Thanksgiving means turkey in our family and not a deep fried one. We are traditional so we are talking an oven roasted bird here. For many years we bought the "American classic" frozen bird that all the stores sell. You know... the "self basting" ones. Thaw it, butter or oil it up and stick it in the oven. That really does work quite well for "challenged" cooks out there. I give it a 4/5 stars in taste but a little dry at times and a 2/10 for skills needed. Add some gravy and sides and you have a very nice holiday feast. (See my "How to Make Gravy" post if needed).
BUT...you want to kick it up a few notches or you wouldn't be reading this. So let's MAN UP and get to it.
For the last few years our eldest daughter has been in-charge of "the bird" and it is a couple of steps up from that thawed frozen bird. It's the brine that makes the bird. So at the request of my wife, I offer up this post. The pictures are from last year's bird. The technique from Christine at 15 Minute Beauty Fanatic aka Little Miss Martha for her love of all things Martha Stewart. I'm sure the method has a lot of Martha Stewart in it.
A little background on why to brine. Roasting the bird leads to loss of water during the cooking process. The brine is a salty water "marinade". The salt and water will absorb and cause the break down of the proteins in the meat. This will give you a more tender, moist and flavorful turkey. By adding other things like spices, you can also add tons of flavor.
The Logistics of Brining A TurkeyYou need a large bag. Fortunately, these are easier to find these days but if you can't, large oven roasting bags will do. I don't believe garbage bags are a good choice since they are not designed for food storage and the chemicals may not be safe (I don't know but let's not do that). I have always had a second refrigerator but if not available, lots of people use a large cooler and lots of ice. The turkey should still be in a food safe bag and sealed to prevent the brine from being diluted. This is poultry so let's be careful out there.
The TurkeyThe turkey should have no additives, brine or anything else injected or added in anyway. If the bird is frozen, then thaw completely according to package directions. Remove any giblets from the neck and body cavities. We generally special order a fresh turkey from the meat department. It's just one phone call. Tell them the size you want and the date you want to pick it up. You can do it. You generally need a good pound plus per person. We love turkey leftovers so we up that.
1 1/2 cups kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp peppercorns and 2 Tbsp allspice, combine and coarsely crush
6 slices ginger( or 2 tsps powdered)
8 whole cloves
- 2 quarts apple cider or juice
- 6 quarts water
- 1 1/2 cup kosher salt
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 T peppercorns
- 2 T allspice
- 6 slices fresh ginger (or 2 t powder)
- whole cloves 8
- 3 oranges
1) Combine all of the above ingredients but the oranges into a stockpot on the stove. Let boil 10 minutes then cool. 2) Clean and place turkey in brining container (I love big plastic bags, the Ziplocs are great). Add the cooled brine, 3 oranges, quartered and water/ice to cover the turkey. Use a large pan to help support the brining bag. It will help you handle the very heavy bag better.3) Seal and refrigerate for 12-24 hours. Be SURE to rinse the bird inside and out when removed from the brine. Pat dry and proceed with the cooking.
DetailsPrep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 1 turkey