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Part 5: Cider-Glazed Brined Turkey with Apple Brandy Gravy

Allergy Free Thanksgiving Series

Part 5 of my Ultimate Thanksgiving Prep Series…Cider Glazed Brined Turkey and Apple Brandy Gravy.

There are only a few things that I believe are key to a perfectly roasted moist bird.

Brining is one of them.

And I had planned on sharing this key step by posting my own brining method here to go along with my Cider-Glazed Turkey recipe. However, I recently discovered that Ree Drummond – The Pioneer Woman uses very similar ingredients in her Favorite Brining Recipe.

Can you blame her? How can you go wrong with drowning  your turkey for hours in a bath of apple cider, brown sugar, fresh rosemary, bay leaves, orange peels, garlic, and of course, the star brining ingredient – kosher salt?

So, instead of doing a lengthy addition to my post on how to brine a turkey, I will let Ree do it for me.

Plus, I know you all really trust Ree. Far more than you may trust me.

Plus, her photos are extensively more amazing than mine could ever be.

So here you go: The Pioneer Woman’s Favorite Turkey Brine

Follow those steps. Follow them exactly. You will not be sorry. I am serious.

Okay, now for my Turkey Recipe.

This may look like a lot of steps, but really many of them are just tips that I wish had all been in one place when I was making my first few turkeys.

Gluten Free Cider Glazed Turkey

Cider-Glazed Brined Turkey with Apple Brandy Gravy

(Gluten-Free, Egg-Free, Nut-Free, Easily Dairy-Free)

Adapted over many many years from the December 2000 issue of Epicurious’ Cider Basted Turkey Recipe


  • 1 18 pound ROOM TEMPERATURE fresh free-range turkey, brined following The Pioneer Woman’s method -removed from brine, rinsed thoroughly, and allowed to totally dry
  • 1/4 cup softened butter, mixed with 1/2 teaspoon sea salt and 1 – 2 cloves minced garlic (For Dairy-Free: use a Good Quality Olive Oil)

FOR TURKEY CAVITY (size of bird will determine what fits):

  • 1 – 2 Granny Smith or Golden Delicious Apples (quartered-can leave skin and core intact since this is not for consumption, only flavoring)
  • 1 large onion, peeled and quartered
  • 1 lemon, or orange, halved
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 4-6 fresh sage leaves
  • 1/2 tsp salt


  • 1 cup Apple Cider
  • 2 Tbsp Grade B Maple Syrup (preferably organic)
  • 4 Tbsp Cultured butter, preferably organic from grass-fed cows (For Dairy-Free: use either Earth Balance Buttery Spread OR Organic Canola Oil)
  • 3 Tbsp Calvados or applejack (Apple Brandy), or more to taste
  • 1 tsp ground Cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt


  • Pan Juices
  • 2 – 3 Tbsp Apple brandy (or more to taste)
  • 3 – 4 cups Gluten-Free Turkey or Chicken Broth (preferably Organic)
  • 1/4 cup Apple Cider
  • 3 Tbsp Cornstarch
  • Sea salt and pepper, to taste


1.  After discarding your brine, and thoroughly rinsing bird, pat dry inside and out and allow bird to air-dry on counter for at least 1 1/2 hours (this will bring the bird to room temperature and allow the skin to dry out enough so that it can crisp up nicely during roasting).

2.  Set oven rack to lowest position in oven (you may have to remove a rack). Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

3.  Place turkey on rack inside of large roasting pan.  Gently loosen skin away from breast meat and rub softened butter mixture all over breast, under skin, getting as far as you can, while taking great care not to tear it.  Rub any remaining butter all over the outside of the bird, on breast and legs.  Season bird generously with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper.

4.  In medium bowl, mix together ingredients for turkey cavity: apples, onion, citrus halves (squeezing some of the juice out into bowl as well), cinnamon stick, rosemary, and sage.  Fill turkey cavity with mixture.

5.  Tuck wings under turkey and tie legs together with kitchen twine.  For instructions on how to do this, Alton Brown has a good method on How to Truss a Turkey.

6.  Place oven-safe thermometer (preferably a digital one) in thickest part of thigh away from bone of turkey. Place turkey in pre-heated oven and roast for 30 minutes.

7.  While turkey is roasting at high heat, mix together in medium saucepan,  all ingredients for basting: apple cider, maple syrup, butter, brandy, cinnamon, and salt.  Bring to gentle boil, then after 2 minutes, remove from heat and set aside.

8.  After 30 minutes, lower oven temperature to 350 degrees. Baste turkey with hot basting mixture.  At this point, pour 1 cup of liquid (water or broth) into bottom of roasting pan – will prevent sugars in basting liquid from burning in pan, and create steam-like effect to keep breast meat moist but will not prevent browning.

9.  Baste turkey every 30 minutes with both basting liquid you and with the pan juices, checking for too much browning of bird.  Turn your turkey to face the other direction halfway through cooking since most ovens have hot spots.  Will help produce more even cooking.

10.  If you find bird to be browning too quickly, or too much in one area, tent the bird loosely with foil in browned areas.  Remove foil during basting, then replace.

11.  When thigh meat has reached 160 degrees (truth be told, I remove mine at about 155), remove turkey from oven and roasting pan and place bird on cutting board covered loosely with foil.  An 18 pound bird should take from 2 hours 3o min to 3 hours.  Let rest for 30 minutes.

12.  In medium saucepan, gently warm 3 – 4 cups of turkey or chicken broth.  Place roasting pan across two burners, if possible, and pour in Apple brandy, and deglaze bottom of pan over medium heat.

13.  Once bottom of pan is scraped clean, pour pan juices from roasting pan into fat separator and set aside. Fat will rise to top as liquid cools; dark drippings, the flavorful part, will stay at bottom.  If not using a separator, spoon fat from top after it settles.

14.  Pour pan juices (minus fat) into warm broth mixture.  In small bowl, whisk together apple cider and cornstarch until smooth.  Pour this mixture into pan juice/broth mixture.  Whisk constantly, using figure 8 motion, to avoid lumps. Gravy will begin to thicken.  Salt and Pepper to taste.  Can strain any lumps or larger pieces of drippings from gravy at this point (my mother does this, I do not).

15.  Now, to get your carved turkey to look like this…..

How to Carve a TurkeyWatch this Video by Alton Brown on How To Carve a Perfect Turkey.

Trust me. It works.  See above.


PART 1: The Menu and The Plan of The Ultimate Thanksgiving Series

PART 2: Cranberry Citrus Cider Sauce AND Green Bean and Shallot Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette.

PART 3: The Gluten-Free Cornbread Recipe for the stuffing (with the Variation to make the Savory Cornbread Rosemary Muffins to go with the meal) and Crock Pot Mashed Potatoes.

PART 4: The Gluten-free Cornbread and Crusty Bread Stuffing with Apples, Sausage, Pine Nuts, Golden Raisins, and…Pumpkin Puree.

PART 5: Cider Glazed Brined Turkey with Apple Brandy Gravy

PART 6: Toffee Pecan Caramel Apple Streusel (Gluten-free and Egg-free already, but ways to make it Dairy-free and Nut-free as well) and Crustless Pumpkin Streusel Pie.

PART 7: The MASTER Shopping List

  1. On November 17, 2010 Linda said

    Wow, Kim. That sounds like the best turkey ever with those ingredients. My brother always does the turkey, and I’m happy to let him do it, but I might pass this on to him.

    • On November 17, 2010 Cook It Allergy Free said

      Thanks so much, Linda!! It really is one of the best turkey recipes I have ever had. My family will not let me do it any other way now.

  2. On November 17, 2010 carrie @ gingerlemon said

    just beautiful Kim!! 🙂 I just might have to try this with the turkey breast I’ll be making this weekend!

    • On November 17, 2010 Cook It Allergy Free said

      Ooh! Thanks so much Carrie! I hope you try it. I will be anxious to hear what you think about it! 😉

  3. On November 17, 2010 Ellen @ I Am Gluten said

    I love the way you divided the holiday food prep into parts. Thank you – makes it much easier to wrap my brain around all the different steps we take in getting ready for T-giving! Thank you Kim!!!

    • On November 17, 2010 Cook It Allergy Free said

      Ellen, dividing it up this way is the only way I keep sane. I host it every year to make sure that my family can eat everything, but I used to get overwhelmed with it all. Now i just stick to my plan and all goes well! 😉

  4. On November 17, 2010 Ali@NourishingMeals said

    That sounds absolutely amazing as usual Kim! This is such a helpful series of posts…you go! Wow! -Ali 🙂

    • On November 17, 2010 Cook It Allergy Free said

      Thanks so much, Ali! I figure if it helps just a couple people feel less stressed while planning an Allergy friendly Thanksgiving, then it is totally worth it! 😉 Although this post series is beginning to feel slightly more overwhelming than my actually Thanksgiving feast! LOL

  5. On November 17, 2010 Maggie said

    You’re almost done! Which means you’re almost to that yummy sounding dessert! I can’t wait! I can’t wait! I can’t wait!

    • On November 17, 2010 Cook It Allergy Free said

      Thank goodness I am almost done, Maggie! LOL. Like I just told Ali, this series has been a lot of work! hehe I am ready for that dessert, even if I have to fight my family for it! Hopefully, I will get that post up tomorrow night.

  6. On November 17, 2010 Aileen said

    Hmm…I so want to make this but I hate buying alcohol and using tiny bits of it and then having it sit around! What to do with the rest of the apple brandy?

    • On November 17, 2010 Cook It Allergy Free said

      HI Aileen! I actually have used the same brandy for a couple of years in a row (not sure how long it stays good) and it seems just fine. I actually ran out finally and am due to get more. The good thing is that it comes in a fairly small bottle. But, I will tell you that I have made this before with no alcohol AT ALL and it was still really really good! So no worries if you omit the brandy! 😉

  7. On November 17, 2010 Ariana Anderson-The said

    Hi Kim! I’ve been loving your posts for this (and always!) One question: Can you sub something for the brandy? I don’t drink or use alcohol in cooking either, so would more apple cider work or ? Also, as I will be making my own turkey (since my family doesn’t eat the same as me- they are not allergy free at all), I will be getting a smaller turkey…can I just use less ingredients…say like half if I get a 9 pound turkey? Thanks. Ari

    Ariana Anderson
    The Frugally Rich Life
    GF, dairy-free, sugar-free recipes (+ “normal” version) and frugality
    Email: thefrugallyrichlife AT gmail DOT com
    Twitter: FrugallyRichAri

    • On November 17, 2010 Cook It Allergy Free said

      Hi Ari!! Thanks so so much! I just told Aileen in the comment above that I have totally made this without any alcohol and it still turned out wonderfully! NO worries about not adding the alcohol. It adds an extra depth of flavor, but by no means does it make or break the recipe.
      And for a smaller bird, yes, just cut everything in half (especially since your smaller bird will cook much more quickly and you will not need to baste near as often).

      Oh and p.s. I left a comment on your delicious looking sweet potato muffins, but I keep getting marked as spam everywhere, so that is probably where the comment ended up.

  8. On November 18, 2010 InTolerantChef said

    Sounds so lovely and tasty!

  9. On November 23, 2010 Julie said

    I can’t wait to try the turkey recipe, although I have never brined before and have a wonderful habit of drying out poultry when I cook it, so I’m a little nervous. I don’t have a lot of storage space for a large roasting pan so I use disposable ones. Any suggestions of what to use for a rack since I disposable pans don’t have them? Is it absolutely necessary? I thought of maybe using one of my metal cookie cooling racks if it fits.

    Thanks again for the great posts!

    • On November 23, 2010 Cook It Allergy Free said

      Hi Julie,
      You can put the turkey on a bed of apples that have been sliced in half if you want. They would be a great compliment to the pan juices for the gravy as well since they will let off some nice juices while the turkey is cooking. Just remove them once you are done ccoking the turkey. Or, you can use onions or large carrots to lay the turkey on. There are definite ways around not have a roasting rack, so do not worry about it! 😉
      I really hope you enjoy the turkey! I hope everyone reports back after this week to let me know what they think!
      Happy Thanksgiving, Julie!

  10. On September 30, 2011 Natasha@ SBTET said

    You had me at Apple Brandy Gravy, this will be on my menu soon. I too use Pioneer Womans bring…the best!

    • On September 30, 2011 Kim-Cook It Allergy Free said

      Hi Natasha! That brine is brilliant, isn’t it?? WIth all of those goodies in it how could it not be. And I think you will really like this turkey and gravy recipe! It is a family favorite here!!

  11. On November 15, 2012 V said

    For the first time, we’re going to smoke our turkey in a Big Green Egg. Do you have any idea if brining is recommended or not for smoking a turkey?

  12. On November 22, 2014 Wendie said

    Excited to try this but in confused about the stuffing, would I use my own stuffing recipe in lieu of the turkey cavity step? What do you recommend?

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