Brining a Turkey

No, I did not misspell that. I’m brining the turkey meaning, it is currently sitting in a salty solution.

I’d heard about brining a turkey years ago and tried it at that time. I was amazed how much better the turkey meat was. It was so tender and flavorful. I noshed on that turkey so much, that at some point, I realized my armpits smelled like turkey. Yes, turkey was coming out my pores.

I have wanted to try it again to see if that was a fluke or if brining the turkey truly makes it that much better. When Safeway delivered a fresh turkey instead of a frozen turkey, I knew I had my chance. (you aren’t supposed to brine a frozen bird)

Brining does not make the turkey salty. I don’t like salty foods at all. I almost never salt my food and most people have to salt things I cook so don’t worry about this making things salty. I do hear that the drippings will be more salty. In my case, that is probably a good thing and will compensate for my lack of salt. You might want to adjust your gravy recipe accordingly. Nothing says you can’t taste the drippings before you add it to the gravy to see how salty it is.

The first time I brined a turkey, I went out and bought the new bucket, etc. but since then, I’ve found turkey brining bags in the grocery store and had some on hand when I decided to do this.

It’s basically a giant baggie. Well, more like one of those space saver bags. The plastic is thick and closes at the top like a baggie.

The bag turned out to be the better method (as opposed to the bucket) so stick with me on this. Get your turkey out and wash it off good, inside and out. Be sure to take out the neck and gizzards. Basically there is a little surprise in both cavity ends. Yay! I also remove the plastic thingy that keeps the legs together. That does make it easier to haul around but you want the brine to get in the cavities so it is better if everything is hanging loose.

The turkey needs to be fresh. You aren’t supposed to do this with a turkey that has been frozen. I followed a basic brine recipe of 2 gallons of water and 1 cup of salt (approximately, I didn’t actually measure anything. I just eyeballed it). There are a ton of variations to this. Some say use half vegetable stock and half water or a jug of apple cider. Those all sound good but I just wanted to use what I had on hand. Many recipes recommend using Kosher salt and I have some but I had an extra container of salt so I just used some standard table salt. I also threw in some poultry seasoning and Rosemary because everyone else was putting in herbs of some kind. I didn’t want to be left out.

So my bag is full of about two gallons of water, a cup of salt, some herbs, and I emptied my ice into the bag. I put the turkey in, breast down, but really, the brine covered the whole bird.

I closed the bag and set the whole thing in a 9×11 casserole dish. It didn’t fit perfectly but it held it well enough and it did mean that I could put it back in the refrigerator. There was no way I was going to be able to fit a bucket in the fridge.

It’s sitting in my fridge, looking weird. Most say to brine for 24 to 48 hour but give the turkey a chance to dry off before you cook it so I’ll take mine out of the brine tomorrow to give it 24 hours to dry off before it goes in the oven. [As I’m re-reading the recipes, none of them say anything other than pat it dry and let it sit for 15 minutes so I may just let this go the full 48 hours and just let it sit when I’m doing all the prep work as I would normally.]

I had planned on cooking this in a cooking bag (which is a totally different bag than the brining bag). I did that last time I made a Thanksgiving turkey. Not only does it make a killer bird, it cuts the cooking time so I don’t have to get up in the middle of the night to get the bird ready to go in the oven. I don’t know how brining and a cooking bag will combine. We’ll see. Cross your fingers that nothing goes horribly wrong.

Resources I used to research brining:

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3 Responses to Brining a Turkey

  1. Amy says:

    Why do you need ice for the brining solution?

    • LoveThisSpace says:

      To make the water cold. I did put it right in the refrigerator but by putting the ice cubes in, the raw poultry isn’t sitting in water that needs to cool down. I think this step is probably a lot more relevant for people that simmer their brining solution first. I used it as an excuse to empty out the ice cube tray.

  2. I wish I had brined my turkey this year. It was a last minute decision on whether or not I was going to do a whole turkey or just a turkey breast. I ended up going with the whole turkey but didn’t think about brining until it was too late.

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