Ah, the holiday turkey. Many have fretted over it and only handfuls have perfected it. So what’s the secret to a perfectly juicy turkey? According to most expert cooks, brine.
Yes, it might seem that salt on meat is counterintuitive to keeping a bird moist as salt usually draws moisture out. But whether you choose a wet brine or dry brine, science does its magic and puts that moisture back in. What comes out of the oven…a masterpiece.
So how does it work? You know, besides the obvious answer of sorcery.
Turkey is fairly lean compared to other meats, so it doesn’t have a lot of fat to keep it from becoming dry. That’s why you have to reintroduce moisture and change its protein structure using salt.
In wet brining, the salt draws moisture out, but the water brings all that moisture back in and then some. In dry brining, salt draws out the moisture, dissolves into juices, and then is reintroduced back into the meat. There’s no definitive guide to which is the better method, though dry brining is a much easier process.
We’ve collected some of the best brining recipes from around the web to help you get started!
The Alton Brown method of brining is one of the most popular wet brine recipes. With vegetable broth, brown sugar, peppercorns, and candied ginger, it’s a tried and true accompaniment to a great turkey.
This wet brine recipe from The Pioneer Woman combines apple cider, rosemary, garlic, oranges, and brown sugar to create a perfectly balanced brine.
Martha Stewart’s classic wet brine uses fennel, juniper berries, coriander, thyme, and Riesling to infuse a melody of flavors into her turkey.
For a different take on brining, try a buttermilk brine with this recipe from Williams Sonoma or this recipe from Bon Appetit. The buttermilk penetrates the poultry using lactic acid instead of salt. Some prefer it as they say it makes the skin crispier!
This simple brine from Bon Appetit is the fool proof brining method, making sure that the turkey takes front and center at the table. Using veggies, thyme, bay leaves, and fennel, with a hint of red pepper, you’ll master the soak and have a perfectly seasoned turkey.
If you’re nervous about your first attempt at dry brining, head on over to this recipe at Kitchn for the best possible explanation and steps. It’s a simple process with the most humble of poultry ingredients.
Everyone knows that the New York Times Cooking section is the holy grail of delicious recipes. So why wouldn’t they have an amazing recipe for dry-brined turkey?
Look at that perfectly crispy skin. LOOK AT IT. This recipe from Bon Appetit is the slam dunk of dry brines. Plenty of flavor and that moisture looks right locked in.
Super Top Secret Turkey Brine Recipe
A family recipe passed down from one generation, basically made up by a dad that watches a lot of cooking shows.
bottle Raspberry vinaigrette
bottle Italian dressing
Clean the turkey according to instructions. In a 16 quart stock pot (basically the biggest one you can find), dissolve the salt into the warm water. Add vinaigrette, dressing, lemons, and pepperberries. Allow to cool to room temperature (do not place turkey into warm water). Place turkey into stock pot and allow to sit for 16-24 hours, depending on weight of the turkey (the larger the bird, the longer the brine...usually one hour per pound is a good method).
Remove the turkey from the stock pot and rinse. Dry they turkey completely. You can leave it in a refrigerator for a few hours to completely dry off or just pat it down really, really well.
Prepare to roast, smoke, or DEEP FRY. Yes, we deep fry our turkey because this is America and we can do that.