It’s the key for a moist, tender, flavourful roast for Christmas.
Brine is a mixture of water and salt; some recipes contain aromatic spices and sugar as well. Brining poultry means soaking it in this brine mixture for at least 10-12 hours or overnight.
Salt changes the structure of the muscle tissues in the meat, allowing it to swell and absorb water and flavourings. It also breaks down the proteins, resulting in a tender turkey.
Brining adds moisture and flavour to poultry and helps to keep it from drying out. Whether you grill, smoke, fry, or roast your turkey, you should use a brined bird.
Supplies -To properly brine a turkey you need to start the night before you plan to cook. You will need at least 10 to 12 hours (plan on 1 hour per pound of turkey), a container large enough to hold your turkey and enough brine to cover it. You’ll also need sea salt, water, sugar, seasonings, and enough room to refrigerate it. A large stainless steel pot or even a clean plastic bucket would make excellent containers. Whatever container you choose the turkey needs to have enough room to be turned so it should be big. Both Reynolds (Oven Roasting Bag for Turkeys) and Ziploc (XL Storage Bag) make very large food safe sealable bags that are great for brining.
Turkey – The turkey should be cleaned, completely thawed, and should not be a self-basting or Kosher turkey. Self-basting and Kosher turkeys have a salty stock added that will make your brined turkey too salty. A fresh turkey works best, but a completely thawed, previously frozen turkey will work just as well.
Brine ingredients – To make the brine, mix 1 cup of sea salt in 1 gallon of water. You will need more than 1 gallon of water but that’s the ratio to aim for. One way of telling if you have enough salt in your brine is when a raw egg or potato will float in it. Make sure that the salt is completely dissolved before adding the seasonings you like, making sure not to add anything that contains salt. You can add herbs and garlic, or chilli; or sweeten it with honey or brown sugar.
Sweetening the brine – Sugar is optional to any brine but works to counteract the flavour of the salt. Add up to 1 cup of sugar per gallon of brine. Like the salt, you need to make sure that the sugar is completely dissolved.
Set-up – Place the turkey in a container and pour in enough brine to completely cover the turkey with an inch or two to spare. You do not want any part of the turkey above the surface of the brine. Now you put the whole thing in the refrigerator. If you are like me, making enough room in the fridge is the hardest part of this project. The turkey should sit in the brine for about 1 hour per pound of turkey. Brining too long is much worse than not brining enough so watch the time.
Keep it cool – Don’t have room in the refrigerator? Try a cooler. The cooler will help keep it cool and allow you to brine your turkey without taking up precious refrigerator space. Fill plastic bags with ice and place this in the cooler with the turkey and brine and it will hold down the temperature during the brining process.
Rinse it – When you are ready to start cooking your turkey, remove it from the brine and rinse it off thoroughly in the sink with cold water until all traces of salt are off the surface inside and out. Safely discard the brine and cook your turkey as normal.
Enjoy the best turkey ever!