Feasting & Beasting #3
If you want to avoid that age old complaint of how the turkey is too dry, take my advice and give the big bird a bath before the big day. Brining is the foolproof way of ensuring the bird comes out of the oven juicy, tender, and moist, even if it’s been in there for 3 hours or more. Lots of people think it’s difficult, and that it’s a huge hassle with a lot of additional steps – it’s not. You just gotta get your head around the idea of putting aside an hour the day before you plan to cook to prep the bird.
So what is brining? It’s putting the bird into a salt bath for a couple of hours before you cook it (8-12 hours, but not more than 24). The salt causes the meat to absorb water and the flavourings you’ve added to the brine mixture. Since the meat has more water in it at the start of the roasting process, it stays more moist by the end of it.
How do you go about brining? Well you find a stock pot large enough to fit the bird and still fit into the fridge and create a salt-water bath with the flavours you want the bird to have. Then you put the bird in it. Simple right?
I am a huge fan of Nigella’s honey, maple, spiced brine which has everything from maple syrup and honey to bouquet garni. I’ve used it for years with a couple of my own modifications here and there. But it doesn’t have to be this complicated. Just stick to the basic rule of thumb which is 2 cups of kosher salt to 2 gallons of water, the rest of it is up to you! [Let your creative side shine through!] Alternatively, you could always pick up a packet of pre-mixed brine from Cold Storage (will set you back about $9).
Once you’ve got the bath water ready in a stock pot, submerge the entire turkey in it, and stick it in the fridge. I’d say 12 hours is a good amount of time for a fairly big bird. I normally put it in overnight and take it out 1-2 hours before I plan to cook it so that it comes back down to room temperature.
Don’t forget to rinse the bird and pat it dry before you prep it for the oven. From there on, you can use any one of the millions of turkey recipes that are available online – pretty hard to dry a brined bird out. Though my personal favourite is still the roasted butter herb turkey, a recipe I adapted from Sandra Lee.