Brining a Turkey?

As we’re looking ahead to next week’s big Thanksgiving Dinner, for most of us, the turkey is going to be the Main Event. One of my favorite tasty variations on the The Thanksgiving Turkey involves brining the bird.

Several years ago I tried my hand at brining my Thanksgiving turkey. The results were delicious and succulent. That happened to be right around the time we made a cross-country move and somehow or other, turkey brining sort of fell off my radar screen.

This morning I went hunting for the information I had filed away about how to brine a turkey and couldn’t find it. So I turned to one of my best cooking resources: my sister-in-law Michele. Michele is planning to brine the turkey for their Thanksgiving meal and was more than happy to write up directions for me. I share her words with you!

Michele writes:

I am by no means an expert on this, but we’ve enjoyed preparing our turkey this way the last few years and it seems to turn out well with a minimum amount of fuss. (I will note that there is no way I could do this by myself- Scott does all the heavy lifting!) As I understand it, the benefits of brining are that it will increase the moisture capacity in your meat while adding a nice flavor; kind of like a marinade, but it’s even deeper. This is truly a method rather than recipe kind of process, so it should fit right in on your site!

-Prep:
The night before, you will want to do the usual things to prep (besides making sure the turkey is properly thawed), like washing off the turkey, and removing the stuff inside. Ideally you want to brine it 24 hours beforehand, but you can do it less or more; it’s totally up to your schedule.

-Brine solution:
You will want enough brine mixture to completely submerge your turkey in, so for a 14-16 pounder, you’d need about 2 gallons of liquid. This year I am only doing a 10 pounder, so I’ll be scaling it down. If you end up short when you’ve got the turkey in the bag, just throw some water in to compensate.

I balance out my mixture with savory and sweet stuff. (This is where the method part comes in, you can use just about anything you want or can think of- beer, wine, juice, broths, fruits, vegetables, herbs, go wild!) I use a gallon of apple cider/juice, and about a 1/2 gallon of chicken broth and 1 1/2 gallons of water. Then, I add about 1/2 c brown sugar, 2 oranges, fresh rosemary and sage, and the important part- the salt. All the experts say that kosher salt is the best thing to use since it dissolves so well- you’ll want about a cup of salt for every gallon you use. (I have read that if you use regular table salt, you only use a 1c to every 1 1/2c of kosher salt.)
Cook all of this on the stove until the sugar and salt dissolve. Cool it completely before putting the turkey in. The best part is that you can do this ahead of time and just stick it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to brine.

-Storing while brining:
Next you need to figure out what your turkey will be doing while it’s in this brine overnight. When doing the big guys, we have to use our cooler and put it in the garage. This means you need to find a bag big enough to hold it, and if you live in Arizona like we do, find a way to keep the brine mixture below 40° (those of you in most of the rest of the country will probably not have this problem!). We have used a garbage bag and copious amounts of ice around it in the cooler. (I will again note that I’ve read you’re not suppose to use garbage bags because they aren’t intended for ‘food use’, but we’ve never had a problem and they are cheaper than anything else you can find.) This year it will be easy because a 10 pounder will fit in our fridge.

-Cooking:
The next morning, take your bird out of the bag, rinse it off and dry with paper towels. I like to stuff some apples, onions, rosemary, maybe even cinnamon sticks inside the cavity. You can do anything you’d like, or nothing.

Bake at 500° for 30 minutes then cover the breast with foil and reduce to 350° and cook until temperature of your white meat is 165° and the dark meat is 180°. A 14-16 pounder should only take about 2 1/2 hours.

~~Michele, another one of the Sisters

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