Last week, I asked how many of you were planning to brine your turkeys this year. Although more than half of you responded yes, at least 20 percent of you weren't sure what a brine was!
For those of you who didn't know, brining is a cooking technique often used to maximize juiciness in cooked poultry and meat, and it's particularly popular with Thanksgiving turkeys. Various techniques recommend soaking turkey anywhere from six hours to three days in a brine, a saltwater solution that often includes herbs and sweeteners (like our must-have version). To understand how brining works,
The salt in a brine's saline solution moves into the meat, and water from the turkey meat into the brine, in a process called osmosis. The salt then breaks down the muscle proteins, making room for more water and salt. As a result, water and salt can move freely from the brine into the meat, creating an especially tender, juicy bird that can be up to 10 percent more than its original weight.
Some experts, such as foremost food scientist Harold McGee, eschew brining in favor of traditional roasting, arguing that brined meat tastes less flavorful. Still others favor a technique referred to as "dry brining," in which the turkey gets a salt massage several days in advance.
If you're brining for the first time, follow basic instructions for a quick brine. If you're interested in trying something more complex, opt for one of these brined turkey recipes.
- Classic Turkey Brine
- Deconstructed Holiday Turkey With Sage Gravy
- Alsatian-Brined Turkey With Riesling Gravy
- Bourbon-Glazed Barbecue Turkey