Brine time: Thanksgiving turkey

A succulent, tender turkey

Originally appeared in the November 18, 2010 edition of the Southside Times.

We’re a week away from Thanksgiving, and while you may have all your ducks (or turkeys, as it were) in a row, it’s not too late to tinker with a turkey-day variation.  And for those of you culinary procrastinators:  Don’t panic, you have time.  Read more after the jump:Have you considered brining your bird?  Aside from some equipment modifications, the technique is unflinchingly easy and yields a succulent, tender turkey.  In this application, the brine—which is simply a solution of salt and water—acts as a savory marinade.  Plus, starting the bird breast-down, then rotating it midway, prevents the delicate white meat from drying out.

Today I’m sharing a trusty recipe compliments of Cook’s Illustrated.  Two gallons of water will suffice for most turkeys, and then just follow the salt ratios as needed.  For quick brines (4-6 hours) use 1 cup of salt per gallon of water; and for overnight brines just cut the salt in half:  ½ cup per gallon.  (The recipe suggests using a stockpot or bucket, but you can also use a large cooler.)

Some brines contain herbs and spices, so feel free to incorporate garlic cloves, bay leaves, peppercorns, or other flavor components to add a special signature to your turkey.

Roasted brined turkey

Serves 10 to 22, depending on turkey size

  • As needed table salt
  • 1 turkey (12-22 pounds gross weight), rinsed thoroughly, giblets and neck reserved for gravy
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1.  Dissolve 1 cup salt per gallon cold water for 4- to 6-hour brine or ½ cup salt per gallon cold water for 12- to 14-hour brine in large stockpot or clean bucket.  Add turkey and refrigerate for predetermined amount of time.

2.  Before removing turkey from brine, adjust over rack to lowest position; heat oven to 400º for 12- to 18-pound bird or 425º for 18- to 22-pound bird.  Line a large V-rack with heavy-duty aluminum foil and use paring knife or skewer to poke 20 to 30 holes in foil; set V-rack in large roasting pan.

3.  Remove turkey from brine and rinse well under cool running water.  Pat dry inside and out with paper towels.  Tuck tips of drumsticks into skin at tail and secure; tuck wings behind back.  Brush turkey breast with 2 tablespoons butter.  Set turkey breast-side down on prepared V-rack; brush back with remaining 2 tablespoons butter.  Roast 45 minutes for 12- to 18-pound bird or 1 hour for 18- to 22-pound bird.

4.  Remove roasting pan with turkey from oven (close oven door to retain heat); reduce oven temperature to 325º if using 18- to 22-pound bird.  Using clean potholders or kitchen towels, rotate turkey breast-side up; continue to roast until thickest part of breast registers 165º and thickest part of thigh registers 170 º to 175 º on instant-read thermometers, 50 to 60 minutes longer for 12- to 15-pound bird, about 1 ¼ hours for 15- to 18-pound bird, or about 2 hours longer for 18- to 22-pound bird.  Transfer turkey to carving board; let rest 30 minutes (or up to 40 minutes for 18- to 22-pound bird).  Carve and serve.

Published in: on November 18, 2010 at 9:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
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