The Secret To A Juicy Turkey: An Easy Brine Recipe
Never Make A Dry Turkey Again!
It's time to fess up! We have all muddled through a Thanksgiving meal at someone's house, nibbling on favorites such as deviled eggs and olives but saving room for the delicious poultry main course. All too often though we are only to be punished by swallowing down on a slab of meat that more resembles a piece of jerky rather than a succulent slab of home made goodness. Lets face it, sometimes the gravy boat just isn't big enough to salvage dry turkey for all the guests. Unless you happen to have a gravy boat the size of an aircraft carrier, the goal is to have a moist, succulent, piece of turkey that you wouldn't dare drown in gravy. Yes this is possible and easily within your reach.
Now I realize I'm no gourmet chef, and in fact my culinary skills can be rated at beginner at best, I found the secret to turkey success! I can't take all the credit, but the two critical components are very basic: brine your turkey and use an electric roasting pan. In an effort to impress my friends and family, I have deep fried a turkey, baked a turkey, contemplated cooking a turkey in a metal garbage can, and even attempted a rotisserie turkey (don't try that by the way), but nothing compares to the Turkey from this past Thanksgiving! I have read multiple blogs about brining a turkey prior to your cooking method of choice but have never wanted to go through the process. It sounded complicated and time intensive but was actually straightforward and very simple.
To Make Brine:
- Measure out all ingredients and peel oranges.
- All all ingredients to water and stir until salt and sugar is dissolved.
- Bring brine to a boil and remove from heat.
- Allow brine to cool before marinating your turkey.
- 3 Cups Apple Cider
- 2 Gallons Water
- 5 Cloves Garlic, Minced
- 4 Tablespoons Rosemary
- 1.5 Cups Kosher Salt
- 2 Cups Brown Sugar
- 3 Tablespoons Peppercorns, Whole Pepper
- 5 Bay Leaves, Whole
- 3 Oranges, Just The Peels
While I was actually making my brine, my wife was a bit puzzled as most of the cooking shows she had been watching all week never mentioned heating the brine. I didn't see this as being odd, I assume that by bringing the mixture to a boil it ensures all ingredients are dissolved and probably releases the full flavor on the individual components. I personally used a large stock pot, so instead of using my stove to bring everything to a boil, I used my grill side burner. It took about 15 minutes to bring to a full boil, but left my kitchen stove open for other goodies that were being made. Once the brine was fully "cooked", it's important to let the mixture cool down to room temperature before you begin marinating your bird. After all, you want to marinate your poultry, not jump start the cooking process. To accomplish this in a short amount of time, I actually added some ice to rapidly drop the temperature. The next time I make a turkey though, I'll probably just make the brine the night before I actually start the brining process.
All this talk of marinating a turkey is great but what do you actually put it all i you might ask? The jury is still out on the best way to marinate such a large item, but some folks use gigantic ziplock utility bags, or coolers. I chose to use the cooler method. I happened to have one on hand that was clean and just about the right size for the turkey. In addition, my refrigerator was rapidly filling up with other holiday goodness, so the space that the turkey was occupying was desperately needed.
With my now room temperature brine, and my thawed turkey, I placed it breast side down in the cooler and dumped in the brine. Since I would be brining the turkey over night, I added ice which would melt and eventually cover the entire bird. This also kept the main course at a safe temperature.
Depending on who you ask, some folks will advise the longer the better when it comes to length of time for brining, but I simply left our bird in its new bath overnight, a total of about 12 hours or so. Right before the Mrs. was actually ready to start cooking the bird, I plucked it from the cooler and gave it a very thorough rinse in the sink. I know this may seem counter productive, as I was washing away all the spices and what not, but the goal is to wash away the salt so your guests don't feel like they bit into a mouthful of sand.
Now feel free to cook via the method of your choice! We chose to use an electric roasting pan and it turned out great! This will definitely be the preparation and cooking method of choice in the future. The benefits of the electric roasting pan is that your turkey isn't cooking for hours and hours in a dry heat. Since there is less space in the roasting pan, the turkey retained the moisture and wasn't being bombarded with a dry heat. Instead it was like the turkey was taking a trip to a delicious smelling sauna. Overall the process was easier than I had expected and yielded the best turkey we had ever eaten!