ou can thank me now, or thank me later. Just don’t make me say I told you so!
If you’re cooking a turkey, please, do all your guests a favor and brine your bird. If you brine before roasting, you will do a little happy dance as you taste that first bite. No joke, we call our turkey skin “turkey candy”, it’s that good!
Put simply, brining poultry (or pork!) helps retain juiciness in otherwise dry cuts of meat. This brine recipe imparts such great flavors, especially to the skin, and even helps keep those leftovers from turning dry and leathery. What fun are dry, lifeless leftovers anyway?
The brining method is simple, but there are a few tips that can be extremely helpful.
First, choose the right brining vessel. This will be determined by the size of your bird. A smaller bird may fit into a large, 3-gallon stock pot (I’ve fit a 13 lb. turkey in mine). But a larger bird may require something bigger, such as a cooler and some kitchen trash bags (it goes without saying, but make sure your vessel is clean!).
Be sure to keep your bird cold while it brines. No one wants to get sick on Thanksgiving…so be sure to have adequate space in your refrigerator or plenty of ice. We’re fortunate to live in the Idaho Panhandle where our patio doubles as a refrigerator half the year (the picture above is our bird on the back deck). Super handy when fridge real-estate is at an all-time low. You’ll have to experiment with this as all climates will be different and may require adjustments.
If your bird is too big for a stockpot, use plastic garbage bags for your bird and place it in a cooler. No one likes raw poultry juices inside their cooler, they just don’t. Although I’m not thrilled with the idea of plastic touching my food, how often does one cook a turkey? The ease of cleanup overrules my hiccups about plastic here. Also, be sure your bags aren’t scented, it may impart unwanted flavor to your bird!
Our brining recipe has been passed down from friend to friend and is simple, yet delicious (many thanks to our dear friends who introduced us to brining, our lives are forever changed for the better!). And now that you’re thoroughly versed in all things brining, head on over to our Thanksgiving Preparation Countdownto make sure you’re ready for the big day, then come back here the day before and brine that bird!
1 gallon hot filtered water
1 ½ cups Sea Salt
2 cups Organic Coconut Sugar*
10-20 cloves organic garlic (crushed)
2 Tbs. Organic Worcestershire
1 Tbs. Organic Hot Sauce
* If you don’t have coconut sugar on hand, you can make homemade brown sugar by following this brown sugar recipe.
To make: You’ll want to brine your bird for 12-24 hours, the longer you brine, the more flavor you’ll impart. A 24 hour brine is recommended.
Step 1: Bring a gallon of water to a boil using a large stock pot. While the water is heating, rinse your turkey and remove the neck and gizzards (make sure you do this, it’s embarrassing when they get cooked in the bird, true story! I’m not proud.), set aside.
Step 2: Add salt and sugar to boiling water, stir to dissolve.
Step 3: Remove pot from heat and add remaining ingredients.
Step 4: Allow the brine to cool to room temperature, then add the turkey. Brine for 12-24 hours.
Step 5: Remove turkey from brine and discard brine. Rinse turkey, pat dry and rub generously with butter (lots of butter). Season with pepper (you won’t need additional salt, the brine did the salting for you) and your bird is now ready to cook!
Step 6: Arrange oven rack to lowest position and preheat oven to 325℉ (use convection if you have it). We roast our turkey breast side down. Why? Because one year I did it on accident and we had the most moist meat we’ve ever had from a turkey, so we don’t question a good thing and keep on roasting “upside-down”.
Step 7: The rule of thumb is to roast your turkey for 15 minutes per pound. So a 15 pound bird needs to be roasted approximately 3 hours and 45 minutes. However, because we use our convection setting, our bird ALWAYS cooks much faster than this. In fact, depending on the size, our turkey has been cooked to temp in just over two hours. Therefore, my recommendation is to use a thermometer that is oven safe, and go with the internal temp of 155℉, remove the turkey and allow it to rest until the internal temp reaches 165℉. Carve and serve (and be sure to sneak a few pieces of “turkey candy” before it’s all gone!).