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Brine {Don't Whine}

I simply must urge you to consider brining your bird this year.  I had never done it before.  It seemed off-putting somehow.  Did I have a big enough pot?  Would the turkey taste too salty?  And, most importantly, why bother?  My mother never did and the turkey was just fine.  But as I thought about it, just fine was how I would describe turkey in general.  Never had it blown me away with deliciousness.   Could I be missing something?

Then I saw a Good Eats episode by Alton Brown in which he demystified the reasons for brining.  He explained that at first, the salty solution draw moisture out of the turkey (which sounds counter intuitive). But then, the bird magically draws the salty solution back into its cells where it remains trapped and no matter how long you cook your fowl, it will stay moist and flavorful.  I was sold.

Last week I did a test run.  I bought a 15 pound turkey and combined the following two recipes (Alex Guarnaschelli's Thanksgiving Turkey Brine, and Alton Brown's Good Eats Roast Turkey ) for my own twist on brining.  It was the most delicious turkey I have ever eaten.  Sounds dramatic, yes, but nevertheless, 100% true.  I stood at the fridge the next morning eating the chilled white meat with my fingers.   (Note - I have yet to make gravy from these drippings.  I have heard it can be overly salty but I am not too worried as there were few drippings in the first place.)

I'll never again cook a turkey without brining it first!
Here's how I did it.

6 quarts tap water, divided
3/4 pound kosher salt
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup soy sauce
1 head garlic , broken apart and peeled (I did not do this the first time but now I will)
1 bunch fresh thyme
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes, rubbed in the palm of your hand first
1 tablespoon allspice berries

For the Turkey:
One whole turkey, thawed
1 stick butter, softened
2 cups low sodium chicken broth, warmed in microwave until hot

1.  In a large stockpot, bring 3 quarts of water to a boil.
2.  Add salt, soy sauce, sugar, garlic, thyme, pepper flakes and allspice berries.
3.  Stir until salt is dissolved.
4.  Add remaining 3 quarts of cold water and as much ice as you can while still having room for the entire turkey.
5.  Once the brine has cooled sufficiently, add the turkey, legs up.
6.  Cover and place in the back of your refrigerator overnight.
7.  The next day, simply drain the turkey brine, pat turkey dry and place on roasting rack over roasting pan. I prefer not to tie legs together but to allow them to splay open making the roasting time more even.
8.  Lift skin from turkey breast and rub butter beneath skin as well as all over the outside of the turkey.
9.  Place in 350 degree oven on lowest oven rack.  
10. Roast for 3 1/2 hours or until reaches a temperature of 170.   Halfway through roasting pour hot chicken broth into roasting pan.  This will create a steamy oven which also keeps the turkey moist.
11.  Allow the turkey to rest at least 30 minutes before slicing to keep juices from running out.  

I hope you'll try this sometime and enjoy it as much as my family did.

Happy Thanksgiving to you!


  1. Looks great! Yup, brining (however you spell it) is the way to do it. So says my Chef brother as well.

  2. It's that time again!!! Ham, turkey, pie, feeling fat and happy!!!


  3. This looks very interesting. I'm planning to experiment with this for next year. Thanks for all of these helpful Thanksgiving posts.

    I gave you an award over on CastingPearls. Take a look! :)

    Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends.


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