We are all getting ready for this year’s Thanksgiving festivities. There is no doubt that the most important dish on our tables is always the giant roasted turkey. Every family has their traditional way for cooking it. I personally have tried so many until I found the perfect one. However, the secret isn’t really in the cooking. The secret is to brine. That will ensure that you have the most tender and delicious turkey. How to brine a turkey? What are the techniques to adapt and make the testiest Thanksgiving dish? Let’s find out now!
What does it mean to brine a turkey, and why is it essential?
If you think whether you should brine the turkey or not, the answer is absolutely yes! Everybody loves a delicious tender turkey and brining is the best solution. The turkey is considered a lean meat, meaning that it does not have a lot of fat. There is a huge risk that you might make it dry. To avoid that, you should brine the meat 12 or 24 hours before cooking it. What is to brine the meat? This is the process of placing the turkey in cold water infused with salt. You can of course add in more spices to plump it with more flavors. Let’s find out how to do it!
How to brine a turkey?
You want to make this year’s Thanksgiving turkey extra juicy? Let’s find out what you are going to need to do! First, make sure you have space in your fridge, since we are going to let the turkey stay there for 24 hours. Also, you need a pot big enough to fit the turkey, so that you can cover it with the brining mixture. Check out the ingredients you are going to need!
1 whole turkey
2 oranges cut in slices
3 lemons cut in slices
1 cup (150 g) juniper berries
3 tablespoons cloves
5 bay leaves
2 tablespoons black pepper (not ground)
1 cup (150 g) salt
16 cups (3.8 l) cold water
garlic gloves are optional
Unwrap the turkey from its packaging and place it in the large pot.
Heat 4 cups (1 l) of the water in the microwave. You don’t have to boil it, it should be just warm.
Add the salt and mix well. The salt should be dissolved completely in the water. Put the mixture aside to cool off.
After pour it over the turkey. Add the remaining cups of the cold water. Make sure the mixture covers the entire turkey.
Add in the spices, orange, and lemon slices and berries.
The turkey should not float, if that is the case, cover it with a heavy object or a dinner plate.
Close the pot and put in the fridge.
You can let it stay for 12 hours, or if you want it super tender, let it stay for 24 hours.
It is very important to know that you should dry the turkey after the brining, if you want the skin to be crispy. What you should do is rinse the turkey from the brine solution under cold water and dry it with paper towels. All will be left to do is prepare your Thanksgiving appetizers and put the turkey in the oven!
How to brine a turkey in a cooler?
If you already did your Thanksgiving shopping at your local grocery store, it is normal to not have space in your fridge. That method of brining a turkey in a cooler is for those of us that have absolutely no space. It is also good when you don’t have a large enough pot for the turkey to fit it. What you are going to need if you use this technique is a cooler, a large zip-top bag, lots of ice and the needed ingredients. Some people don’t use zip-top bags and directly put the turkey in the cooler, however, for health purposes I don’t recommend that. Let’s see how to brine in a cooler!
Prepare your brining mixture as we previously saw.
Instead of putting the turkey in a pot, place it in a zip-top bag and once the solution is completely cold, pour it over.
Add your spices inside the zip-top bag. Again, make sure the mixture is covering the entire turkey.
Close the zip-top bag and place the turkey in the cooler.
Now you should put the ice so that it can cover the turkey and the entire cooler is filled.
Let it stay overnight or for 24 hours.
Rinse the turkey from the solution in cold water and dry with paper towels.
Brining a turkey in a cooler can save you the time finding space in your fridge. However, the turkey should stay under 40 °F (4 °C), which means that you should give it a peek from time to time and put more ice if needed.
Ideas for aromatics to put in your brine mixture
When brining a turkey for your Thanksgiving dinner, you can get creative with the mixture and add in your ideal spices. You can go simple, of course, but you can also make your own brine recipe. I like to add cinnamon sticks to mine and chili flakes, since I love spicy food. You can also add garlic, onion slices or onion powder, fresh oregano, thyme, rosemary, etc. Some people even love to add brown sugar. Try adding celery slices, carrots or fresh parsley.