Dec 1, 2011

Brine Your Holiday Turkey

by Mel Gardner

Turkey dinner is cherished holiday tradition. Just as every family has different holiday traditions, every family has their own way of cooking a turkey. From dry rub to deep fry, every cooking style is turkeylicious, but which style provides the juiciest results?  The answer is brining.

Brining is the secret to a moist and flavorful turkey. By simply submerging the turkey in a salty broth, brining is an easy pre-roasting step to a juicy bird. It works because the salt breaks down proteins causing the meat tissues to absorb water and flavor. So, despite long roasting time, the turkey maintains its moisture.

Whether it's your first time cooking your own turkey, or an expert turkey chef, this year may be the time to try brining your turkey. There are many helpful step-by-step tutorials online, but here are the brining basics:

First, you need a container large enough to submerge your turkey. A very large pot will do, or there are brining bags you can buy. Do keep in mind that the whole thing will need to fit in your fridge or cooler.

Next, the base of the brine is two cups of kosher salt to two cups of sugar to two gallons of water. You may have to play with the ratios depending on the size of your turkey. Then decide what flavors you want soaked into the turkey. Popular choices are citrus slices, dried herbs, crushed garlic and other aromatic flavors. You may also substitute some of the sugar with other sweeteners such as maple syrup, brown sugar or honey.  

Over medium heat, combine a gallon of water, salt, sugar and other flavor ingredients until salt and sugar are dissolved.  Turn off heat and let cool for 15 minutes. Put turkey in the container and pour the broth over the turkey with the rest of the water. Put the whole container in the fridge or iced cooler. Brine for one hour per pound of turkey. Do not brine over 24 hours. The turkey will be too salty.

Once the brining is complete, take out the bird and rinse it with cool water. Then, pat dry with paper towels. You can take some of the ingredients from your broth and put it on the skin. Otherwise, cook the turkey in your preferred method. Be careful not to use any salt in rubs or gravies. There will be plenty of salt in the turkey already.

You'll be surprised how truly juicy your turkey becomes after it has been brined. Try it this year and enjoy your holiday turkey feast.

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