|By brining, you are providing a moisture cushion for the meat - all provided by the process of osmosis.|
Fast and Easy Brining SolutionBrine. Your. Turkey. (or your chicken, or your pork...) Period. Just trust me on this one.
What is brining? And why bother?
Brining is simply placing meat or poultry in a solution of salt water. By brining, you are providing a moisture cushion for the meat - all provided by the process of osmosis. The water moves from the brine, the area of higher concentration, to the meat, the area of lower concentration - so that moisture and flavor are trapped inside, giving you a bit of leeway with the cooking process. If you happen to slightly overcook the meat (which we all tend to do especially with poultry), it will still stay tender and moist. (Thank you Alton for this knowledge tidbit.) Make sure that you do not leave meat in the brining solution for longer than the recommend times, 12 hours for a turkey, and also, give it a quick rinse inside and outside, when it comes out of the brine, especially if you use table salt. Kosher salt is what I use and recommend.
And, I discovered another thing. If you use brown sugar, it adds to the flavor, and you don't need to cook the brine at all. The salt and sugar will dissolve well with a few vigorous stirrings without warming the brine, so you don't have to wait for the brine to cool down before putting your bird in. I like anything that saves a little time!
Now, let's talk turkey. Remove the neck and giblets from the bird, set aside to use later or discard. You can check the displacement of your intended container by putting the bird in it and then cover it with the required amount of water to see if it will take all of the water with your bird in it. Nothin' worse than preparing a brine and then adding your bird only to have half of your brine spill out!
Now, remove the bird and mix the brine in the container. Add the salt and sugar to the water. Stir until all of the sugar and salt are completely dissolved. Add whatever other ingredients you are using in your brine, give it another stir, and slip the bird into the brine. Cover and refrigerate 8 to 12 hours. For larger turkeys you can probably take it up to 24 hours if needed. Start clearing out your fridge of old items early, because you'll need to remove a shelf or two, or if refrigerator real estate is tight, you can also use a 5 gallon, lidded bucket or small cooler. You'll need plenty of ice to maintain the water temperature at 40 degrees F, or lower. To avoid diluting your brine, fill gallon zipper storage bags with ice.
If possible, do your brine two days in advance so that the day before you plan to roast your bird you can let it rest in the fridge uncovered. This is great for a turkey because it helps to create that wonderfully crunchy skin we all covet. Simply rinse the turkey well, pat dry with paper towels until very dry, and place in the roasting pan, preparing the outside with plenty of butter. You can also simply pat it off and let it sit uncovered in the fridge. The next day, get it ready for roasting. Be sure to clean your sink and work areas well with a good bleach cleaner.
This brine should do a turkey up to 16 pounds. By the way, brining also works fantastic for chicken that you plan to fry, other birds, and pork too!
Recipe: Fast and Easy Brining Solution©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 5 min |Inactive time: 24 hours | Yield: 2 gallons
- 1 gallon of filtered water
- 1 gallon of vegetable stock, homemade or packaged*
- 1 cup kosher salt (if you substitute table salt, use about 3/4 cup instead)
- 3/4 cup of light or dark brown sugar, well packed
- A sprig of fresh sage, stripped, optional
- Several sprigs of fresh thyme, stripped, optional
- 1 tablespoon of black peppercorns
- Hot pepper flakes, optional
Thaw the turkey in the fridge several days in advance. Combine the water, stock, salt, and sugar in a large stockpot and stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Add the herbs, peppercorns, and pepper flakes.
Put the turkey in the brine ensuring that it is fully covered. Refrigerate overnight. If you don't have room in the fridge, use a large cooler or a large 5-gallon bucket with a lid and plenty of ice to keep the brine at 40 degrees. Check the temperature and refresh the ice periodically as needed. To avoid diluting your brine, use ice contained in tightly closed ziploc bags.
When ready to roast, remove the turkey, give it a rinse and pat dry. If you are doing a cut up chicken or a turkey breast, you can get away with just patting it off with some paper towels. Proceed with preparing the bird by your intended method.
*If you don't happen to have vegetable stock on hand, just use 2 gallons of filtered water.
Cook's Notes: Reduce brine according to the size of the meat that you are using. For an average sized roasting chicken, pork roast or 3 to 4 pounds of chops or cut up chicken, reduce filtered water to about 6 cups, and use 1/2 cup of brown sugar and 1/4 cup of kosher salt. Use about half the amount of seasonings. Whisk brine, place chicken into a gallon sized zipper bag and pour the brine over. Seal and place into a container in the refrigerator for the appropriate brining time.
Start clearing out your fridge of old items early, because you'll need to remove a shelf or two, or if refrigerator real estate is tight, you can also use a 5 gallon, lidded bucket or small cooler. You'll need plenty of ice to maintain the water temperature at 40 degrees F, or lower. To avoid diluting your brine, fill gallon zipper storage bags with ice.
Pork roast: 2 to 4 days
Pork tenderloin: 6 to 12 hours
1-inch thick Pork chops: 4 to 6 hours
Thicker Pork chops: 5 to 8 hours
Whole chicken: 3 to 12 hours
Cut up Chicken: 1-1/2 hours
Boneless, Skinless Breasts: 30 minutes to 1 hour
Cornish Hens: 2 hours
Turkeys over 12 pounds: Up to 24 hours
Bone-in Turkey Breast: 5 to 8 hours
Shrimp: 30 minutes, if peeled; 1 hour, if unpeeled
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