Maggie Bonham is a long time hunter and game meat cook. She is also a writer on The LocaCarnivore, a website dedicated to local hunting.
Why Brine a Turkey?
Brining a turkey, simply put, is marinating a turkey in a saltwater solution, which can include juices, herbs, and spices. If you've never brined a turkey before, chances are you fall into one of two camps: you might have heard that you should brine a turkey but don't know why, or you have never heard of brining a turkey. Brining is normally done for very lean meat, such as turkey, to keep it moist and tender.
If you've made a typical commercial turkey, chances are it was already brined at the factory. That is what's usually behind the "self-basting" turkey claims that create moist turkeys for your holiday season. Problem is, they usually add more than just saltwater to the concoction. The extra chemicals added takes a wonderful meal and makes it not so great.
That being said, if you buy a fresh or organic turkey—or if you're a lucky hunter and bring home a wild turkey—you need to brine the turkey so it remains moist and flavorful. The good news is you can add all sorts of juices, herbs, and spices to make your turkey taste terrific.
What Goes Into a Brine?
A brine consists of salt and water. The type of salt is very important: too fine a grain, and you're likely to over-salt the meat. You should use kosher salt because it has the right consistency. Use 1 1/2 cups of salt in enough liquid to thoroughly cover the turkey. Marinate the turkey overnight or no more than 15 hours. The reason is that you can over-brine, which will make for a very salty bird (I learned this one from experience). There are brining bags available for the process, so choose one that is sturdy, and you won't go wrong.
You can add spices, different types of juice, herbs, and garlic to your turkey. Remember that the turkey will take on some of the flavor of whatever you add to the brine. I came up with the brine in this recipe by trying out different juices and flavors.
|Prep time||Ready in||Yields|
12 hours 5 min
12 hours 5 min
- 2 quarts spiced cider
- 1 cup orange juice
- 10 cloves garlic
- 8 bay leaves
- 4 sprigs rosemary
- 1 1/2 cups kosher salt
- 1 cup brown sugar
- water to cover turkey
- 1 turkey
- Put the defrosted turkey in a bucket or another container with the brining bag.
- Mix all the ingredients and pour over the turkey. Be sure the turkey is submerged under the water. Close the brining bag.
- Put the turkey in the refrigerator and allow it to soak for 12 hours or overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Roast the turkey for 20 minutes per pound. Baste often.
- Remove from oven when the meat thermometer reads 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Let sit for 5 minutes.
- Carve and serve.