Wednesday, November 26, 2014

To Brine or Not To Brine

That is the question...
     We are days away from Thanksgiving, and perhaps you're already researching how to cook that big, intimidating piece of poultry. There are questions that immediately emerge: How much turkey should I buy? What's the best way to cook it? Should I brine the bird?
     Brining will help you cook the most succulent turkey you've ever had, and the smartest and easiest way to do it is with a dry brine.  Even if you're hosting Thanksgiving for the first time and are a bit nervous about cooking your inaugural bird, here's how to dry-brine your turkey like a pro.

What Is Dry-Brine?

     When you're dealing with a large piece of lean meat like a whole turkey, it's easy to overcook it.  Also, just seasoning it right before cooking means there's no time for the salt to penetrate into the meat, especially for thick cuts.  Brining is a way to inject both flavor and moisture at the same time.  A dry brine seasons the turkey like a more traditional wet brine, but it does not use any water.  Instead, a dry brine involves rubbing the salt and seasonings and directly onto the meat and skin, and then letting the meat rest in the refrigerator for a period of time before cooking.
     The salt draws out the bird's natural juices through osmosis.  Next, the salt dissolves into the juices, and finally, the juice is reabsorbed into the meat and starts breaking down tough muscle proteins, resulting in juicy, tender, bird.  The larger the piece of meat, the more time is needed for the brine.   
Why Dry-Brine?
  • The turkey is prepped ahead of time: Since a whole turkey needs one to three days of brining time, the dry-brining can be done in the quiet days before Thanksgiving Day.
  • There's no sloppy waterWith a dry brine, you just mix the salt and spices, rub it on the meat, throw it in the fridge and you're done!  This is in contrast to a wet brine, which requires a container big enough to hold the turkey, submerged in water, and space in your fridge to store it.
  • No special equipment needed: Dry-brining can be done on anything big enough to hold the turkey, such as a roasting pan or sheet pan.
  • You get crispy skin: The turkey sits uncovered in the fridge while dry brining.  This helps to dry out the skin, which in turn gives you incredibly crispy, golden-brown skin on the roasted bird.  If you're worried that space in your fridge will be tight and other foods might bump up against the turkey, you can cover it loosely foil.                                              Tips to Dry-Brining a Turkey
  • Pick the right turkey: Since you'll be doing your own seasoning with salt and spices, you want to start with a bird that has no seasoning in it at all. Stay away from kosher turkeys, which have been pre-salted, as well as self-basting turkeys, which have been injected with a salt solution. Go for a natural or heritage turkey, and if you're not sure if it's already been seasoned, just check the label to make sure it has no added salt. 
  • Thawed is best:  If the turkey was frozen solid when you bought it, the turkey needs approximately 24 hours for every five pounds of turkey to thaw completely. 
  • Plan for brining time: Brining needs adequate time in order to be effective, so the thicker the piece of meat, the more time you want to give it so that the salt has enough time to work its way down from the surface. Although you can cook a dry-brined turkey after one day, giving it three days yields a much more tasty bird.  
  • Use any cooking method. Once your turkey is brined, you can choose whatever method you like for cooking it: traditional oven-roasting, deep-frying, or even grilling.
    Happy Brining!

No comments:

Post a Comment