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How to Roast a Turkey: Citrus Brined Thanksgiving Turkey

How to Roast a Turkey: Citrus Brined Thanksgiving Turkey

Thanksgiving. The turkey and dressing (or stuffing). The green bean casserole. The table of desserts. The family arguments.
Memories. 🙂

What could make this years holiday season even more memorable? How about a perfectly brined, perfectly seasoned, crispity crusted delicacy of a bird that’ll make you wish you had more leftovers (but probably won’t).

Besides birds and side dishes, and sweet treats galore, fall makes me think of citrus as well. That’s what actually inspired this bird. Fresh naval oranges, specifically from Florida, are what I used for this recipe. I use some form of citrus in most of my dishes, especially my soups. The acid from a fresh squeezed lemon registers on your tongue the same way salt does. So a lot of times, rather than over season your dish with salt, add a fresh squeeze of lemon, or lime even. This turkey gets a double dose of orange with fresh slices placed in the brine as well as added to the compound butter recipe I’ve got for you below. We’ve got citrus butter basting the bird as it cooks, so this guy is citrus fall fresh!

The brine is a commonly found ratio and will be enough to brine up to a 14 lb bird. I’ve added some spices and fresh orange slices to set a nice background flavor for this guy. It’s also good to note that you will have the best results with a fresh turkey, only because most frozen turkeys are already packaged in a brine solution. I know in some areas that is hard to find (as were my juniper berries in Georgia :p) but just read the label on the back. If you still choose a “pre-brined” bird I’d say stick with the lowest possible brine time (6 hours) to avoid an overly salted bird.

Turkey and Brine:

1 10-12 lb. bird (I used a 10.76 lb bird)

1 cup of table salt

2 gallons of water

2 teaspoons juniper berries, crushed

1 teaspoon peppercorns, crushed

3 bay leaves

1 large naval orange, sliced


Remove thawed turkey from refrigerator and follow instructions on manufacturers label as far as rinsing (or not..yeck) and remove innards. Place turkey back in fridge until brining solution is ready. Dissolve salt in water in large stock pot. Remove from heat to cool. Add in spices and pour over turkey (once cooled) in either a large container or a double lined oven bag placed inside of a large container.  Seal container and place in refrigerator for 6 hours (minimum) up to 12 hours. I brined my bird for 7 1/2 hours. Remove from brine and pat dry with paper towels. Leave in refrigerator uncovered overnight on a roasting pan to help dry out the skin and promote browning and crisping of the skin during cooking.

Once you’re set for roasting das bird start on your simple citrus compound butter to complement the flavors of the brine. A compound butter is simply a butter with added ingredients combined together. They can be used to finish a dish or add a little somethin’ extra to something as simple as a freshly baked baguette.  I’ve omitted salt from this particular ingredient list due to the level of salt already pushed into the turkey during the brining process. The recipe is as follows:


Citrus Compound Butta:butta lilchefchic

1 stick unsalted butta, softened

1 teaspoon orange zest

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

2 teaspoons thyme, removed from stem and chopped

1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

2 cloves garlic, minced

Combine all ingredients. Set aside.


Remove turkey from refrigerator. Very carefully slide your fingers underneath the skin of the turkey breast and slowly pull the skin away from the breast muscle, making sure not to rip or tear the skin. What you are doing is making room for the butter to sit beneath the skin and add even more flavor to the meat. Once you’ve worked most of the skin away from the muscle, use your fingers to push the compound butter up underneath the skin as well as under the skin of the legs. It does take some time, but have patience with it. Once that’s completed (and you’ve recrossed or tied his legs together) pop this baby on a lined baking pan and stick it on the lower rack of a 425° preheated oven. Roast him for 30 minutes and then turn the oven down to 325° to complete the roasting time based on the package directions. My bird was supposed to take 2 1/2 to 3 hours to cook but ended up only taking 2 hours. I would suggest checking it at least half way into the suggested cook time and see where the temp is. You want to stick your thermometer into the thickest part of the leg without hitting the bone. Your thermometer should read 160°. Once you pull it out of the oven and let it rest it will continue to carry over cook and reach it’s 165° safe temperature. Let it rest a whole thirty minutes before carving to give the juices time to redistribute back out into the turkey, leaving you with a very juicy bird.

I placed this handsome guy on a super pretty platter with some lil cuties and fresh herbs for a nice presentation and then took it back into the kitchen to a cutting board where I thinly sliced it with a super sharp chef’s knife. I’d actually recommend using an electric knife for this kind of job. It helps you have more control with your cuts and doesn’t tear or rip the meat like other knives. Use very light pressure and let the knife do the work and all your guests will be ooohing and awwwing at your amazing knife skills all weekend.

Since I’m having TWO turkeys this holiday season on two different occasions what sides would you recommend? Do you like to stay traditional each Thanksgiving with your entree and side dishes or do you like to spice it up? Hit me up below!

10 thoughts on “How to Roast a Turkey: Citrus Brined Thanksgiving Turkey”

  • Love this recipe Roasted turkey in citrus brine and the added citrus compound butta .Low sodium idea a plus for sure. Appears the compound butter helps with keeping the turkey moist and tender. This recipe will be perfect for thanksgiving dinner 🥘 Thank you Happy Thanksgiving 🦃🍽🍁

    • Hi Lou! I’m glad you like my recipe!:) This recipe definitely yields a tender turkey. If you are truly looking for a low sodium bird though you would want to skip the brining process and proceed forward with the compound butter. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving as well and keep me posted if you decide to give this bird a whirl:)

  • This sounds so delicious. I remember cooking thanksgiving dinner for my family for the first time, my turkey turned out not so good. I am glad to come across your article. I love your recipe. I will have to try it out for this year’s turkey day. I love anything with Lemon in it. Thank you so much for sharing!

  • I brined a turkey only once, and it was absolutely worth it. I LOVE the idea of using compound butter under the skin, that makes so much more sense than what I usually do, which is to throw everything (butter, garlic, herbs) under there individually.

    Hmm…sides. This year I’m making roasted brussells sprouts with walnuts and blue cheese, and mashed red potatoes with garlic and the skins ON. I love just about all of the traditional thanksgiving foods, though. Gotta fast this week so I can pig out Thursday!

    • Hey Penelope! Thanks for the thumbs up! Your brussels sprouts with bleu and walnuts sounds awesome! And taters are always awesome (and more nutritious) with the skins left on. What time’s dinner?? 😉

  • Lol, the family arguments. Let’s hope they’re aren’t any. Thanks for the recipe and guide. Looking forward to cooking up the eperfect turkey for thanksgiving.

    I was wondering if to add salt but then you answered that further on. I do wonder though whether a cup of salt is too much? Sounds a bit but I’m not much of a cook. Thank you.

    • Hi Owain! Thanks for the comment. The brine is basically just flavoring the turkey from the inside out while at the same time helping the turkey retain it’s moisture during the cooking process. Believe me, it won’t be overly salted from this process (I know that’s a common concern).
      And hopefully no arguments this year…politics are not on the table for discussion. lol

  • We have never used brining with our turkeys, but this looks and sounds so delicious we may just have to give it a try. Of course we had never tried a deep fried turkey until we did, and it was so juicy. So, sounds like a citrus brined turkey it is then. Is it bad that we just ate and now I’m hungry again?

    • I know brining a turkey adds another step but it’s so worth it-just like that fried turkey you had! I remember the first time I tried on of those. It was amazing!

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