How to Brine a Turkey
Who wouldn’t want to eat a tender, moist, and flavorful turkey for their Thanksgiving feast? Brining is a salt marinade which causes the meat tissues to absorb water and flavorings by breaking down the proteins. This is why brining is a popular method of preparing a Thanksgiving turkey because any moisture loss while roasting still produces a juicy and flavorful turkey.
- 12 cups water, divided
- 1 cup kosher salt
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons sage
- 2 tablespoons thyme
- 2 tablespoons rosemary
- 1 tablespoon pepper
- 4 cups ice
I placed an oven roasting bag in a large soup pot with the opening of the bag over lapping the rim of the pot, carefully placing the turkey in the bag.
Many people will tell you to brine your turkey in heavy duty garbage bags, Home Depot style pails, and XXL size ziplock bags. I’ve read that garbage bags shouldn’t be used because they are not made from food-grade plastic. Unless you have a second refrigerator, I don’t see how a large pail can fit in a family refrigerator. I also had a hard time finding the XXL ziplock bags. So what I decided the most practical thing to to do was buy poultry oven roasting bags I knew would fit my turkey. I also emptied out, washed, and sanitized the bottom meat drawer of the refrigerator. I found this was a good way to brine my turkey with the least amount of hassle, taking up the least amount of space, and kept the turkey nice and cold.
I slowly poured the brine into the bag and tied a loose knot.I carefully transferred the turkey to the (cleaned and sanitized) meat drawer from the refrigerator with the knot facing upwards. I marinated the turkey for 1 day before turning the turkey over so the top side was bottom, and the bottom was top. This way both halves of the turkey had ample time to marinate. I basted the upper side of the turkey once during the process.
When it was time to roast the bird, I rinsed the turkey again, including the inner cavity. I patted the turkey dry before lathering with seasoned butter before cooking. This is how I brined the bird and highly recommend you do the same for moist, flavorful turkey!
Someone suggested in the comments that you should brine your bird for 1 hour for every pound. I think this is a good rule of thumb but I have brined for longer with good results too.
I’m getting asked a lot if a person can brine a pre-seasoned turkey. Technically speaking, experts say not to. However, I have and I cut the brine time down in half with no problems of excess salt. I am not recommending you do this but just sharing my own experience. Your mileage may vary (YMMV).
It’s important to note that you do not want to brine a kosher or self-basting bird. Otherwise the turkey will be too salty.
Most brining recipes call for a gallon of water or stock and a cup of salt and sugar each. From there, people often add apple juice, vinegar, whiskey, and other aromatics. I like to keep things simple by using ingredients I have in the pantry.
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