Brining Turkey During the Holidays

| 11/29/2016 9:45:00 AM


Well, here we are, in the midst of the holiday season. One of our favorite aspects of the holidays is gathering with family and friends and sharing an abundance of food. Fortunately we have a couple of beautiful turkeys we raised sitting in the freezer for a couple more feasts for the year.  Turkey is certainly one of the highlights of our feasts and brining your turkey makes it even better!

I want to discuss what a brine is and why I think you should brine your turkey. WORD OF WARNING: if you purchased a turkey, make sure it is not already salted or brined. Many Turkeys you buy are already brined, if you brine it again you will end up with a VERY salty bird.

What Is a Brine?

A salty solution used for marinating and improving moisture-retention in lean meat.

Why Brine?

Brining improves the turkey’s ability to retain moisture during cooking. Denaturization happens during cooking, which means that muscle proteins are broken down causing the muscle fibers to contract and bind together leading to loss of moisture. This denaturing process can be also be started through the use of salt which allows for retention of moisture between the muscle fibers before cooking. Basically, once these proteins are dissolved by the salt, muscle fibers lose some of their ability to contract during cooking therefor less moisture is lost. There is some controversy concerning brining, whether there is benefit or not, from experience I can say there is definitely a noticeable difference as long as you have used the correct ratios for a traditional brine and you allow adequate time for brining. Brining also has the added benefit of seasoning the bird more deeply than simply salting just before cooking.

Traditional Brine

Since I started brining my turkey, I have relied on a very basic traditional brining recipe using only salt and water. The last couple of years I used apple cider and broth and added other ingredients such as orange peels, herbs, peppers, garlic, etc. But I found no added benefit from the addition of those ingredients. It increased the work involved and required many more ingredients with no real noticeable difference in taste. Now if you have a favorite brine recipe that includes a plethora of ingredients then, by all means, feel free to continue using it. The key with traditional brining is ratio of salt to water and the time you allow. The chart below shows the concentration as well as time for different types of meat. The concentrations listed are for Diamond Crystal kosher salt. For table salt cut salt amounts by 1/2; for Mortons kosher salt cut amounts by 1/4. brining If you plan on doing the traditional brining method, may I suggest using a roasting bag or large plastic bag to keep your turkey in? This ensures every part of the turkey is submerged in the brine and makes clean up a lot easier! You can keep it in the bag in a cooler or a 5 gallon bucket.

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