To Brine or Not to Brine…There is No Question!

I’m sure that most of you have heard of brining your turkey.  I heard of it about 3 years ago…and my whole world was changed!  That may sound melodramatic – but honestly.  Those of you that have brined your turkey know what I mean.

My dear Mother-in-law was hesitant.  Because, she had been doing it a certain way for years.  And, it is well known that Eames’ fear change! (that was for you Chicky)

So – we decided to make one the traditional way & to brine one.  (We feed a small army on Thanksgiving – and I have 3 ovens.  ha ha) That way we could test the difference side by side, and if it didn’t work out – we still had the stand-by traditional turkey.

Let me save you the trouble, people.  Just do the brined turkey.  We wished we had brined them both. It was the juiciest, tastiest, most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten.  And, I’ve never been one to eat the leftover turkey.  It always tasted dried out and kind of gamey the next day.  Not with the brined turkey.  Oh no.  Still moist and delicious!!

For those of you that don’t know what a brine is or what I’m even talking about – a brine is a flavor infused salt water solution that you soak the turkey in for 24 hours before cooking it.   It absorbs the salt and helps break down the protein in the meat to make it tender and hold the delicious juices in.  Oh my.

There are so many recipes.  Here is my favorite – and because she did such a fabulous job – and I didn’t take pictures last Thanksgiving – I’ve just copied her post here.  All photography and text from here is from The Pioneer Woman.

I brine a turkey every year because it’s the right thing to do. Brining involves soaking a turkey in a very salty solution for a certain length of time, long enough for the salt to infiltrate the turkey and actually alter the molecular structure of the meat. It doesn’t turn it into a salty mess, either. It just results in a juicy, fantastic turkey. If you’ve never brined a turkey, you’ll just have to trust me on this.

You can buy ready-made brining solutions. I used to buy one at Williams-Sonoma. But making one is a cinch, too. You basically need a bunch of salt and whatever other ingredients you want to throw in. I like to balance the saltiness with the mild sweetness of apple cider (and okay, the not-so-mild sweetness of brown sugar) but you can use whatever you’d like.

A couple of important things to remember, though:

1. Only brine fresh turkeys. Brining a frozen turkey is never a good idea, because frozen turkeys are most typically injected with a sodium solution. There are some organic frozen turkeys (my friend Julie found some at Whole Foods recently) that have a much lower concentration of the sodium solution. Generally speaking, though, you’ll want to brine fresh–not frozen–turkeys.

2. Making gravy from the drippings of a brined turkey can result in a really salty gravy if you’re not careful. In the next post, I’ll show you a few steps that will prevent this from happening.

But for now: let’s brine!

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Here’s what you need.

 

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Cut off the top and bottom of each orange.

 

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Carefully slice off the peel in sections.

 

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Mmm. Fragrant to the max.

 

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Strip the leaves off the rosemary sprigs, measure the salt, sugar, bay leaves, and peppercorns. Inhale. Exhale. Thank the Lord above for the aromas that spring forth from the earth.

At least that’s what I do every time I make this turkey brine.

(Oh, and you’ll need some minced garlic. I just forgot that step. Happens.)

 

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Pour three cups of apple cider into a stock pot.

 

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Add two gallons of water…

 

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A cup and a half of salt…

 

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Two cups of brown sugar…

 

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Bay leaves…

 

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Rosemary…

 

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Peppercorns…

 

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And orange peel.

And the forgotten garlic.

 

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Loveliness!

 

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Now, bring the mixture to a boil, then immediately turn off the heat and cover the pot. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature; feel free to stick it in the fridge or freezer halfway through the cooling down process

 

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This is an alien hand (left) and a brining bag.

I’m obsessed with brining bags. Obsessed!

It’s all I think about anymore.

 

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Here’s the turkey inside the brining bag.

 

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Once the brine solution is cooled, pour it over the turkey.

 

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Now you’ll just need to seal up the bag and refrigerate it for at least sixteen hours. Twenty-four hours is better, though, especially for a large turkey. Place the turkey, breast side down, in the bag, but 2/3 of the way through the brining, flip the turkey in the bag to make sure it brines evenly. Just pretend you’re an obstetrician and you’re trying to get a breach baby to flip!

Note: This is enough brine for a 20-pound turkey. If you feel as though the turkey needs even more liquid, just top it off with more water and it’ll be fine. If you’re using a much smaller turkey or a turkey breast, just halve the recipe.

Next up: Roasting this dang thing.

The fun has only just begun.

Recipe: My Favorite Turkey Brine

Prep Time: 10 Minutes  |  Cook Time: 15 Minutes  |  Difficulty: Easy  |  Servings: 18

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Ingredients

  • 3 cups Apple Juice Or Apple Cider
  • 2 gallons Cold Water
  • 4 Tablespoons Fresh Rosemary Leaves
  • 5 cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 1-1/2 cup Kosher Salt
  • 2 cups Brown Sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons Peppercorns
  • 5 whole Bay Leaves
  • Peel Of Three Large Oranges

Preparation Instructions

Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Stir until salt and sugar dissolve. Bring to a boil, then turn off heat and cover.

Allow to cool completely, then pour into a large brining bag or pot. Place uncooked turkey in brine solution, then refrigerate for 16 to 24 hours.

When ready to roast turkey, remove turkey from brine. Submerge turkey in a pot or sink of fresh, cold water. Allow to sit in clean water for 15 minutes to remove excess salt from the outside.

Discard brine. Remove turkey from clean water, pat dry, and cook according to your normal roasting method.”

It’s Erin again – I hope you’ll try out a brine this year if you haven’t in the past.  If you have…feel free to share your love of brining in the comments section to help me persuade the noobies. ;0)

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

**Erin

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11 thoughts on “To Brine or Not to Brine…There is No Question!

  1. Does this mean you’re making the turkey at Thanksgiving? I would be totally open to a special trip down there to try this out… The excuse may even pass with the in-laws.

    • No – unless I can convince mom to brine it. But…that’s not likely. I do, however, think that you should make that trip anyways. How often do you get to see your dear sister???

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