I never used to care for turkey that much. The thanksgiving turkey I usually had growing up was really dry.
Does your turkey turn out dry? Brining a turkey solves the moisture problem. The high salt content of a brine forces the meat of the turkey to absorb more liquid into its cells thereby increasing the juiciness and tenderness of your poultry. It also increases flavor and decreases cooking time. A brine also greatly reduces bacteria.
What is a brine?
Basically a brine is a solution with a high ratio of salt to water (or other liquid) that you soak your meat in. A sweetener can be added for flavor and browning. The USDA recommends that for poultry you use a ratio of 3/4 cup salt to 1 gallon of water. Somewhere I've read that you have the right salt-to-liquid ratio if a raw egg will float in the solution, but I have never tried that.
What do I brine my turkey in?
Admittedly if you have a 20 pound bird, it will be a challenge to find a container to brine your turkey in. You may want to consider cooking two smaller birds instead if your oven space will allow. You can brine your turkey in any food grade plastic, stainless steel, or glass container that you can fit your turkey in and keep refrigerated.
I have often used the big kettles I use for canning. I have heard of stock pots, and even ice chests being used. Whatever container you decide to use, it is very important to make sure that your bird is completely submerged in the brine, even if you have to use a heavy plate or something to keep it down.
My favorite brine recipe comes from the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook.
1 1/2 gallons water
1 1/2 cups pure maple syrup or maple-flavored syrup
1 cup salt
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 10-pound turkey (not a self-basting type)
- For brine, in a 10-quart kettle combine water, syrup, salt, and brown sugar; stir to dissolve sugar and salt. Set aside
- Rinse turkey; remove any excess fat from cavity. Add turkey to brine in kettle. Cover; marinate in the refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours.
- Remove turkey from brine. Drain turkey; pat dry with paper towels. Place turkey, breast side up, on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Tuck ends of drumsticks under the band of skin across the tail. If there is no band of skin, tie drumsticks securely to tail. Twist wing tips under the back. Brush with oil. If desired, insert a meat thermometer into the center of an inside thigh muscle. The thermometer should not touch bone. Cover turkey loosely with foil.
- Roast turkey in a 325 degree oven for 2 1/4 hours; cut band of skin or string between drumsticks so thighs cook evenly; remove foil. Continue roasting 30 to 45 minutes more until drumsticks move easily in their sockets and turkey is no longer pink.
- Remove turkey from oven. Cover and let stand for 15 to 20 minutes before carving.
*****If you remember to remove the giblets and neck before brining, you can make a great giblet gravy.***
How will you be cooking your turkey this year?