Brining a Turkey

If you haven’t done it before, brining a turkey sounds daunting, but the process is simple – think of it as a simple marinade for your bird, a mixture of water, salt, spices and other ingredients that infuse it with flavor and moisture before it goes into the oven. This video by Epicurious will walk you through the process – whichever recipe you choose – and below you’ll find a few of the best formulas. Brining is an easy, inexpensive way to get the best out of your bird.

When stirring up your brine, consider what flavors go well in a turkey dinner; onions, apples, herbs like sage and rosemary – as with any marinade, feel free to play around with the ingredients, adding what you like and leaving out what you don’t. All sorts of fresh and dry herbs and spices (think fresh sage, rosemary or thyme, or dry cinnamon, coriander, black pepper and star anise) are common in a turkey brine.

When you’re ready to roast your turkey, pull it out of the brine, drain it well and pat dry with paper towels in the roasting pan. Cook as you normally would, expecting to take about 30 minutes off the cooking time as the excess moisture will help conduct heat as the turkey cooks.

Basic Apple-Rosemary Turkey Brine

4 L chicken or vegetable stock
2 cups apple cider or juice
1 cup sea salt
1 onion, quartered
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh rosemary
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh sage
a few sprigs of fresh thyme

In a large pot, bring all the ingredients to a simmer; stir to dissolve the salt completely. Cool completely, then refrigerate until cold. Remove the innards from your turkey and rinse its cavity; put the turkey breast side down in the pot of brine and add enough water to bring the brine level up to just cover the turkey (you shouldn’t need more than another 4 L of water). Refrigerate for an hour per pound, or up to 24 hours.

Emeril Lagasse’s Turkey Brine

1 cup sea salt
1 cup brown sugar
8 L cold water
2 oranges, quartered
2 lemons, quartered
6 sprigs fresh thyme
4 sprigs fresh rosemary

In a large bowl, dissolve the salt and sugar in the water. Add the remaining ingredients before adding turkey to the brine.

Chef Michael Smith’s Turkey Brine

2 cups table salt or 4 cups kosher salt
2 cups brown sugar
8 L cold water

Dissolve everything in a bowl, ensuring it’s enough to submerge the turkey.

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