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To Brine or Not to Brine, There is No Question!

I am thankful for Thanksgiving. This is a holiday that celebrates many of the things for which I am truly grateful, my country, my family and REALLY delicious food. In addition, I am one that enjoys all of the planning and preparation that goes into making the Thanksgiving dinner.  As I purchase each ingredient or prepare each entrée, I anticipate the pleasure my family will have from the minute they walk into my home and smell the baking turkey to when they sit down to a beautifully set table for the flavorful meal. For those of us who love to entertain, food is love and I love good food.

So let’s talk turkey. No doubt about it, brining poultry is the way to go. Although it might seem like a hassle, it really isn’t and brining will make your Thanksgiving turkey moist, delicious and will keep the turkey from drying out in the oven. You can also brine your turkey with a wide variety of ingredients to give it the flavors of your choice.

The two challenges of brining are easily overcome. One challenge is to find a container large enough in which to brine the turkey and the second challenge is to keep the turkey cold. I use a large ice chest (which I first clean out with water and bleach) to brine my turkey. Because the weather is below 40 degrees, I am able to keep the ice chest outside, which frees up space the turkey would take up if I kept it in my refrigerator.  People in warmer climates can still use the ice chest but should place sealed bags of ice cubes in the brine. Those who have large or extra refrigerators may use a Reynold’s Wrap oven bag in which to brine their turkey. (By the way, I use the oven bags when I bake my turkey with perfect results.) What you DON’T want to use to store your turkey is a bag that is not food safe, like a trash bag.

To brine a turkey, there are just a few principles to follow. Use 1 cup of salt (table or kosher) for every gallon of water you need in which to completely submerge the turkey. Dissolve the salt in the water before adding the thawed turkey which has been washed and has had the giblets removed. (I start with 2 gallons of warm water with 3 cups of kosher salt, so it is easier to dissolve the salt. Then I add a lot of ice to cool down the water before adding the turkey.) Figure on about 1 hour of brining per pound of turkey. I start to brine my turkey a day in advance of baking so it can sit in the brine overnight. Once the turkey is brined, getting rid of the turkey brine water can be tricky. My ice chest has a drain plug on the side and I am able to let the brine drain out into my sink. I move the turkey a couple of times in order to drain as much out of the ice chest as possible before lifting the turkey out with paper towels in hand. I clean out my ice chest again with water, bleach and dish soap.

In addition to salt, you can add all kinds of seasonings and flavors to your brine water. In the past I have used different herbs and apple juice with delicious results. When adding juices to your brine, it is recommended to buy the cheapest brands, as you will in the end be draining it out with the brine water. This year I am going to try a Cranberry Turkey Brine recipe that I found at:  http://bbq.about.com/od/turkeybrinerecipes/r/b11806.htm

Here are some other good websites for turkey information:

http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2010/11/how-to-control-saltiness-after-brining/ This is a great resource on how to control saltiness after brining.

www.Allrecipes.com  (my favorite food website)

www.martha stewart.com/343940/turkey-brine

If you are making your first turkey go to www.butterball.com to see great video guides (these would be great to show your students as well.)

If you have an amazing brine recipe or turkey tip you recommend, please reply to this blog.

I wish you all a wonderful and delicious Thanksgiving with your family and friends!

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