Ah, to brine or not to brine? That is the question. And the answer, my friends, is definitely to brine.
Say goodbye to dry turkey on Thanksgiving and hello to juicy, flavorful bites of the most delicious meat you’ve ever tasted, all through the process of brining. How does brining work, exactly? The cells of the turkey meat have a natural level of salt already in them. When you immerse your turkey in a brine for several hours, the salty brine increases the level of salt in the cells, drawing water out and flavor in. Any seasonings added to the brine are also absorbed into the meat, which means that you’re flavoring your bird from the inside out. Sounds like a good idea, doesn’t it?
Here’s a basic recipe you’ll want to print out and keep on hand for next week and every November to come. Keep in mind that the brining process takes about 24 hours, so you’ll want to plan ahead. You also need to make sure your turkey is completely thawed.
8 quarts cold water
2 cups coarse kosher salt
8 large bay leaves
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
2 tablespoons whole allspice
1 turkey, thawed (giblets and neck removed)
Line a large soup kettle with two turkey-sized oven bags, one inside the other.
In a large saucepan, combine 1 quart water salt, bay leaves, peppercorns and allspice. Stir mixture over medium heat until salt dissolves. Remove from heat and add 1 quart of water and cool the mixture until lukewarm. Pour mixture into bag-lined soup kettle and add the remaining 6 quarts of water. Carefully place turkey into the mixture. (This can get messy if it overflows, so do it in a large sink or tub!) Gather the bags and squeeze out any air. Tie the bags closed, cover (if possible) and refrigerate for at least 18 and up to 24 hours, but no longer.
Remove turkey and place it in a roasting pan. Discard the brine. If you’re not ready to roast, cover the roasting pan and refrigerate.
HINT: Along with adding flavor and ensuring moistness, brining helps tenderize the bird by breaking down tissues. Do not stuff a brined bird as it will result in excessively salty stuffing. Season the bird as normal before roasting.
HINT: Feel free to dress up the brine with orange peels, lemon peels, garlic, cloves or any other favorite herbs and spices.
HINT: For a spectacularly moist turkey, roast the bird upside down so the juices flow into the breast. It will be the best turkey you’ve ever made, guaranteed.