I used to think that brining a turkey was a worthless excercise of time and money. That is until three years ago, when Sandi and I made up an Apple/Bourbon brine and soaked our 17# turkey for 24 hours in the mixture. The result was jawdropping! Here’s what you need to know to successfully brine your turkey. (Try it on chicken as well)
What Is A Brine: Basically Salt Water + Spices
Why Brine A Turkey?: The two biggest answers are flavor and tenderness. The brine helps to infuse additional flavor into the meat—
How A Brine Works: Normally, meat loses about 30 percent of its weight during cooking. But if you soak the meat in a brine first, you can reduce this moisture loss during cooking to as little as 15 percent, according to Dr. Estes Reynolds, a brining expert at the University of Georgia. the salt in the brine also helps to break down some of the meat fibers-resulting in a more tender turkey.
In order to know how much water you will need—get a plastic bucket large enough to accomodate your turkey. Place the WRAPPED TURKEY in the bucket and then MEASURE how much water you need.
●Don’t forget to add up to 4 cups of water to account for the interior cavity of the bird.
●Have a notebook and write down how much water you used to cover the bird—because you’ll forget between now and the day you start to brine your turkey.
●Speaking of which—BEFORE YOU GRAB ANY OLE TURKEY OUT OF THE MEAT CASE—READ THE LABEL Make sure you are NOT purchasing a turkey which has already been brined or ENHANCED (injected with a salt solution). Otherwise–overly salted turkey. Kosher turkeys have been pre-brined.
●It’s All About The Salt—while you can use table salt, most brining experts recommend instead, using Kosher or Sea Salt. The salt crystals are larger, and dissolve more quickly than regular table salt. ALSO—if you are going to use table salt–use NON IODIZED SALT!
Rule of thumb: 1 TABLESPOON of salt per gallon of water–for table salt. DOUBLE the amount of salt if you are using Kosher or Sea Salt.
SUGAR: Adds a sweetness component to balance out the salt. Most chefs use brown sugar either light or dark. Rule of thumb: 1 cup of sugar per gallon of water. (See why we measure the amount of water we use!) You can substitute Honey for sugar if you want. Some recipes call for a pound of honey in place of sugar.
● Other liquid ingredients—you can substitute other liquids for some of the water–fruit juices, beer, bourbon have all been used in turkey brines with good results.
●Other Seasonings—tarragon, sage, oregano, black peppercorns, citrus peel, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, rosemary, ginger,
BOIL THE BRINE bring the water to a boil, add all the ingredients–make sure salt and sugar dissolve. THEN COOL THE BRINE–refrigerate at least 4-8 hours so you brine the turkey in COLD BRINE!
Thouroughly submerge the turkey in the brine. Roll the turkey in the brine for good coverage. Use a zip lock bag filled with ice to weight the turkey down in the brine.
BRINE TIME: Figure on 1 HOUR PER POUND OF TURKEY!RINSE WELL WHEN DONE!