Asian Inspired Brined Turkey Thighs

One of my favorite ways to keep meat moist during cooking is using the brining method.    Brining is an old-age practice of preserving.  Our forefathers use to use large amounts of salt to brine (cure) meat for long sea voyages.  Today, salt is used in smaller quantities  to lock in moisture and add flavor. Don’t be afraid of the large quantity of salt in a brining method, if done properly,  your dish will not be over salted.  

When I headed out to make this recipe, I had all intentions of using a cider based brine;  but, after spying some gorgeous Thai chilies at the market, I changed modes.  The base of this brine is a salt water mixture that is flavored with the aromatics star anise, cilantro, lemongrass, and onions.  Being only two people, I brined turkey thighs and legs.  If you want to bring a whole turkey, you will need to double or triple your recipe depending on the size of the bird.  

It is easy.   Simply make your brine, drown your bird in it for 24 hours, and then wash (well) and roast.  The salty mixture penetrates the meat with flavor.  Couldn’t be easier.  Don’t stop at only brining turkeys, also try chickens, and pork.  This is a great new way to add a twist to a rather ho-hum meal.  

I served this Asian inspired turkey recipe with mashed olive-oil kabocha, and a light gravy made with the pan-drippings.  

Recipe:  Asian Inspired Brined Turkey Thighs

  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 4 cups iced water
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 bunch cilantro, handful, torn
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 knob fresh ginger (1/2 the size of your thumb), lightly crushed
  • 1 yellow onion, cut into quarters
  • 1 thai chili, sliced in half
  • 1 stalk lemon grass, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 large turkey thigh

In a deep pot, mix everything except the turkey, and stir until dissolved.  Plunge the turkey into the pot, and put something heavy on top of it, to keep is submerged.  I used a deep soup bowl, with a can of chick peas set in the bowl.  Slide the pot into the refrigerator, and forget about it for 24 hours.  

After 24 hours, remove from the refrigerator, and rinse the meat very well, and then pat dry.  Heat the oven to 325.  In a large dutch oven, gently heat the canola oil over low heat, and brown the meat, about 5 minutes per side. After browning, slide the dutch oven into the oven, and roast for 45 – 60 minutes, until the turkey legs/thighs are cooked through.  You may have to cook a little more or less, depending on weight of the turkey meat you have.  Let sit 10 minutes before serving.  Serve.  Eat.   


Denise Woodward believes anything can be made at home as long as you have a little patience, and time.  All of her recipes are made using fresh and seasonal ingredients.  Her recipes have been featured on Eat Boutiquethe Mushroom ChannelSaveur.comFoodies of the WorldPBS and Fine Cooking.  

Denise also creates the recipes on the popular food blog Chez Us.  Saveur has featured Chez Us as one of 50 Food Blogs You Should Be Reading as well as one of the Sites They Love.  Be sure to read more about what they are cooking up over at Chez Us.

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