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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Brining Turkey

I've heard a lot about brining turkeys and decided to try it this year. Brining makes poultry moister and more flavorful. It takes a little more time, but it's worth it. If you want to know why brining improves quality, read Here.
Although turkey is a little more expense this year, it's still an economical meat, and great for leftovers.

Start with a completely thawed turkey. If your turkey is frozen, you need to let it defrost in your fridge for 3-5 days, depending on the size of your turkey. Leave it in the original package to defrost. When your turkey is completely thawed, remove giblets.

Prepare your brine. I'm cooking a large (22 lb) turkey, so I needed a total of 2 gallons of brine. Brine is salt water, usually with some sweetener and some seasonings added.
The basic recipe is one gallon of water or broth (I used broth) and one cup of coarse or Kosher salt.  You can look up many good brining recipes online. A good brining recipe usually includes 1/2 to 1 cup of sugar and a few tablespoons of whole spices. Bring the water, salt, and sugar to boil in a large pot on the stove, then add whole spices as desired. I used 1 tablespoon whole allspice and 1 tablespoon whole black pepper. Boil for a minute or two, or until salt and sugar are completely dissolved.. Add one gallon of ice water with lots of ice to cool water.

The hardest part of brining is finding a container big enough to immerse a turkey in. I own a extra large stockpot, but you could also use a bucket or watertight cooler. It needs to be something that fits into your fridge. If the weather is right you could also use your back porch or garage. Just be sure to monitor the temperature carefully to avoid freezing or over-warming the brining turkey.  Your turkey needs to be completely immersed--you may need to weigh down the turkey to keep it under water.  Put the whole thing into your fridge for 8-10 hours.  
Do not leave your turkey in brine longer than 10 hours, as quality begins to decline after too long in brine water.

 After 8 to 10 hours, remove turkey from brine, rinse very well, and brush with canola oil or melted butter. Fill turkey cavity with diced onions, carrots, celery, spices, oranges, apples, or leave empty.

Cook on the bottom rack of your oven for time and temperature appropriate to turkey size. I cooked my 22 lb turkey for 3 1/2 hours at 325 as my turkey packaging suggested.  I like to cook with a foil tent for the first 2 hours, then remove the last hour or more to brown.

Use a meat thermometer in the deepest part of the turkey to reach the perfect doneness--around 165 degrees.

The brined turkey was noticeably moister--a little more effort and a little more time was well worth the effort!

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