To brine is a simple way of seasoning meat getting the juiciest and tastiest results. All you need is a little time and a large enough container to hold your turkey.
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Inquiring Minds Want To Know
With so many ways to prepare turkey these days, I seem to have developed a certain curiosity. I find myself too often asking others how they plan to cook their holiday bird this Thanksgiving. In some way, I feel like I’m infringing on their privacy, especially when they pause before repeating the question back to me.
What I’m really doing is trying to find out if someone I know has successfully used a brine to season their turkey. I haven’t found anyone, yet. Perhaps I haven’t asked enough. So I thought it would be fun to explore this way of preparing meat and share with you my findings.
Actually, it started back in the summer when my husband asked if I could make pork chops and rice in the Instant Pot. I found this recipe, Pressure Cooker Brined Pork Chops, And Brown Rice and discovered how easy it is to brine with excellent results. I have tried cooking chops the same way without a brine and was sad not to get the same results. Even though it takes a little pre-planning I believe it’s worth a little extra effort to prepare meat with a brine.
What Is Brining?
Brining has been around for a long time. It is a process for seasoning or preserving food using a mixture of salt and water. Meats can be soaked for marination and fruits or vegetables pickled in this brew. There are many brining formulas out there, but they all begin with the basic ingredients of salt and water or other liquids.
Often, a simple brine is used to take away that “gamey taste” in wild game such as venison. You may have done this before or perhaps you have soaked chicken in buttermilk before frying. That’s considered a brine also. Some even give their seafood such as shrimp a soak in a brine before frying.
Below is my brine recipe I use for turkey, chicken, and pork. Feel free to experiment yourself adding other seasonings, herbs, and flavors to marinate the meat of your choice.
Soaking a turkey for hours in a mixture of salt, water, seasonings, brown sugar, and herbs results in a tender, juicy, flavorful meat. It may take a little pre-planning, but it’s simple and the results are well worth it.
1 turkey (10 to 12 pounds), rinsed with giblets removed
4 cups boiling water 1 cup salt 1 cup brown sugar, not packed 2 tablespoon cayenne pepper 6 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled 6 sprigs fresh rosemary 12 sprigs fresh thyme 3 cups ice cool water
Place turkey in a large plastic bag or large container that will hold the whole turkey submerged in the brine solution.
Add salt to boiled water and stir until all of the salt is dissolved. Stir in the brown sugar, cayenne pepper, garlic cloves, rosemary, and thyme. Add ice to cool down solution and stir until ice melts. Add enough cool water to the solution to make 1 gallon of brine. Pour brine over turkey making sure the liquid covers the whole bird. Close bag or container and let marinate in the refrigerator for 24 – 48 hours. Remove turkey from brine and rinse well. Place in a strainer to drain and pat dry inside and out using paper towels. Move the bird to a pan in the refrigerator to allow more drying before cooking. This causes the skin to brown better. Cook turkey as desired.
I put my bird in a large plastic Tupperware container that has a secure top. To make sure the turkey stays emersed in the water I use a small pot lid to weigh it down in the liquid. The container’s plastic top holds the lid in place when securely closed. A large pot can be used instead of a plastic container. When using a large plastic bag, secure it with a wire tie even if the bag has a ziplock in order to keep the bird submerged in the brine. This recipe can be easily increased when using a larger bird.
Easy Turkey Roasting
After the turkey has marinated in the brine I like to cook it in an electric roaster for the best results. The roaster is preheated on its highest setting for 30 minutes then lowered to 325 degrees. First, the bird is stuffed with apples, onions, celery, and carrots adding more of the stuffing around the pan for a rich gravy. Since there is no basting needed I slather the turkey with unsalted butter and place it on the wire rack inside the roaster. No extra water is necessary so closing the lid is the last thing I do.
I close it and forget about it until I get a whiff of roasted turkey cooking to perfection. After an hour to an hour and a half, I check to see if it’s cooked then I let it brown for about another 30 minutes. Then the turkey is lifted out of the pan and the juices drained into a pot to thicken for the best gravy. That roaster hasn’t failed me, yet and it frees the oven for cooking the sides for our Thanksgiving meal.
Don’t let the amount of salt and sugar in the brine hold you back. It is amazing how beautifully these flavors blend together, penetrate the meat, and result in a flavorful bird. It’s tender, moist and oh-so-special!
Have a Happy Thanksgiving!
Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor– and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.
Quote from the Thanksgiving Proclamation signed by George Washington, President of the United States of America, October 3, 1789.