How to Brine a Turkey
Brining a turkey adds a extra layer of flavor and moisture to your Thanksgiving turkey and we’ve found the best turkey brine that will deliver the juiciest turkey around. Hopefully by now you have purchased your turkey and it’s thawing in the refrigerator. Brining is your ticket to a juicy, full-flavored turkey, even if you’re not feeling totally confident about your roasting skills.
Before you brine the turkey, you want to remove the giblets and clean out the interior of the turkey. I know this controversial, but I always rinse out the inside of the turkey to be sure there is nothing left inside before I start brining or roasting. I then thoroughly clean my sink and surrounding surface with a bleach cleaner to be sure there is no left over turkey juice before I prep my brine.
For the brine, you will need salt, maple syrup (or honey), citrus fruit like oranges or lemons, peppercorns, thyme, and garlic. You will also need to have a clean bucket, a large stock pot or brining bag to put the brine and turkey into as well as plenty of refrigerator space as the brining process takes at least one day, but you can brine up to two days in advance.
Why Brine a Turkey?
Turkey is a relatively lean bird, particularly the breast meat, which means it doesn’t have a lot of fat to help keep the meat from becoming dry and tough.
This is where brining comes in. A brine is a very basic solution of water and salt along with aromatics, and by giving your turkey a long dunk in this brine solution, you can actually coax a bit more moisture and flavor into the turkey.
During brining, the turkey absorbs extra moisture, which in turn helps it stay more moist and juicy both during and after cooking. Since the turkey absorbs salt along with the water, it also gets nicely seasoned from the inside out. Even better, the salt breaks down some of the turkey’s muscle proteins, which helps with the overall moisture absorption and also prevents the meat from get tough during cooking.
Watch a video of how to brine a turkey from our friends at Safeway here:
For a succulent turkey recipe, be sure to check out the Roasted Turkey With Smoked Paprika recipe here.
Best Turkey Brine Recipe
- 1 1/2 cup kosher salt
- 4 oranges cut into quarters or slices
- 1 large red onion onion cut into quarters or slices
- 10 garlic cloves smashed
- 1/4 cup peppercorns
- 2 ounces fresh thyme
- 8 ounces pure maple syrup
In a large food service-grade bucket or cooler, add 1 gallon hot water. Pour in salt and stir until salt is completely dissolved.
Stir in 4-5 pounds of ice. Add in the rest of the ingredients, and place turkey (12-18 pound turkey) in brine. Add enough cold water to cover the turkey.
Soak in brine for 12 to 36 hours. Remove turkey from brine and baked as desired.
If you are making a turkey breast this year, rather than the whole bird, check out this Dry Brine Turkey Breast recipe here. You can also use the dry brine on the whole bird if you don’t have a large food service grade bucket or cooler.
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