I’ve been brining turkey for Thanksgiving each year for the past six years. It makes a delicious, tender, juicy bird. And its not difficult to do! Here are instructions and some brine recipes for you to use this year.
To brine a turkey you will need a large pot that will hold the whole bird in the brine and a space in the frig large enough to store it for a day. You can improvise if your frig isn’t big enough.
Here are two ideas for containing the turkey while it brines:
1) I have used a large wash pan of ice and placed another bucket full of turkey and brine in it.
2) For the last three years I have used a large, new GLAD trash bag to put the bird and brine in (GLAD brand bags contain no pesticides or anti-mold chemicals). First I place a large clean trash bag in a large cooler. I put the defrosted turkey in the bag along with the brine liquid. Next I fill the cooler with ice all around the outside of the bag. When the ice melts, I take the cooler to the back steps and let it drain, then fill it up with ice again. You want to make sure the bird stays at or below 40*F. You can also use Ziplock brand Big Bags or a Reynold’s Wrap Bake-In Bag.
You’ll want to keep the turkey in the brine for at least 24 hours so plan to defrost your turkey ahead of time. It takes about 3-4 days to defrost a frozen turkey. I usually keep it in the brine for 48 hours instead of 24. That means I start a frozen turkey defrosting on Friday. By Monday the turkey is defrosted and I brine it until Wednesday.
I roast my turkey on Wednesday evening, cut it up and place it in a pan with extra broth. I seal the pan well and refrigerate it til Thursday. On Thursday while I’m baking other foods, I heat up the turkey meat.
Brining is simply soaking the turkey in a salt solution that has spices and flavors added to it. Brining a turkey imparts delicious flavor and moisture to the meat, it’s the best way to roast a turkey I think. More than that though, if the turkey gets left in the oven for an extra 10-15 minutes, the brining keeps it moist and flavorful. You can leave a turkey in the brine for up to 2 days, but usually just 24 hours will be sufficient to lend those delicious flavors to the meat.
I’ll walk you through brining, it’s not hard but you need to think about what your family likes before you start. Brines can be tailored to your taste. These are just a few brine flavors, there are hundreds out there. Check the internet for more.
The rule of thumb is: Use the basic brine and add the flavors your family likes!
First Make The Basic Brine:
Dissolve 1 cup table salt or 2 cups kosher salt in 2 gallons cold water in a large stockpot or clean bucket. Your pot or bucket must hold 6-8 gallons so that you can immerse the turkey. After you add the flavors, brine the turkey for 12-24 hours.
Now add the flavors you like to the brine you have made. Here are some suggestions:
1 ounce tender quick
1 cup honey
3 bay leaves
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp pickling spices
1 -2 Tablespoons of each:
Celery seed, ground
Fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup molasses
1-1/2 T crushed or minced garlic (or garlic powder)
1/2 T onion powder
1/4 cup pepper
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 oz maple flavoring
Another Spicy One
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup molasses
2 tbsp black pepper
1 tbsp thyme
1 tbsp oregano
Apple Cider Brine
4 gal. apple cider INSTEAD OF WATER
1/2 cup kosher salt INSTEAD OF THE SALT IN THE BASIC BRINE
1 onion, diced
2 heads of garlic divided
1/2 cup fresh ginger, chopped
3 pcs. star anise OR use 3 tablespoons fresh rosemary instead
4 bay leaves
4 oranges quartered
One More Apple Cider Brine
Roasting The Brined Turkey
To roast the brined turkey, it is important to rinse the turkey well and to pat it dry with a clean cloth or paper towel before roasting.
Preheat the oven to 400* F. Paint the breast portion with soft butter, add some herbs if desired. cover the breast with a foil tent. Roast the turkey at 400* for 35 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 and roast the remaining time indicated on the packaging of the turkey. Uncover the breast the last 1 1/2 hours. The USDA recommends that you let the turkey breast come to 170* and the legs to 180* before removing the turkey from the oven. Remember however that the turkey will continue to cook after you take it out of the oven. Especially if you cover it with foil and allow it to rest for 20 minutes. The resting period will also allow the juices to settle in the meat, making for a better tasting turkey.