Wednesday, November 18, 2009
If you grew up feasting on a dry, chewy, tasteless bird every year, here's the good news: Turkey meat can be juicy and even flavorful, thanks in part to a technique known as brining.
Brining is the process of marinating meat for several hours in a saltwater solution. As the meat soaks, the cells absorb the solution, allowing the meat to stay hydrated as it cooks. It not only adds moisture and flavor, but water is also a great conductor of heat which reduces cooking time. Poultry, lean pork and seafood benefit the most from brining because of their low-fat content.
A basic brine consists of one cup of salt per one gallon of water. Use Kosher salt because it dissolves quickly and gives a more even brine. If kosher salt is not available, you can use non-iodized table salt. Other seasonings such as brown sugar, juices, onion, garlic, and spices can add a rich and unique flavor to your turkey.
Allow one hour of brine time per pound of meat. You will need a container large enough to completely cover the turkey with the brine solution. A large soup pot or bucket works well for smaller birds. However, if you are cooking a very large bird, consider using a cooler. During brining, keep the turkey below 40 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent food-borne illness. Place the soup pot or bucket in the refrigerator or put a few bags of ice cubes in your cooler.
Once your turkey is done brining, rinse the outside with cold water. Allow your bird to air dry for 30 minutes before placing it in the oven to ensure the skin will turn brown and crispy.