Brining a Turkey

Brining a Turkey


“Brining keeps turkey moist and adds flavor.” Yes, if you’re thinking about brining, it’s because you’ve heard this quote. However, what goes into your brine? Wow do you do do it? How exactly does it work?

Before we go any further, please know that no matter what method, you do not want to brine a bird that has had a brining solution already injected into it. The label will say that 6% or so flavoring solution has been added. If you brine one of these, your turkey will probably come out very salt and a bit “spongey”.

However, if you buy a fresh or organic bird, just check the label or with the butcher. If nothing has been added, it needs a brine.

The Science and Method

When you’re thinking about brining, people generally think about submerging the turkey in gallons of solution and storing this in the fridge (if you have room).

However, there is another way to brine, without the mess, guesswork and fridge clutter,”Dry Brining”.

I prefer Dry Brining for these exact reasons and that’s what I’ll describe here.

Dry Brining involves simply sprinkling salt directly on the bird for specific manner and time to let chemistry do it’s work. Yes, it’s that easy

Okay, we all know that salt adds flavor and retains moisture and water weight. My bathroom scale tells me that that day after I eat a bag of chips!

Just like my bathroom scale says, this works best overnight. So go ahead and do the brine the evening before, then place in a covered pan in the fridge.

To get this benefit for your turkey, just place it on a big platter where you can work on on, and have a bowl of kosher salt or regular salt next to it. You’ll be getting raw juice on your hands, so you don’t want to keep going back and forth, handling the salt container. Rule of thumb is ½ teaspoon of salt per pound. So, a 18 pound bird will use about 9 teaspoons. Again, this a rule of thumb and little more is fine if you run out.

The breast is thicker and dryer, so you want to use twice as much salt on that area than the rest, which is juicier dark meat.

Go ahead and rub the salt directly on the skin all over the turkey, again putting more on the breast skin.

That’s it, just place in a pan, cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge overnight.

As you’re sleeping, the salt will actually penetrate the skin and draw a little moisture out. This will then melt the salt, which will then go back through the skin and enter the meat. From there it will start enhancing the natural flavor of the meat and holding onto the moisture. In fact, it’s been shown that an un-brined turkey will loss about 2/3 more water (moisture) than a brined one.

The next day, just cook as usual (remember to remove the plastic wrap). Generally, I roast covered at 350 F. for about 15 minutes per pound, for an unstuffed bird. Make sure you have a calibrated thermometer and check the temperature deep in the thickest part, the thigh. USDA recommends taking it out at 165F. However, I take mine out at 160F and I find that “carry-over cooking” takes it the rest of the way, and you’ll have a much juicer bird.