Tasty, Tender Christmas Turkey
Brining your Christmas turkey is a great way to make it succulent and delicious, and much easier to cook, as well.
‘Brining’ a turkey basically means soaking it in flavoured water for a while to break down the flesh a little and flavour it. Ideally, turkey should be brined overnight in the refrigerator. You can use many things to flavour your turkey while you do this; from simple vegetable stock to more complex mixtures.
Step 1: Choose your turkey
Wings, drums, thighs and breast meat will cook quickly, but a 10 lb whole bird can take up to two hours on the barbecue or up to three hours in the oven. Do not use a self-basting or Kosher turkey for brining.
Step 2: Choose your container
Your turkey will need to be completely submersed in the brined solution. For parts, use either a covered container or a large zip-lock freezer bag. These bags are sturdy enough to handle most parts and the air can be squeezed out completely. To brine a whole turkey, use a large non-corrosive covered pot or a special brining bag. Make sure you have enough fridge space to accommodate your container.
Step 3: Brine solution – liquid
You’ll need about 1L of ice-cold water to cover a few parts and about 3L- 4L to cover a 10-12 lb whole turkey. If you want to create your own “signature” brine, consider replacing some of the water with beer, juice, or soft drink.
Step 4: Brine solution – salt
Typically, brine has enough salt in the liquid to float a raw egg. Don’t hesitate to cut back if you prefer less salt. Kosher salt or sea salt are recommended. Also, many grocers or kitchen stores sell unique, seasoned salt mixtures that can work well. Dissolve salts in a small quantity of hot water, then let cool before adding to the brining liquid. Use a ratio of 1 cup (240 mL) Kosher salt to 1 gallon (4.546L) liquid.
Step 5. Brine solution – aromatics and seasonings
Here’s where you add the flavour! Sweet, savoury or spicy – mix to your own taste. Try honey, maple syrup, molasses, or brown sugar to sweeten the brine. Fresh herbs such as rosemary, sage, thyme, basil, or mint add subtle flavours, while garlic, shallots, gingerroot, cinnamon sticks, cloves, and lemon or lime zest defines the brine. Smoky chipotle peppers, ancho, jalapeño or spicy cayenne peppers ramp up the heat.
Once the solution has been prepared and the turkey submerged, cover and refrigerate for the desired length of time. When finished soaking, remove the turkey from the brine, and discard the brine. Thoroughly rinse under a slow stream of cool water and rub gently to release the salt. Pat the skin dry. Cook the turkey as usual – in the oven, on a rotisserie, or in the barbecue until temperature reaches 170°F (77°C).