Well, that was a nice little hiatus. I have much to update you all on, but that’s for another post. We, the People of these United States are just about one month from our Thanksgiving holiday. And with that, I know a lot of you are going to be cooking epic meals of amazing proportions. With that being said, it is my intention to post frequent small posts during this time and give tips, tricks and ideas to those of you who will be cooking.
The first topic I’d like to discuss is, of course: Brining. I know I’ve talked a lot about it before, but it is the single-most important step you can do to ensure you have a juicy turkey. Even if you overcook it a little. Unless you’re not making turkey…or pork. If you’re making beef or some other protein, this post isn’t for you.
Brining is simply a salt-water solution that your bird is submerged in for a period of time. Through chemistry-related reactions with the salt and the proteins, the proteins loosen up and allow that water into the meat structure itself. And if you add other flavorings to your brine, well, you’re just opening the door to a flavorful turkey (or pig.)
Now, you’ll want to be smart about what you put in your brine, since your target food is gonna absorb those lovely flavors. For a standard turkey, I would recommend something like this:
Start with about a half-gallon of water in a large pot. Add about half-cup of kosher salt. 4-5 thyme branches go in. Then let’s go for 4 or 5 smashed garlic cloves (you can even leave the skin on if you want, since the brine gets tossed anyway.) You’ll want some sugar to balance out the salt, so let’s add a quarter-cup of brown sugar, maybe even more since there’s a lot of meat to penetrate. Heck, let’s toss in 7-10 black peppercorns for good measure, too. Bring this to a simmer and make sure everything gets dissolved (that can get dissolved.) Kill the heat and then flood the pot with ice. You’ll want a TON of ice because you want this brine completely cold, and enough volume to encase your bird. Obviously, amount will vary.
Now that you have this brine, you need to find a containment device to store the bird. If you’re making a full turkey, you’ll likely need something like a cooler (that’s been cleaned and sterilized.) If you’re making just a turkey breast (which I plan on doing,) you can probably get away with just putting it in the pot you made the brine in, if you can spare the pot. If not, a bowl. Keep this whole thing cool, too. So the refrigerator is best here. If you need to use a cooler since you have a large bird, you’ll want to put plenty of new ice in there every day to ensure proper temperatures are maintained.
Oh yeah, and you’ll want to do this AT LEAST the day before Thanksgiving. 2 days would be even better.
When it’s time to cook the bird, you’ll lightly rinse off the bird and pat it dry with paper towels. Keep in mind that turkey is a bird and you’ll want to be mindful of sanitation and the like during the whole process.
The next steps… Will be covered in another edition. We’re just covering brine today. Stay tuned for another helpful hint coming soon!