Last year at Thanksgiving, my sister brined our turkey for the first time, and I decided at that point that I would definitely have to do the same thing as soon as I had the chance. The turkey was seriously the most moist and flavorful turkey I’d ever had. And I’ve had a lot of turkey.
I had to wait a whole year (what’s up with that, anyway?), but I finally got my chance last week. I read quite a few articles on food magazine or newspaper websites, plus a few blog posts by illustrious bloggers around the internet (including this super simple turkey brining tutorial with some great tips), and in the end, I just dumped a bunch of stuff into my brine without following anybody’s recipe.
Which, apparently, is part of the beauty of a brined turkey. Essentially you need approximately a gallon of water (for a 10-12lb turkey) with a cup each of sugar and salt. In fact, it doesn’t even need to be water! I saw plenty of recipes that used broth, juice, or cider for the brine, which I imagine would be amazing. On top of that, you can add whatever you jolly well please into the brine (OK, with a certain amount of discretion, I suppose!) for all kinds of different layers of flavor. Really, though, the important thing is the water, salt and sugar. Those ingredients are what gets the job done.
I decided to go with a citrus-y element to my brine, basically because I was going through my freezer and found a bag full of chopped up clementines that I had decided to freeze before they went bad. To that, I added some very traditional herbs and spices like bay leaves and peppercorns. It was delicious! To be honest, the citrus flavor didn’t come through very strongly, but it was still very moist and flavorful as I expected it to be.
Like I said, you can add whatever floats your boat to your brine, but here’s what I put in mine, plus specific directions for brining.
Citrus Brined Turkey
You will need a large sturdy food-safe plastic bag (like Ziplocs XL) or a very large stainless steel pot (like a big canning pot).
Heat 4 cups of water on the stove together with the sugar and salt. Stir until dissolved. Remove from heat and refrigerate until cool.
Meanwhile, pour remaining water into your bag (place a bag into a large pot or the produce drawer from your refrigerator), and add the rest of the brine ingredients. Pour in the cooled salt water mixture.
Rinse your turkey, and remove all the innards. Place the turkey in the brine, making sure it’s covered. (If it’s not completely covered, you’ll want to turn it over about halfway through.)
Seal the bag and place the whole thing in your refrigerator for at least 12 hours.
When you are ready to roast the turkey, remove it from the brine and rinse it thoroughly. Pat dry and place in roasting pan breast side down. Rub olive oil generously all over and sprinkle liberally with black pepper and sage (no salt!). Place garlic, bay leaves and peppercorns inside the cavity.
Roast at 325F for approximately 3 hours. Brining can make a turkey roast faster, so check it after about 2.5 hours, and regularly after that until it reaches an internal temperature of 165F.
Brining a turkey isn’t exactly QUICK, but it doesn’t add that much time to the whole process. You have to defrost the turkey thoroughly in the fridge for a few days beforehand anyway, so chances are, leaving it in the fridge overnight before you roast it is not going to cramp your style much. The actual process of putting the brine together does add a little extra time into your routine, but not much.
It is SO EASY, though, and unlike other unusual methods of cooking a turkey, like frying or smoking, it doesn’t require any special equipment. Plus, it’s hard to mess up!
It’s not any HEALTHY-er than any other method of cooking and preparing a turkey, and may perhaps be slightly less, with the inclusion of all that salt and the sugar. That’s not going to stop me, though.