Brining and Roasting a Juicy Turkey
Are you a bit nervous about making your Thanksgiving Turkey?
Brining is your ticket to a juicy, full-flavored turkey, even if you’re not feeling totally confident about your roasting skills.
If you’re nervous about overcooking your turkey and winding up with a platter of dry turkey meat on your table, think of brining as your insurance.
Brining is essentially the process of soaking a turkey in a salt and liquid solution for at least a day prior to roasting, grilling or frying. This adds flavor and moisture and helps the turkey retain flavor during cooking.
What kind of turkey to choose?
Choose a pasture raised turkey for many reasons. Many conventional turkeys are essentially pre-brined with a vegetable soy protein solution. Do not use turkeys labeled as “kosher,” “enhanced,” or “self-basting” for brining. These turkeys have already been enhanced with salt and probably not real salt in some way and brining would result in an over-salted turkey.
Pastured turkeys, especially those from a local farm, won’t have this added solution to increase the moisture in the finished product but you can add it in an even more delicious (and healthy) way by brining.
Why Brine Your Turkey?
Turkey is a relatively lean bird, particularly the breast meat, meaning that it doesn’t have a lot of fat to help keep the meat from becoming dry and tough. It needs some help if we want to avoid the kind of turkey situation that makes us sad and mopey on Thanksgiving.
This is where brining comes in. A brine is a very basic solution of water and salt, and by giving our turkey a long and luxurious dunk in this solution, we can actually coax a bit more moisture and flavor into our meal.
During brining, the turkey absorbs extra moisture, which in turn helps it stay more moist and juicy both during and after cooking. Since the turkey absorbs salt along with the water, it also gets nicely seasoned from the inside out. You want to make sure you use real salt like Himalayan, Celtic or Real Salt. Even better, the salt breaks down some of the turkey’s muscle proteins, which helps with the overall moisture absorption and also prevents the meat from toughing up quite so much during cooking.
Turkey Brining Essentials for Brining
- Large Pot and room in the fridge.
- Liquid of some kind: Water works but I like to add apple cider and bone broth for added flavor.
- Salt: The common amount is 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup per gallon of water.
- Spices: Add any spices of choice. I like to add bay leaf, cracked peppercorn, and thyme. I also like to add two lemons and one orange, both zested and sliced.
You can customize the ingredients to suit your own taste and in a pinch, just use water, salt and any spices you like.
The process of brining a turkey is much easier than the process of roasting one. It also makes the roasting process faster and the finished product more delicious.
You can put a frozen turkey in the brine in the fridge two days before Thanksgiving in a 5-gallon food grade bucket. It defrostes and brines all in one.
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