Thursday, November 25, 2010

How to Brine the PERFECT Turkey!

Yeah, this is one of those situations when I suddenly realize how Americanized we have become...
My American neighbor asks me how to brine a turkey! Me? I am a naturalized American citizen...she was born here...well, I guess we are bigger Martha Stewart fans than most people : )
We learned with Martha Stewart in the late 90's and have always brined our turkeys.
I always thought roasted turkeys were extremely dry, hence the need to drink gallons of gravy on top of it...not at our home where turkey is juicy, tender and perfect, every time.
Turkeys are very popular in Brazil as well, my grandparents always cooked a Turkey for Christmas, they were very humble European immigrants but family reunions for Christmas and New Year's eve were sacred.
Many people would come that they would take a few doors off the hinges and place them on top of empty wooden apple crates they got from the local farmers market "feira".
We were simple people who enjoyed our family and friends every chance we had, and still do, my family will use any excuse to have a party/family reunion which usually holds no less than 50 people.
Turkeys were a big part of any family gathering in Brazil. So this was an easy American tradition to be adopted at our new life in New England, the birthplace of Thanksgiving, we actually live within 20 minutes driving from the famous historical Plymouth Rock  :)
Now, we are Turkey experts, we have year after year the most delicious juicy and tender turkeys I have ever eaten, ANYWHERE!
Ok, let's jump right on it.
The official rule on how to brine a turkey says no less than 8 hours and no more than 24.
We do 48 hours, but we put the completely frozen turkey in the water and let it defrost in the fridge for it to brine.
It always turns out delicious, you can't go wrong if you follow our advice ;)

Why brine?

Brining a turkey consists of leaving it submerged in seasoned water which makes it's meat juicy and tender.

Brining makes it moist. Why are brined turkeys so juicy? Salt causes the meat tissues to absorb water and flavorings. It also breaks down the proteins, resulting in a tender-seeming turkey. This means that--despite the moisture loss during roasting and the long cooking time--you end up with a juicy bird.
There is no real secret to brining a turkey, you can make your own favorite seasoning or you can follow our recipe below.

Ingredients:

We used a 13 pound Turkey-
1 full cup light salt (less if you use real marine salt)
5 table spoons powered garlic
5 table spoons powered onion
4 table spoons  black pepper
4 table spoons sweet paprika
2/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

Preparation:

The real trick with brining is finding a container that's large enough to submerge the turkey, yet small enough to fit in your refrigerator. Try a stock pot, a bucket, or a roasting pan; if you use a shallow roasting pan, you will need to turn the bird periodically so that each side rests in the brine. Place the container on the lowest shelf of the refrigerator (so spills won't reach foods below).
Remember the seasoning has to be a little on the stronger side because you are going to mix it with over a gallon of cold water.
Usual recipes use 2 cups of regular kosher salt, we use 1 cup of light salt in an effort to reduce sodium in our diet, our turkey turns out great every time.
If you don't worry about sodium and like things a little on the salty side, 2 cups of salt.
Mix all your spices in about 3 cups of very hot water, just to make sure all the dry spices are well mixed.
Add another 1 and 1/2 to two gallons of cold water to the mix, add your turkey to it and make sure the turkey is completely submerged in your seasoned water.
Cover it and place it in your refrigerator, we used a 15 quarts (14 Liter) plastic bucket and we had to remove a shelf to fit the bucket in our fridge.
Most people around here just place the covered turkey in their cold garages, with temperatures in the 30's in New England in November, it makes sense, but if you live south of the Mason/Dixon line you better keep it in your fridge.
We have a second fridge in the house so that is what we use, our garage is filled with other stuff, as any authentic American garage :)
The real trick with brining is finding a container that's large enough to submerge the turkey, yet small enough to fit in your refrigerator. Try a stock pot, a bucket, or a roasting pan; if you use a shallow roasting pan, you will need to turn the bird periodically so that each side rests in the brine. Place the container on the lowest shelf of the refrigerator (so spills won't reach foods below).


Our own personal trick:

We place the frozen turkey in the seasoned water 48 hours before going to the oven.


Frozen 13 pound turkey submerged in seasoned water for brining
 I personally like to use the "Glad Press and Seal" to cover the bucket and prevent any possible spillages in the fridge




Frozen turkey fully submerged and ready for the fridge 48 hours before the oven




Turning the turkey after 24 hours in brining






Our turkey was completely submerged but we turn it upside down after 24 hours anyway




Dry the bucket well before reapplying the Glad Press & Seal to assure proper adhesion 




Cover it well and back to the fridge for another 24 hours.






We love Glad's "Press & Seal", I've told Gil if some day we move back to Brazil we will be taking a extra full container filled with Glad Press & Seal. Yeap, it's that good!









We used a Pizza Crisper underneath the disposable foil pan so it wouldn't fold it in half while carrying it to the oven

I know, this is how Americanized we are, being practical is the American way more than anything I can think of right now.
We bought a disposable Foil Turkey Roaster, U$3,00 dollars at Walmart, or U$1,50 at Price Right as I later found out :( , darn Wally Word beat me again!
It saves you time and saves your hands from scrubbing and energy too.





Remove it from the fridge and roast it in the oven for 3 hours on 325F degrees or until your turkey's "ready" indicator pops up, as shown on the picture below:






Ready, set, GO!!!!
Congratulations, your turkey will be the talk of the town, I mean, around your family and friends  :)





ENJOY!
Happy Thanksgiving!! 




Ray

3 comments:

Jim said...

During our last few Thanksgivings in San Francisco we were friends with a fabulous catering chef and she always offered to brine birds for her friends in her industrial kitchen. It really makes a difference.

Thanks for the tips.

Sara and Nate said...

I would love to try that next! We fried all the turkeys this year... can ya tell we are all from the south! This just looks so much healthier while maintaining the juiciness.

Ray Adkins said...

Jim,

You are welcome, I am glad to share Martha Stewart's secrets, keep in mind Turkeys are a big tradition in Brazil for Christmas and New Years ;)

Sara,

You guys are brave, I have always wanted to fry a Turkey, don't even get me started with the great food from the South, one of my all time favorites. It is super juicy and tender, the salt breaks the fibers of the meat...it is awesome...