Everyone knows the horror of the dry turkey breast and will do cartwheels to avoid it. Our tried and true “solution” is the basic turkey brine, pun intended. The essential elements are water, salt, sugar and spices- and a little advance planning. Simply mix up your brine and submerge the turkey for up to 24 hours before cooking. Once you incorporate brining into your holiday routine it simply adds to the bustle and flavor of the season, along with a dose of stress reduction because your turkey will NOT be dry. Here are the basics.
Be prepared! Your turkey should be completely thawed and you must have a brining container that is big enough. The turkey needs to be completely submerged. Brining bags are all the rage- but a bucket or cooler can do the trick just as well. Make sure you have a cool place to put the brining turkey for 12-24 hours prior to cooking. This requires a good bit of refrigerator space, but if you use a brining bag, it doesn’t require much more than it would for the bird itself.
Make your brining solution: Use the correct proportion of water and salt, regardless of what else you add to the mix- the salinity of the brine must be correct for it to flow into the meat. The standard proportion is 1 cup of kosher salt per gallon of water or stock. No need to use specialty salts here, the nuances will not contribute to the flavor. If you are using prepared vegetable stock, make sure it is salt free so you don’t upset the balance.
The brine and turkey should both be cooled to the same temperature before they are combined. Again, this ensures that the brine will flow easily into the turkey. Most refrigerators are set around 38 degrees and that works just fine. Be sure to leave the bird in the brine at least overnight, and 24 hours is better for larger turkeys.
So go ahead and have fun with the flavors! Toss your favorite whole or cracked spices into the brine and experiment with using apple cider in the mix.