- Do you avoid cooking a turkey because they always turn out dry and bland? Brining and marinating your turkey are two ways to make your bird juicier, very tender and most importantly loaded with flavor. We have several spice blends to make this year's Thanksgiving turkey the best ever.
Brining, Marinating and Seasoning Your Bird:
- Brining If you're deciding if brining is right for you must read the following:
- What is turkey brining?
- Brining is a process in which the turkey is infused with flavorful spices by soaking the turkey in a mixture of salt, sugar and a variety of spices before roasting. The brining process actually draws water and the dissolved spices into the turkey to produce a moist, tender and flavorful bird. The salt in the brine alters the protein structure of the turkey making it tender and moist.
- What kind of turkey can be brined?
- Avoid turkeys that are self-basted or flavor injected, as these meats have already been through the brining process. Kosher turkeys have a salty stock added that will produce a very salty turkey if brined. A natural turkey that has not been infused with additives or an organic or fresh turkey is generally good for the brining process. This gives you the ability to control the amount of additives and flavorings that are added and to use fresh savory spices to achieve the best taste. The turkey should be completely defrosted before beginning the brining process.
How long does it take to brine a turkey?
- Generally, once you have prepared the brine and are ready to soak the turkey, it is recommended that you allow 1 hour per pound of turkey to complete the brining process. Too long in the brining solution can produce a salty or mushy turkey.
Where do I brine my turkey?
- There are many different ways to actually submerge the turkey for the brining process; however, the most important thing to remember is that the turkey must stay refrigerated (40 degrees or cooler) during the entire process. Some people use a food grade container and brine the turkey in the refrigerator. You can submerge the turkey in a 5 gallon bucket, although it may be difficult to keep the turkey from 'floating' and your common 5 gallon container from the home store is probably not food grade. The safest method, if you do not have room in the fridge is to put the turkey and the brine is a large brining bag and put the sealed bag in a cooler filled with ice, making sure that the temperature around the turkey stays at 40 degrees or cooler during the brining process.
What ingredients to use in the brine?
- This, is the most exciting part of the process as there are many different combinations of spices and liquids to create a festive and tasty turkey. Most recipes call for a combination of water and/or juice, salt, sugar and spices. Depending on the taste you are going for will determine what type of recipe will work for you.
- Mix 1 cup of salt in 1 gallon of water - bring to a boil until salt is dissolved.
- Remove brine from heat and add 1 cup of sugar and brine seasonings. Stir until sugar is dissolved.
- Cool brine and add 1 gallon cold water, apple juice or apple cider. You can experiment with many types of juices to compliment your recipe.
- Once brine has cooled completely (you can add ice to the brine to speed this process) place the turkey in the brining bag and add the brining mixture. Make sure the entire turkey can be submerged in the mixture. Seal the bag.
- Add a layer of ice to a cooler bigger than the turkey and place the sealed turkey bag on the ice and fill the remainder of the cooler with ice, completely covering the turkey.
- Allow the turkey to remain in the brining solution for a recommended 1 hour per pound of meat.
- Remove the turkey from the brine, rinse the entire turkey and pat dry. Discard brine mixture.
- Let turkey set in refrigerator, uncovered for about an hour before roasting.
- Follow directions for your preferred roasting method.
Marinating recipe ideas? Then try these - Chinese Five Spice Turkey Marinade, Cajun Turkey Rub (ideal for deep frying), Texas Smoked Turkey Rub (if you're looking to smoke your bird), Poultry Blend, Salt Free Poultry Blend, and our Caribbean Spice Blend for a taste of the islands.
Turkey marinades need three things:
• An acidic (like vinegar, wine or a citrus)
• Oil (simple olive oil will do)
• Spices and seasonings (this is where the turkey rubber hits the road or maybe the turkey crosses the road...)
How Much Marinade Do You Need?
There are two schools of thought on this. One group believes that you don’t need that much marinade (you don’t have to completely cover you bird the entire time it is marinating) as long as you are flipping your turkey from time to time.
We like the second method which is closer to the brining method where the entire turkey is submerged in the marinade during the entire marinating process. Does this mean you need more marinade?
Will your bird be more flavorful?
The easiest way to determine how much total marinade you are going to need is to put the turkey in the clean container that you are going to use. Fill the container with water until the bird is completely submerged. Remove the turkey and measure the water. That’s how much you’ll need.
How Long Does It Take?
Well even a little marinating will be better than no marinating at all. So if you only have time for a couple of hours – fine. We prefer to marinate our turkey for at least 8-12 hours and frequently go as many as 24. Any longer and we don’t notice any more flavor being achieved.
What Kind of Container Should You Use?
Since refrigerator space is limited, especially during the holidays, you can use a brining bag down and a square cooler filled with ice. Select a cooler that’s big enough for both the turkey and the marinade. Before using clean your cooler with soap and water, sanitize with bleach and water and then air dry your cooler. If you are using your refrigerator you need a food grade container that is big enough for the turkey and the marinade. Be sure that the container you select will fit in the fridge.
Keep Your Cool
Whether you choose to use a cooler or your refrigerator during the marinating process you want to be sure to keep it below 40°. We’ve all heard the horror stories of salmonella and poultry and the two ways to combat this are during the marinating (keep it cold) and the cooking (get it hot) processes.
Choosing the Ideal Turkey
When selecting the ideal turkey to marinating, look for a natural turkey with “natural” or “no preservatives added” on the outer package. Otherwise you’re probably getting a self-basted bird that's already been injected with a salt solution (and other flavorings).
We like turkeys in the 12 to 20 lb. range best. If you decide to go the frozen turkey route, thaw according to the package instructions. Your turkey should be completely thawed before you begin marinating.