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To Brine or Not to Brine?

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There are so many great conversations on the Hotline -- it's hard to choose a favorite. But we'll be doing it every day leading up to Thanksgiving, to spread the wealth of our community's knowledge -- and to help you host the least stressful Thanksgiving yet. No promises on the crazy relatives.

Today: We’re helping you decide how to brine your bird. (Or not.) Tommorrow we'll review brining basics and help you find space in the fridge.

Is it Better to Brine or Not to Brine, from Food52

Is it better to brine or not to brine your turkey? Our question is decidedly less angst-filled than Shakespeare's, but still has the power to ruffle feathers. Anti-briners contend that brining reduces flavor, while pro-briners believe that done well, brining can provide juicy flavorful meat, perfectly crispy skin, and still preserve the bird's flavor. And if you agree that it is better to brine, you then need to decide whether to use a traditional wet brine or the less-messy dry brine. The question of whether to brine has been asked multiple times over the years on the Hotline, and the opinions have flocked in:

No Brine

  • Matilda Luk finds that brining poultry makes the meat take on a more processed texture. (But admits that brining makes the meat juicier and provides cooking flexibility -- your bird is less likely to be ruined with extra time in the oven.)
  • Ellenl agrees that brining helps keep the bird more moist, but at the sacrifice of flavor.

Dry Brine

  • Jessica Bakes argues against any potential flavor loss from brining. She's found that heavily salting your turkey many hours beforehand gives amazing moisture and maintains the turkey's flavor.
  • Aranthi deems dry brines supreme thanks to their simplicity, minimal mess, and ability to produce a great-tasting bird.

Wet Brine

  • Erinbdm sticks with what works. She's done a wet brine every year, and the turkey has always been flavorful and delicious and not too salty.
  • SKK concurs, and finds wet brines are worth the trouble due to the huge difference in taste and texture they provide. 

So which is it? To brine or not to brine? Continue the conversation in the comments below!

Have you missed any of our Thanksgiving round-up of Burning Questions? Catch up now:

Photo by James Ransom

Tags: how-to & diy, hotline, holiday, best question, brine, brining, turkey, wet brine, dry brine

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