If you have never brined a turkey before, you owe it to yourself to try it at least once. The entire process produces a juicy and golden bird, infused with wonderful flavors. After you have tasted one, you will not regret the long marinating time. I think you will find (like me) that it is worth every minute of your time.
Brining a turkey – what is it exactly? It is a method that helps improve the flavor and moisture of the meat. Originally it was for the purpose of preserving meat. Now, in today’s world, keeping meat preserved is not a problem … so today the method is used primarily for improving the flavor and juiciness of the meat.
When you soak the meat in brine before cooking, it keeps more of the moisture in the meat layers. You will still lose moisture; however, it is greatly reduced. The reason for this is because the fibers of the muscles absorb the brining solution, giving them added moisture before going into the oven. The brining solution also dissolves some of the proteins found in muscle fibers, so you end up with a more tender bird.
Probably the most crucial point to remember is that one should keep the meat refrigerated at all times throughout the brining process. This is very important, obviously for food safety reasons. Once the brining process is complete, throw away the brine solution and rinse the meat well. If you don’t you might end up with a salty bird.
Brined meat cooks faster; thus, you will need to check on the internal temperature of the turkey about two-thirds of the way into your normal cooking time. All of the water in the meat will conduct heat better, so don’t put it in the oven and forget about it. You will need to check on it every now and again to make sure it is not over-cooked.
A final tip that my husband and I have found that makes the brining process easier is the use of a big bucket for the marinating. The reason we like it better is because all of the bird is covered with the brining solution, versus the bag method. We have found most of the liquid pools at the bottom of the bag, leaving the top portion uncovered. One would have to keep flipping the bag, and being very diligent and careful in doing so. Otherwise the bag might break. I just don’t feel I have as much control over a wobbly bag filled with a heavy bird and brining solution as I do with a strong bucket.
The bucket is heavy once loaded with the bird and the brining solution. You will need a strong person assisting you to lift it in and out of the refrigerator.
And finally, make sure the bucket you use is designed for food safety. It should clearly state this on the outside of the bucket, “Food Grade – BPA Free”. These are not hard to find; you can easily find them online or at your local hardware store. We found the one shown here at our local Lowes store.