Luckily, a little prep work can go a long way to ensuring poultry comes out of the oven juicy and full of flavor. The most important pre-cooking job is brining the turkey, which most chefs say is key to getting the perfect Thanksgiving turkey.
What is turkey brining?
Although the brining process is quite simple, it is still a foreign concept to many novice cooks. For those wondering, brining is the soaking of a turkey in a salt water solution for several hours or more.
The brining process allows the turkeys to absorb the water mixture and the salt in it dissolves into the muscle proteins of the bird. As a result, the turkey comes out of the oven with more moisture.
Classically trained chef Billy Parisi recounted Newsweek that brining “has the unique ability to generously and perfectly season your turkey while imparting wonderful flavors with spices. It will be one of the juiciest and tastiest turkeys you have ever eaten if you do this .”
“Once you’ve brined a turkey, you’ll never look back. It’s the best way to take Thanksgiving to the next level!” Chief Jeff Philbin, elder Chef top five finalist and current restaurant brand strategist and food blogger, said Newsweek.
What are the best ingredients for brine?
Salt and garlic are a must.
In addition to these two essentials, Philbin recommended apple cider and spices like cinnamon, peppercorns, cloves and allspice for the brine. He said a little citrus — like lemons and oranges — and herbs (rosemary, sage, thyme, bay leaves) will also add delicious flavor notes.
Parisi also listed garlic, thyme, rosemary, parsley, sage, cloves, oranges, lemons, and peppercorns as some of his favorite brine ingredients. But he added that anise, vinegar, onions, coriander seeds and lemon and orange zest can help make a good brine.
How long should you brine the turkey?
“The minimum time would be 12 hours,” Parisi said. “That being said, it’s best to let the turkey brine for 24 hours. If you want to make the flavors more intense, you can go up to 48 hours. However, I wouldn’t go over that as it can get too salty. ”
Philbin said “any effort is better than no effort,” and a Thanksgiving cook could possibly get by brining the turkey for at least eight hours. For thorough brining, however, he said “the optimum period will be 12 to 24 hours.”
What are common pickling mistakes?
“The most common mistake is that the brine isn’t seasoned enough. Figure one cup of salt for every gallon of water,” Parisi said. “The other mistake is that people forget to wash off the brine before cooking it. If you don’t, it can get too salty. Also, it’s important to completely dry the turkey before roasting it in the oven, as this will ensure you get a really nice brown turkey.”
Philbin insisted on keeping the work area in the kitchen clean so as not to “cross-contaminate”. A clean sink and space for working with food should be maintained throughout the cooking day.
The Best Turkey Brine Recipe by Chef Jeff Philbin
- 14 to 16 pound turkey, giblets, neck and entrails removed
- 2 cups + 1 tbsp kosher salt
- 2 gallons of water
- 1 cup apple cider
- 4 cinnamon sticks
- 1 tablespoon peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon of cloves
- 1 tbsp chilli
- 3 bay leaves
- 4 sprigs of rosemary
- 4 sprigs of sage
- 4 sprigs of thyme
- Fruits and vegetables
- 3 oranges
- 3 lemons
- 3 apples
- 10 garlic cloves
How to use this recipe
- TIP: Start this process the night before Thanksgiving at 8:00 p.m.
- Remove the entrails from the turkey and drain any thawed liquid from the turkey, inside and out. Wipe the turkey. Place the turkey in a large pot.
- Toast all your spices in a pan and remove from heat once fragrant and set aside.
- Boil 8 cups of water on the stove with the salt and other aromatics for a minute or two until the salt is dissolved, whisking vigorously. Add the apple cider, toasted spices, bay leaf and fruits and vegetables to the salt water mixture. Let cool to room temperature. (TIP: Be sure to quarter the fruit and squeeze the juice from the lemons and oranges.)
- Pour the cold brine into the pot and over the turkey.
- TIP: Let brine until 8:00 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning.
- Keep the turkey refrigerated or cold while brining for 12 to 24 hours.
- Remove turkey from brine, rinse and pat dry
- TIP: Let the turkey rest for a total of 6 hours (5 hours in the refrigerator and 1 hour at room temperature).
- Place a rack in the lowest position of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.
- Take the turkey out of the refrigerator to bring it to room temperature. Tie the legs together and tuck the ends of the wings under the string. Place the turkey in a roasting pan. Drizzle the outside of the turkey with a few tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Roast the turkey for about 3 hours, or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 165 degrees F for white meat and 185 degrees F for dark meat.
- Transfer turkey to a platter, cover with foil, and let rest 30 minutes before carving.