It amazes me that there is actually a debate about whether or not to brine your Thanksgiving bird! Now, to each their own, but people, c’mon…have you ever TRIED it?!? Once you brine, you will never make a turkey the “old” way again!
The science behind brining states the salt in the brine allows the solution (and the flavors) to permeate the flesh and meat of the turkey. The salt also helps to inhibit the shrinking of muscle tissue allowing it to preserve more moisture in the meat. Now I know, it seems like A LOT of salt, but trust me, if you follow the directions you will NOT have a salty bird. Keep these tips in mind when bringing your bird:
- Use a FRESH turkey, NEVER FROZEN. Frozen turkeys are often injected with a salt-based solution to aid in the freezing process. You don’t want to brine a bird that already has salt injected into it.
- You MUST thoroughly rinse your bird INSIDE AND OUT to remove the excess salt. I also highly recommend submerging your bird in a clean sink of cold water for 15 minutes to help remove any additional salt.
- I would recommend using aromatics inside the body cavity of your turkey instead of stuffing. Your stuffing may come out salty from absorbing the turkey’s juices. Plus, the aromatics add another layer of awesome flavor to your turkey.
Mmmm. Look at all those yummy ingredients! Trust me, this brine is going to make you the star of the Thanksgiving show! And you never have to tell your secret; it’s safe with me, I promise.
Just giving you all a few close-ups of the secret ingredients that are about to give you Thanksgiving fame and glory! Brown sugar, black peppercorns, allspice berries and bay leaves.
And a few more…kosher salt, oranges, candied ginger, sage and rosemary.
Ok, on to making the brine! Put all ingredients, except cold water and ice, into a large stock pot.
Cook over medium heat, stirring to dissolve salt and sugar.
Can you smell it yet? It’s sooooo fragrant!
Seriously, I WISH you could SMELL this!! It’s absolutely heavenly! It’s now ready to remove from heat, cover (so that precious solution doesn’t evaporate) and cool to room temperature.
I make this brine ahead of time and let it sit in the fridge (or outside, covered, in the garage if the temperature is cold enough…which in Minnesota, it usually is).
When you’re ready to brine the turkey, place in a large pot, bag, or bucket (clean, of course!) and pour brine solution over turkey. Fill with cold water and ice until bird is completely covered. Make sure the inside cavity is also filled with brine. Keep submerged. Store in fridge (or outside if it’s cold enough). Add ice as necessary to maintain extremely cold temps.
Here’s what I use for the aromatics when I actually roast the bird. Combine the apple, orange, onion and cinnamon stick in a microwave-safe bowl. Add the water. Cook on high in the microwave for 4-5 minutes. Place the steeped aromatics, sage and rosemary inside the turkey cavity (you can discard the excess liquid). Close it up and rub the outside of the turkey with canola oil to help with the browning process.
I typically, as I think most people do, use the turkey drippings for making gravy. There are a few things to note when doing this:
- Your drippings may be saltier from brining your bird. When adding broth (not stock) to the drippings to make your gravy, use a low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth.
- You can also add a peeled and quartered potato to the drippings while you simmer them down. The potato will help absorb some of the salt. Just be sure to remove and discard the potato before thickening and serving.
Happy Thanksgiving! Let me know how your bird turns out!
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