Brining a turkey seems to be a popular thing to do nowdays so I figured I would try brining ours this Thanksgiving. Basically, brining is just soaking a turkey in salt water. For various reasons, brining a turkey is supposed to create a very moist, tender turkey.
Cooking the brine
I looked up a few brining recipes off the Internet and decided on this one that some internet friends gave me:
1 gallon water
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup maple syrup or honey
6 cloves garlic, crushed
several sprigs of rosemary or thyme
2 bay leaves
Mix a day in advance, bring to a boil and simmer for a few minutes. Cool and pour into container big enough to hold brine and turkey. Refrigerate, breast side down for at least 12 hours, turning at least once.
It was easy to cook up the brine. The only problem was clearing space in the fridge for the big pot. The other problem was that my hands smelled like garlic for the rest of the night.
Soaking the turkey
This morning we got up and took the turkey out of the fridge, rinsed it, and put it in the over to cook for four hours. One thing I forgot to do was to turn the turkey. Hopefully that won’t make much difference. Stay tuned to see how the brine experiement worked out.
Ready to rinse and cook
UPDATE 11/25/2007 11:20 p.m. I forgot to come back and tell how the brining turned out. Sorry about that. Here is my take on the brining experiment:
The turkey was significantly more moist than doing it without brining. I could only taste the flavor of the brine (which was good) on the outside pieces of turkey – the inner turkey meat just had normal turkey flavor. The biggest difference was in the gravy. The brine provided a lot of drippings with which to make gravy and the gravy had an excellent flavor. Making gravy from scratch is generally so hard that we don’t even bother and just make it from a mix but we had heard that brining makes good gravy so we tried it. I think it is safe to say that this was the best gravy we have ever made from scratch. Overall, the brining was easy to do so it makes sense to do it for the moisture benefits alone. When you add in the gravy benefits I don’t see why I would ever cook another turkey without brining it.
On the Internet there are a lot of different brine recipes designed to give various flavors to the turkey. I’m not sure that I’m all that interested in trying to give my turkey a new flavor – we tried putting in citrus slices a few years ago and didn’t really like the citrusy flavor – but I’ll definitely be brining the turkey again next year.