Pumpkin and turkey head with leaves for Thanksgiving
Main Course,  Recipes,  Turkey

How and Why to Brine for Thanksgiving

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It is time for the most food festive holiday of the year – THANKSGIVING!

All over social media, I see questions like:

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“what is the best way to cook a turkey?”

should I stuff my turkey?’

should I brine my turkey?”

I have baked, fried and smoked turkey for many, many Thanksgiving feasts.

Regardless of which cooking method you chose, you must, must, BRINE your turkey.

Now, let’s discuss proper prepping and cooking the traditional, centerpiece of your holiday meal.

What is a Brine?

The Perfect Thanksgiving Spice BundleBrining is a technique whereby meat is soaked in saltwater, which tenderizes, moisturizes, and flavors the bird, as well as reduces the cooking time.

Brining is an age-old process that has recently enjoyed a resurgence in popularity, throughout the culinary world.

The trick is getting the right balance of salt – too little and it will not do any good; to much, and the turkey will taste salty.

Over brining can make the meat mushy and exceedingly salty.

The salt, in the brine, seasons the meat and promotes a change in the protein structure, reducing its overall toughness and creating gaps that fill up with water, keeping the meat juicy and flavorful.

Brining works great for turkey and chicken because these cuts of meat are so lean.

The downside – brining can prevent browning and you must consider how you will keep a 15 – 20 pound turkey cold.

A Brine Process

When salt is applied to raw meat, juices inside the meat are drawn to the surface.

The salt then dissolves in the exuded liquid, forming a brine that is eventually reabsorbed back into the meat.

The salt changes the structure of the proteins, within the meat, allowing them to hold on to more of their own natural juices.

I prefer to use table salt for brining since it dissolves quickly in the water.

picture image of brining process for Thanksgiving

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Preparing the Bird

I believe if you thaw your turkey, then try to refreeze it, it can cause moisture loss – which is not good!

You can just “par-thaw” your bird and finish the thawing by submerging your bird in the brine.

THAWING YOUR BIRD

4 – 12 lb turkey = 2 – 6 hours in the refrigerator

12 – 16 lb turkey = 6 – 8 hours in the refrigerator

20 – 24 lb turkey = 10 – 12 hours in the refrigerator

Allow about 30 minutes per pound

I usually thaw our bird in a well insulated, high-quality large cooler. Such as a Yeti.

After thawing, I prepare my brine.

brine recipe with cooked turkey image

Other liquids can be used, replacing all, or part of the brine water – such as apple juice, beer or wine – however, I have not tried these methods.

Make sure to use a non-corrosive container, just large enough to contain the bird and the brine.

Remove the giblets from inside the bird – but save them for your gravy.


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Cooking Your Bird

I strongly recommend, you DO NOT stuff the cavity of the bird with anything.

Stuffing can prevent the turkey from thoroughly cooking.  You also run the risk of the stuffing not cooking properly.

Regardless if you baking, smoking or deep-frying your turkey, pat it dry with paper towels to remove all the exterior moisture.

Of course, this is especially crucial if deep-frying, so as to avoid a fire.

MORE ABOUT DEEP-FRYING A TURKEY HERE

http://smokinjsbarbeque.com/how-to-deep-fry-a-turkey/

This year, we are smoking our turkey in a gravity fed smoker.

Cook your turkey 15 minutes for every pound, around 325º to 350º.

Breast meat should be cooked to 160º; thighs and drumsticks, 175º.

Leftovers can be refrigerated for 3 – 4 days.

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Happy Thanksgiving and good eating!

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