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Old August 8, 2006, 08:26 AM   #1
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BBS Reg. Date: Jun 16, 04
Location: Florida
Posts: 966
Turkey Brining


TUG Member

Help -
What did you tell us to do last year?
I know it makes the turkey nice and moist !

CatI am using a frozen bird - does this make any difference?


No difference at all, unless you're using a kosher bird, which is already kashered. You can still use a weak brine solution with one, however, most find it redundant when using kosher poultry. Brining works well with almost any kind, any brand of poultry. It will make the most succulent roast chicken and Cornish hens you ever ate, so remember the procedure at other times of the year, as well.

Standard brine is 1 cup coarse kosher salt per gallon of water. This produces a medium brine. You should make notes for next holiday if you feel it would taste better with a little more or a little less salt. This is highly individual, so I'm giving you middle-of-the-road proportions.

Soak the bird for 6-8 hours in this solution. If you need to soak it longer (i.e. 6-8 hours would oblige you to get up in the middle of the night - which is for the birds - no pun intended!), then merely cut back the salt by 25% for a 12-14 hour soak.

Someone asked about the inclusion of brown sugar. Unless you like your meat to have a sweet taste (which personally makes me gag!), there is no need. Also, you will have to watch out for premature browning of the skin, as the sugar increases carmelization. The purpose of a brine is to 1) increase the fluid content in the tissues and 2) enhance the flavor of the meat by giving it an evenly seasoned taste. Sugar is unnecessary to the flavor of a properly brined bird. If you do like a touch of sweetness, recognize that it's not to everyone's taste and instead serve and orange or cherry sauce on the side for those who enjoy sweet flavors with their meat.

Use a V-rack to keep the bird up and out of the dripping so the flesh doesn't get incinerated. If you don't have one, you can approximate it by putting wadded-up pieces of tin foil down the center of your roasting pan. You just want to keep the flesh away from direct contact with the steaming hot juices. Start breast DOWN for the first 2 hours. Then turn each leg side up for 1/2 hour, then finally breast up and baste every 20 minutes.

Let the bird rest for 20-30 minutes before carving. The reason is to allow the juices to recirculate and retreat back into the meat tissues. If you cut it right away, you will see juices galore running out. Had you waited, those juices would be in the meat, instead of all over your counter.

This gives you time to do the stuffing and rolls in the oven, anyway. I do not recommend stuffing a bird 1) because it really doesn't contribute anything to the flavor that basting the stuffing cooked separately in a casserole with the juices will not do, 2) it increases the cooking time dramatically, which will often produce overcooked meat by the time the stuffing reaches the requisite 165 degrees (nothing quite so disappointing as vulcanized breast meat on your Thanksgiving piece de resistance!), and 3) significantly increases the risk of proliferation of foodborne pathogens.

Although I do not stuff, I do put a seasoned mirepoix (coarsely chopped mixture of onion, celery and carrot, tossed with sage and thyme - fresh if you can get it) in the cavity. It contributes a lovely flavor to the drippings, which in turn gives your gravy that certain je-ne-sais-quoi. Remove the vegtables when you take the bird out of the oven and either discard or add to the stock pot with the carcass at the end of the meal for fabulous soup.

Just bake the stuffing in a casserole in the oven. If you like it softer, cover for half the time (30 - 45 minutes total will be sufficient), and uncover for half. If you like it to develop a crispy outside, then bake uncovered.

Do not be stingy with the bleach on this holiday, or actually any other day. Keep it by the sink and spritz your water generously with it (several drops will be fine. The water shouldn't smell like bleach, and it shouldn't leave a white print on your jeans if you wipe your hands on them!!) We're talking 30 parts per million here! Wipe up counters with this solution liberally, and let it stay on a minimum of 30 seconds before rinsing.

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