How to Brine a Turkey and Why You Want To
My husband is a firm believer in the need to brine a turkey. And since he is the one in charge of our Thanksgiving turkey, I’m all, “have at it!” My job is to set the Thanksgiving table and make some side dishes.
So, what is brining? Basically, (as described to me by my husband and his degree in chemistry) Brining is a process of osmosis, where the salt/flavors found in the brining liquid transfer into the meat of the turkey. At the same time, the water from the meat is moved to the brine. More salt in the meat breaks down the protein and allows for more water in the meat, making the turkey moister and more flavorful.
I’m Jesse to his Mr. White. My reaction goes something like this.
In fact, my husband actually brines his turkey twice. His theory is that if you buy a supermarket turkey (rather than the ungodly expensive Diestel Turkeys at Whole Foods) that it should first be brined in plain water for 12 hours to remove any additives or preservatives in the bird (seriously, this is what I live with!)
The 2nd brine is to add flavor and make it moist.
Last year, I took the following pictures of the process.
- Large food-grade container to hold your turkey
- Large strainer
- Thawed or almost thawed turkey
We use a Sparkletts plastic water bottle with the neck and spout cut off. Clear a spot in your refrigerator, or if you live in a cold climate (not freezing) you can leave it covered outdoors or in a garage.
Make a vegetable stock
- 8-12 quarts of water
- 2 cups of kosher salt
- 1 Whole Garlic, broken in cloves
- A handful of peppercorns
- 6 chunks of Candied ginger
Bring to a boil and simmer for about an hour.
Strain into container, let the stock cool down a bit.
Add a bag of ice. Do not put turkey in hot liquid. You don’t want to sear the turkey skin.
Add turkey – neck end first (so the turkey feet are sticking out of the container – like he’s doing a synchronized swimming routine)
Sing, “Brine a bird, Brine a bird, Brine a big ol’ bird!” over and over again to annoy your family. (Not that this has ever happened at my house!)
Top off with water and make sure turkey cavity is completely filled and that the bird is completely submerged (it’s okay if the feet stick out a bit — how are the judges going to come up with a score without seeing the feet? )
Place in refrigerator (or outside w/ a covering if you live in a cold climate climate, but not if the temperature will go below freezing)
Turkey should remain in brine at least 12 hours and up to 24 hours.
Whatever time period you choose, at the halfway point, flip the turkey over, so the feet are at the bottom
At the end of brining period, remove from brine, rinse and pat dry, and get to roasting!