I have hosted Thanksgiving at my home every year for the last eleven years. I always brine my turkey. A brine is simply a salty water solution that adds moisture and flavor to meat. I have brined my turkey in salted water, apple cider and even bourbon (not something I’d recommend!). There are many recipes for brines and it is worth the effort to brine your meat, especially turkey. The turkey should be cleaned out and completely thawed. A fresh, “natural” turkey works best, but a completely thawed, previously frozen turkey will work well too. Kosher turkeys have already been salted as part of the koshering process, so if you choose to brine it just give it an extra good rinse and prepare for salty gravy.
Line an extra-large stockpot with a heavy large plastic bag (about 30-gallon capacity). The extra large roasting bags are a great way to brine meat too. Rinse your turkey and place it in the plastic bag. Stir 8 quarts of water, 2 cups of coarse salt, and 1 cup of honey in a large pot until the salt and honey dissolve. Add 1 bunch of fresh thyme, peeled garlic cloves, and black peppercorns. Pour the brine over the turkey. Gather the plastic bag tightly around the turkey so that bird is covered with brine; seal the plastic bag. Refrigerate the pot with the turkey in brine for at least 12 hours and up to 18 hours. The turkey should sit in the brine for about 1 hour per pound of turkey. Brining too long is much worse than not brining enough so watch the time.
If you don’t have enough room in the refrigerator, try a cooler. A cooler is big enough to hold your turkey and makes a good container for your turkey and brine. The cooler will help keep it cool and allow you to brine your turkey without taking up precious refrigerator space. If the weather is cool, but not freezing you can put the whole thing outside until you need the turkey. If the weather is warm, fill a ziplock bag with ice. Place this in the cooler with the turkey and brine and it will keep it cool during the brining process.
When you are ready to start cooking your turkey, remove it from the brine and rinse it off thoroughly in the sink with cold water until all traces of salt are off the surfaces, both inside and out. This is the single, most important step. If you don’t get the brine rinsed off thoroughly you could get a very salty bird. If you have the time, let the turkey sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before cooking. Safely discard the brine and cook your turkey as you would normally. You will notice the second you start to carve your turkey that the brining has helped it retain moisture. The first bite will sell you on brining turkeys forever, and after you’ve tried this you will want to brine all your poultry.
I am happy to share some favorite Thanksgiving recipes, just let me know what you need. Have a great holiday and happy cooking!
Source: Bon Appétit