Jan Norris: Food and Florida

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Thanksgiving Recipes: Brining a Turkey Means Juicy Meat

November 25th, 2009 · No Comments

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Salt, sugar, spices makes a turkey brine

roast turkey

More recipes at whatscookingamerica.com

Let’s talk brining. Many insist it’s the way to the moistest turkey. Turkey is a dry bird — the way they’re raised today, to be double-D and beyond breasts, it’s no wonder. But the breast has practially no fat in it. It’s just there. Roasting subtracts moisture and you wind up with a dry bird if you don’t do something to it before you roast.

Enter the brine

A decade or so ago, someone decided that a brine could work to preserve the juiciness of the meat. Salt is the main ingredient (and you can get by with a salt rub). If you’ve ever eaten a salt-crusted fish or beef roast, you know the theory. Here’s the simplified science behind it: Salt causes a change in the protein threads of the meat to “unravel,” and rewrap around moisture that’s drawn into the cells around it.

Planning is everything

Before you think about doing this, plan on space needed: You need a cooler large enough for the bird and brine, or a brand new plastic garbage can or a refrigerator that can hold a stock pot – and a stock pot that will hold the turkey. (A turkey-fryer container does it nicely – but you must keep the turkey cold throughout this process. I recommend a large Igloo cooler lined with a heavy-duty garbage bag.)

Ingredients can vary

Basic brine formula

  • 1 gallon water (enough, usually to cover for a 20-pound bird; but bird should be totally immersed)
  • Salt – 1/2 to 1 cup per gallon liquid. You can use table salt or kosher salt; use more kosher than you would the finely grained table salt.  If you’re using chicken stock or some salted stock as part of your liquid, you can go with the lesser amount.
  • 1/2 cup sugar per gallon
  • Herbs and spices: A handful of peppercorns, some dried herbs, crushed well, allspice, bay leaves, and cider if you like.
  • Lemon or orange slices, if desired

Wash the turkey well, cleaning the cavities and removing all loose parts. Put the brine ingredients in a large bowl and combine well –  make sure salt is dissolved.

Put turkey in large bag (I use a heavy-duty trash bag so I can dispose of the liquid easily afterward). Put bagged turkey in a cooler, a large stockpot or other container to hold it. Pour brine over it at least 8 hours before cooking, or overnight.

Ice down the turkey or refrigerate in its brine – never let a turkey sit out on the counter overnight!

Before cooking, drain turkey and rinse very well, inside and out. Discard brine.

 Roast according to your favorite method, timing based per pound. A moist bird is guaranteed!

Tags: Holiday cooking

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