Let's talk turkey.
The tradition of brining meats to enhance flavor has been around for a long time – a <em>long</em> time. Centuries, in fact. But, it seems it’s only been in recent years that brining turkey has become a must for holiday bird preparation. And why not? It’s a reliable route to a better bird.
One of the most beautiful things about making a brine is that you can’t screw it up. As long as you start with water and a cup of salt your chances of failure drop to about 0.00004%.
The very best part, though, is that a brine makes every turkey better. It really does. The salty birdbath helps the meat draw in and retain moisture while it’s cooking through the wonders of osmosis and other science magic. The difference in flavor is noticeable, and if you’ve never done it you’re not out anything by trying because (as previously noted) you literally can’t go wrong.
<strong>The Basic Tools</strong>
Here's what you're gonna need to make this brine:
<li>Large (turkey-sized) oven bag or resealable bag</li>
<li><a href="http://www.atgstores.com/stockpots-stewpots-steamers_3682.html?linkLoc=topnav" target="_blank">Large pot</a></li>
<li><a href="http://www.atgstores.com/roasting-pans_15477.html?linkLoc=topnav" target="_blank">Roasting pan</a> or other large container to hold the bird</li>
<li><a href="http://www.atgstores.com/knives_2305.html?linkLoc=topnav" target="_blank">Chef’s knife</a> (or other cutting tool)</li>
<li>1 fresh turkey (no added salt or fillers)</li>
<li>1 gallon water</li>
<li>1 gallon veggie stock</li>
<li>1 cup salt</li>
<li>1/2 cup sugar (or brown sugar)</li>
<li>Your imagination for brine seasonings ...</li>
Note: You really only need salt, sugar and water to make a brine; the rest is all about boosting the flavor and aromatics. A list of things people are known to add and that will bring even more delicious zing to any bird: oranges, ginger, garlic, onion, allspice, cloves, beer, apple slices, rosemary, sage, etc.
If you don’t want to experiment and want solid direction beyond the salt and sugar, watch the video to your right or try this: 3 cloves garlic, 1/2 sliced onion, 1/4 cup chopped ginger root, 4 tbsp. pepper, 2 tbsp. whole cloves and a cinnamon stick. <em>Voila! </em>
(First note that you must thaw the bird, which can take a couple of days if doing it properly in the fridge.) Once the bird is thawed and the giblets and/or neck are removed …
Use the knife to chop up anything that needs chopped. Put all your desired ingredients in the pot and boil it with the veggie stock until anything that will dissolve does so. Cool and refrigerate it until the night before the big day.
Now, for the tricky part. People argue on the best way to do this, but as long as you keep in mind that the goal is to submerge the bird in the brine without spilling the brine or dropping the turkey you’ll figure out a way. One tried-and-true method is to place the bird in an oven bag breast-side down in the roasting pan <em>while the pan is already sitting in the fridge</em>. (That way you don’t have to think about how to lift a 14-pound turkey sitting in 2 gallons of liquid until later.) Pour the brine mixture with the water and ice into the bag until the bird is submerged. Tie the bag closed and let it rest between 8 and 16 hours, turning once in mid-brine.
When it’s time to cook, remove the bird from the brine, rinse with cold water, pat dry, then roast as usual. For even more deliciousness, you can pack the cavity with aromatics that complement what you used in the brine, e.g. fresh apple slices, cinnamon sticks and the like, although you may want to save that coveted space for stuffing.
Happy dining, and check back soon for more recipes from the Lazy Chef at <a href="http://www.atgstores.com/" target="_blank">ATGStores.com</a>.