Sunday, November 22, 2009

Step #2- How to... Brine a Turkey

Soaking a turkey in a solution of salt, spices, and herbs adds a depth of flavor to your turkey and gravy, and also produces meat that is succulent, moist, and tender. I'm not sure of the scientific background of why it works- but let me tell you- IT WORKS. Keep in mind- a brine doesn't necessarily add a lot of flavor, but yields a bird that is tender and incredibly moist- so make sure to season your bird if you do decide to brine.
I had been researching all different recipes for homemade brine solutions, but ended up with this brine which I had heard and read wonderful reviews, and the ingredients are ready and packaged for you. You will need the full jar to make the brine, which can accommodate up to a 20# turkey. This brine contains: Sea salt, Dried apples, Juniper berries, Lemon peel, Star anise, Garlic, Rosemary, Thyme, Black Pepper, Onion, and Bay leaf.

Make sure to purchase this early! The weekend before Thanksgiving, our store and online were completely sold out of this item.

Here are my quick links for Thanksgiving Turkey:

According to Williams-Sonoma, here are their brining tips:
1. For best results, brine the turkey in a brining bag set inside a large pot (I am using a roaster, but a 5-gallon bucket, or a cooler would work well), so the bird will be completely surrounded by the flavorful liquid.

Refrigerator thawing: I placed my bird in a Ziploc XL bag (found at Target for $5 in the Foil/Cling wrap aisle), and then placed the bird into a cheap roaster (found a cheap 25# roaster pan at Walmart for $9). That way, the bird is surrounded by the brine, and should there be a leak, the brine would leak into the roaster and not all over my fridge.

Cold Water thawing: If your bird is too large to fit in your fridge, place your bird in its brining bag filled with brine, and then place that into a 5-gallon bucket or a large cooler and surround the bag with ice so the bird stays cool. (A 20# turkey took roughly 24 hours to thaw.)

2. Make sure your brine liquid is cool when you place the turkey in it. Never place a turkey into a warm liquid- it will start the salmonella process.

3. The bird should be thawed when it's ready to be brined, so plan accordingly. Brining may seem like a lot of effort, but with careful planning, it won't add much more effort than you'd normally would, and (as I've been told)- it will be worth it.


How to make the brine

  • 1 jar turkey brine— Apple & Spices (Williams-Sonoma)
  • 1 fresh or thawed turkey, up to 20-lbs
  • Brining bag (I use this)
  • 6 cups apple cider (optional, but it is what I use- I buy a gallon and use some for brining, some for basting, and the rest for drinking)
Make-Ahead Tip: Prepare the brine mixture (but do not add the turkey) up to 2 days in advance. Cover and store in the refrigerator.

1. In a large pot over high heat, combine 1 jar turkey brine with 1 gallon (4 quarts or 16 cups) of water; bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the brine.

2. Let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until well chilled. (I did this in the morning before work, and allowed it to cool while I was at work.) The brine solution needs to be cooled when you add the turkey.

3. Open the turkey.

4. Remove the neck, heart, and gizzards (located in a bag inside the turkey). You can reserve these, if desired (I personally don't)- just rinse them and store in a Ziploc bag in the fridge.

5. Rinse the entire turkey thoroughly with cold water. Don’t forget to rinse under the arms and legs!

6. Now, I like to do the brining in one of these large bags which I found at Target for $5… but you can also use a pot or large bowl; just be sure it will fit in your fridge.

7. Add the thawed turkey into the bag.

8. Pour the cooled brining solution into the bag.

9. Add 1 gallon + 2 cups ice water and 6 cups apple cider (this is what I do), or with 1-1/2 gallons ice water only.

10. Seal the brining bags tight- removing as much as air as possible from the bag.

11. Put it in the fridge- inside a cheap roster, 5-gallon bucket, or large cooler filled with ice, and let it brine for 12-36 hours, turning the turkey over once halfway through the brining time.

12. Just before roasting, remove the turkey from the brine, rinse well with cold water, and pat dry with paper towels. (Make sure you rinse well or you could have an oversalted turkey/gravy.)


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