skin a bit crispy.

Whether you’re grilling or roasting your poultry, the general rule is 15 minutes per pound for all poultry. Always check the temperature of your bird before eating. 165 degrees F is the minimum temperature that needs to be reached before devouring. Be sure to check the temperature in multiple areas – breast, leg, thigh, etc. Density and near the bones will vary. That’s just another benefit of brining poultry – even if you have to (or accidentally do) over cook it, it will still come out nice and moist.

Be sure to watch the whole video detailing and showing this process AND get Mike’s tricks for extra tasty grilling!

Enjoy this Citrus and Herb Brine and Grill On!

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Citrus and Herb Brine for Turkey and Chicken - Happy Bison

Citrus and Herb Brine for Poultry

Citrus and Herb Brine for Poultry

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes

Use this brine for all poultry, from chicken breasts to whole turkeys!

Ingredients

  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 2 lemons, cut in half
  • 1 branch fresh sage
  • 1 small bunch fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 large Vadalia onion, sliced with skin
  • 1 large head of garlic, cut in half widthwise with skin
  • 3 Tablespoons course black pepper
  • Happy Bison Original Spice Rub to cover bird

Instructions

  1. Add all ingredients (except Spice Rub) to large pot. Squeeze the lemon juice into the brine, then add the whole lemon to the brine including rind. Do not peel onions or garlic- add all to the brine.
  2. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Allow to steep for 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. Pour brine into brining container. Cool completely.
  4. Add poultry to brine. Allow 4-6 hours for whole chicken, 8-12 (or overnight) for a turkey. Ensure the meat is completely submersed.
  5. After brine, remove the poultry from the brine and rinse well. Allow the meat to dry and rest in the fridge uncovered for a minimum of 3 hours or overnight. (This step can be skipped if roasting in the oven.)
  6. Sprinkle the whole bird with Happy Bison Original Spice Rub, inside and out, and smoke, grill, or roast as planned.

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