Make dry, overcooked turkey a thing of the past. Simply give that bird a good soak in salty brine.
What is a brine?
Brine is a term used for salty water that helps to preserve and add flavour to a number of foods — think dill pickles, corned beef and feta cheese. Dry brine means water is not used, but salt is still used to retain the rich, juicy flavours.
How brine works on turkey
Heat causes proteins to contract and squeeze out their moisture. Turkeys are notorious for drying out because the breast meat has relatively little fat to protect it during the cooking process. Salt comes to the rescue by penetrating the skin layer via osmosis, getting right into the meat itself. Once there, the salt starts breaking down muscle proteins so they cannot contract while cooking. Less contraction means less moisture loss and a much juicier bird for that celebratory dinner.
The wet brine method
In addition to breaking down proteins, a wet brine traps extra water in the muscle fibres, which further reduces the amount of moisture lost while cooking. Every recipe has a slightly different method, but most call for a ratio of one cup of table salt to one gallon of water.
Either place a thawed turkey breast-side up in a non-porous bag, fill with brine and refrigerate as directed, or submerge the bird in a bucket large enough to fully cover the turkey in brine and refrigerate as directed.
The dry brine method
This is considered the easier method of the two as the bird sits wrapped in the fridge instead of submerged in a massive bucket or bag of salt water. Thawed turkey is simply rubbed down with salt and pepper, wrapped in plastic and left to brine in the fridge for up to 48 hours. Our Dry-Brined Herb & Garlic Turkey With Roasted Vegetables walks you through the process from start to delicious finish and our video shows how it’s done.
Size Matters: Whether you’re buying a fresh or frozen bird, plan on about one pound of unstuffed turkey per person to have some leftovers, and about 1.3 pounds of unstuffed turkey per person for lots of leftovers.
Thaw Like You Mean It: Now that you know the size of your turkey, calculate five hours per pound to thaw a frozen turkey in the refrigerator — yes, this can take days! Never refreeze thawed turkey.
Clean Thoroughly: Once thawed, check for any plastic wrap and remove. Take out the neck and giblets (usually packaged together for easy removal) and set them aside for turkey stock. Rinse the turkey inside and out with cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Now you’re ready to roast!
For more turkey help, don’t miss this handy guide on stuffing, trussing, seasoning and serving complete with step-by-step images.