Tips on Brining
Brining can be cumbersome—you need a vessel that can hold gallons of water along with an enormous bird. However, with practice you will see that it is the key to locking moisture into your bird and a real way to win friends at the table.
I found one of the secrets to my father’s famous smoked turkey was in his brine. Like most lessons in life I learned it the hard way, by finding our prize turkey swimming in a moat of water in an old kitty litter bin. Gross! I wavered for several minutes on whether I could get the image of my cat’s scratching paws after her finished business out of my head in time for dinner. I didn’t need to consider too long-the litter bucket just happened to be the perfect size brining bucket for a massive turkey and my Dad had assured me that he had cleaned it-thoroughly. Then there was the fact that his turkey happens to just be one of the most delicious on the planet. I didn’t think—I ate.
For your brine, you can try a large bucket or roasting tin or even a brining bag. Check out the tips below and try out two of our simple brine recipes.
Quick Brining Tips
1) plan on 1 hour per pound of turkey when you brine (so brine overnight to ensure enough time)
2) both Reynolds and Ziploc make brining bags in case you don’t have room to store a tub large enough for brining in your refrigerator
3) don’t use self-basting or kosher turkeys (they use a salty stock so brining would be overkill)
4) once brine is finished you need to completely cover the turkey in brine. The turkey should be fully submerged
5) after the brine has set wash ALL traces of the brine off otherwise your bird may be too salty
6) the ratio of salt to water is 1 cup salt per 1 gallon water
7) Kosher salt or table salt are the most popular varieties used
(contributed by: Joe Margherita)
3 quartz Apple cider
2 cup granulated sugar
1 to 1 ½ cup coarse salt (depending on turkey weight)
½ cup cider vinegar
2 tablespoons pink peppercorns
1 ½ tbsp dried sage
1 ½ tbsp dried thyme
½ cup dried apples, chopped coarsely
½ cup dried cranberries
5 quarts heavily iced water
1 10 to 25 pound turkey or turkey breasts
In a large stock pot over medium heat, warm cider until hot but not boiling. Add sugar and salt. Stir until both fully dissolve. Remove from heat. Add vinegar, spices and dried fruit to your pot then let cool for at least 20 minutes.
Tip: disposable brining bags placed in a large roasting pan are an easy way to fit your turkey into a conventional refrigerator. It allows you to use both hands to put the bird in the bag then add the brine.
Place the turkey in a brining bag. Add prepared brine then add ice water. Remove as much air from the bag as possible before sealing. Also, be sure that there is enough brine to fill the cavity as well as cover the entire bird.
Brine for 1 hour per pound. Your refrigerator must be at least 40 degrees Fahrenheit, but not too much colder.
Once time your turkey is fully brined, remove bird and strain brine, discarding liquid and keeping solid aromatics such as cranberries and apples. Solids can be rubbed on skin or well as packed into cavity if you plan to bake your turkey.
Easy Improv Brine
(Contributed by Travis Healy)
2 cups salt
2 cups sugar
Enough water to cover turkey
Aromatics: juniper, thyme, garlic clove, rosemary (throw in flavors you enjoy and that you have handy in your pantry)
In a large pot over medium heat dissolve salt and sugar into water. Allow mixture to cool for at least 20 minutes then add juniper, fresh thyme, crushed garlic cloves and fresh rosemary sprigs to suit your preference. Brine your turkey in the mixture for 1 hour per pound. Thoroughly rinse brine off turkey.