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 breaking down the basics of brining. Tomorrow we’re cooking up the best ways to accommodate special diets without losing your mind.
Deciding how you want to brine your turkey is an important choice. (You did decide to brine it, right?) Whether you go with a dry brine or a wet brine, questions come up -- even the most experienced cook can feel bird-brained at times. Thankfully the community is here to smooth ruffled feathers and answer all of your brining questions:
• 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.
• 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.
- Kristen says: "If it's a kosher bird, it should be fine, since they're just salted briefly. But if it's a Butterball or other pre-brined or deep-basted bird, don't brine it -- it'll be plenty seasoned and juicy on its own!"
- If you have a self-basting turkey, HalfPint recommends inserting a mix of a fresh herbs under the skin for flavoring, or using a salt-free dry rub on top of the skin.
- Amanda says yes -- even just a few hours of dry brining is helpful.
- To save fridge space when it's at a premium, Sfmiller is partial to storing a turkey in an insulated (and well-cleaned) cooler.
- JadeTree used to buy a big bucket every year too, but discovered that brining bags are easier to manuever than a giant sloshing bucket.
- AntoniaJames has more vertical real estate than horizontal in her fridge during the week of Thanksgiving, so she puts her dry brined bird in a bag in a narrow stock pot. She puts the lid on, and then usually has room on top for something else.
- Kristen explains why rinsing a dry brined bird isn't necessary: "The amount of salt is very moderate (not much more than you would use if you were salting the bird just before roasting). It should be absorbed into the flesh by the end of 3 days. Plus, the last stage of air-drying the turkey in the fridge is to help the skin crisp -- you wouldn't want to get in the way of that by rinsing."
- ChefOno advises against it as well for food safety reasons: "Poultry prep poses serious danger from cross-contamination. Rinsing creates microscopic splatters and should be avoided. To remove excess salt and moisture while minimizing risk, pat your bird dry with paper towels then thoroughly sanitize the work area."
- Aranthi has found that it's possible: "If you make a salt-free giblet stock with the giblets while the turkey is cooking (or use other no-salt stock), you can get a gravy that's not too overwhelming."
- AntoniaJames prefers to plan ahead and make gravy using a stock and drippings from turkey wings, a day or two ahead of time. She doesn't salt it, so then you can add in the pan drippings from your brined turkey for additional seasoning and more flavor.
The Pros Propose
What are your best tricks and tips for successfully brined turkeys? Let us know in the comments!
Have you missed any of our Thanksgiving round-up of Burning Questions? Catch up now:
- The Definitive Pounds-Per-Person Guide to Turkey and Potatoes
- Is it Better to Brine or Not to Brine Your Turkey?
Photos by James Ransom