To brine, or not to brine? That is the question.
I doubt Shakespeare spent much of his free time debating the best way to cook a turkey, but for many years chefs and home cooks have debated whether or not to brine a turkey before cooking it. Well, it’s no debate here at the DC kitchen, as I believe brining is an essential step to having a better tasting, juicier bird.
Brining is simply submerging your turkey in a salt and water solution (with other optional flavouring ingredients, for up to 24 hours prior to cooking. That’s it. But this simple extra step goes a long way in making your bird more evenly seasoned, and ensuring it stays juicier while cooking.
While there are many recipes that can be found online for brining, I always like to teach the importance of learning ratios vs recipes, especially for techniques like this. If you learn the ratio for the base ingredients, you are able to create and experiment with flavors more freely knowing you have the ratio correct. The ratio for a brine is particularly easy.
All you need to remember to successfully brine a turkey, or any poultry or fish, is:
– 1 cup of kosher salt for every 4 litres of water
That’s it. Of course, there are a million other flavouring ingredients you could add, but to execute a basic brine, that’s all you need to remember to be successful. Here is the recipe we use in our kitchen, scaled down. Feel free to experiment with your own flavours and ingredients, keeping in mind the only thing that is important to keep the same is the salt to water ratio.
DC Turkey Brine:
– One Turkey (Free Range for the best flavour, it is also very important that you use a natural bird and not one that has been injected with a salt solution or a brine, check the label)
– 8 Litres Water
– 2 Cups Kosher salt (do NOT use iodized salt for brining purposes)
– 1 cup brown sugar
– 6 Bay Leaves
– 25 Gr Whole Black Peppercorns
– 10 Gr Whole Juniper Berries (optional)
– 6 Whole Springs Fresh Rosemary
– 6 Whole Springs Fresh Thyme
– 10 Whole Gloves Garlic
– 2 Oranges – Cut in Half
In a very large pot, combine all the ingredients and bring to a simmer, making sure the salt and sugar are completely dissolved. Allow the mixture to cool fully.
Place the turkey in a large pot or vessel sturdy enough to hold the liquid and the turkey (a Rubbermaid Tub works for particularly large birds. Pour the cooled brine over the bird and push the bird into the liquid until it is fully submerged. Place the pot in the refrigerator for a minimum of 6 hours, and a maximum of 48 hours. After removing the bird from the brine, rinse under cold water, pat dry, and roast as you normally would.
Now, in a perfect world, we’d all have ample room in our refrigerators to store a huge pot with a 20 lb turkey and liquid inside of it. If you do, great, this is the best and safest way to brine your turkey, however, if space is an issue, brining is still an option! You will need to brine your turkey in a large cooler, and add ice to ensure your turkey and brine stays at a safe temperature. Simply add a bag of ice to the fully cooled brine and turkey and place in the cooler prior to bringing. For a 1 day brine, the ice will not have melted enough to warrant adjusting your ratio.
This simple, extra step is your secret to the juiciest, most flavourful bird this Holiday season!
Keep calm and brine on!