Give Brine A Chance

The Great Comission

I was commissioned by my family to take care of the turkey(s) for this Thanksgiving. They either trust me, or they are completely blind.
Either way, I will have take care of this in one way or another. Nobody showed any interest of preparing it a certain way or purchasing a certain type of free-range or kosher bird so, I took myself some liberties (freedoms).

Brined Turkey

I started off my difficult quest of assuring my family’s thanksgiving turkey happiness by consulting several reference blogs, recipes, techniques, etc. since these days everything can be found on the Internet!
From the very beginning I was in a disadvantage first of all because I never roasted a turkey, I am not an American and on Tuesday (tomorrow) I’ll make my 40’st meaning that it is downhill from there.

Among my findings were, of course the traditional smoked turkey, Martha Stewart turkey, Adobo, deep fried turkey, rotisserie turkey, etc. But there seemed to be a common opinion thread everywhere that the brined turkey produces the juiciest bird. Of course if that is made well.

It consists of immersing the bird in a brine solution (water plus salt) of >50 dissolved salts in parts per thousand. In our common kitchen language that would be approximately 1-1/2 cups of kosher salt to 6 quarts water. Then the immersed bird would sit there chilled overnight.

Apparently the chemical reaction of the brine produces the juiciest bird, or as Wikipedia presents it:

“Brining makes cooked meat moister by hydrating the cells of its muscle tissue before cooking, via the process of osmosis, and by allowing the cells to hold on to the water while they are cooked, via the process of denaturation.”

Turkey Brine

The procedure is really simple and there is no science involved. The sources seemed to be concentrating more on the brinning container and storage than on the brine itself. There are many variations to the the basic salt & water brine but one particular recipe caught my eye in terms of being creative. It was apparently broadcast on the LA area radio by Melinda Lee. I added my touches to it though as I love recipe-bending:

  • 1-1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 1-1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 Ts black peppercorns
  • 10 whole cloves
  • 6 Qt apple cider or apple juice
  • 1 orange peel
  • 3 Ts thyme or sage (or both)

my additions included:

  • 1 onion chopped (medium size)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 2 Ts pepper corns
  • 1 Tbs dried rosemary
  • 1 Tbs crushed coriander seeds

Mix all the ingredients in a preferably non reactive pot, then bring to a boil, and continue simmering for approximately 15-20 minutes on low heat. Make sure you cool the brine before immersing the thawed bird into it. Then you should leave it for at least 12 hours to brine in the refrigerator or if you live in Polar regions like me, in the garage. In the end rinse the turkey, blot dry and roast as you know it.

The Container

I though of allowing a special paragraph to this subject as it seemed of great importance in the sources I read.

I bought a Home Depot paint bucket with a lid for I think $6.00 or so that is big enough to have the whole bird immersed and kept there. The only trouble is that it wouldn’t fit in the refrigerator. I will have to live it overnight in the garage as we already have already have the temperatures into the 30s here in Chicago. There is no danger of freezing because the garage door is closed, and the brine pushes the freezing temperature lower than the normal one.

I will probably report back on how this whole brined turkey business turned out on Thursday.

If any of you have any words of wisdom to contribute please do so, I am curious of your impressions!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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5 thoughts on “Give Brine A Chance”

  • We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in Greece but we do make stuffed Turkey at Christmas or New Year and this year I also plan to brine ours. Thanks for all the information.

  • I’ve brined turkeys before, but I’ve never cooked the concoction like you suggest. I’m doing that tonight, so we’ll see how the bird turns out tomorrow!! Good luck Gabster.

  • I’m a big fan of brining poultry. And I use a similar recipe to yours.

    I’ve seen where folks just use salt and water to brine, but I like all the additional spices to add flavor.

  • Bellini Valli: A belated THANK YOU! Same to you and yours! Yes – I thought of the cooler but I didn’t wanted to use it for curing the turkey to avoid any possible contamination etc.

    Ivy: Glad I could be of help! Good luck with yours!

    Scott: Having brined before, I don’t think you can go wrong in any ways. You are a Pro, Scott!

    Brian: To be honest, I am not sure how much those spices contribute to the overall turkey flavor, but I added them anyway.

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