Turkey - To Brine or Not To Brine?

I know this has been asked a gazillion times. So here it is for the gazillion and first time: does brining the turkey make a big/good difference? And if so, what's your favorite brine recipe. Thanks a lot! (I've never brined my turkey; this year may be the first time I do it.)

  • Posted by: DebJ
  • November 2, 2011
  • 3606 views
  • 10 Comments

10 Comments

erinbdm November 2, 2011
I do a wet brine every year. I follow the directions in the All New Joy of Cooking. It's really not that big a deal--I just stick the turkey in a big cooler over night with salt water and ice. I usually grill the turkey, also following Joy of Cooking instructions. The turkey is always flavorful and delicious and not too salty. I've never tried a dry brine--it sounds intriguing!
 
ellenl November 2, 2011
I was also reading that brining may keep it more moist, but that it sacrifices flavor. Not to brine.
 
ellenl November 2, 2011
I was also reading that brining may keep it more moist, but that it sacrifices flavor. Not to brine.
 
Blissful B. November 2, 2011
I've never tasted a dry-brined turkey, but I find the wet-brine method leaves the bird tasting VERY salty. It makes the turkey juicier as well, but to me this isn't an even trade.
 
meganvt01 November 2, 2011
I was just reading a Harold McGee bit on this today - wet brining can actually dilute some of that good "turkey" flavor - even though it does make the meat more juicy. Dry brining - or salting - was recommended - give it 2 days for maximum juiciness and flavor (skipping the water avoids the dilution). Also, he noted that its a waste to season your brine (apple cider, etc) because those molecules are too large to hitch a ride on the water molecule. Sounds reasonable to me. I've always seasoned my brines in the past and in retrospect, never noticed a taste difference.
 
meganvt01 November 2, 2011
That being said, I just remembered that I do a tea brined chicken with star anise and cloves and I can definitely taste those in that chicken...
 
Helen's A. November 2, 2011
I always brine my turkeys now! Better flavor. I like this recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/honey-brined-smoked-turkey-recipe2/index.html If you don't have a smoker, just toss it in the oven, still tastes great.
 
Arathi November 2, 2011
+1 on dry brining, it's simple, less messy and tastes great. The downside to it (or any brining) is the drippings can be too salty to make gravy, but I've found that 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. Kim Severson has a really good recipe for dry brined turkey in the NY Times, I am not sure if I'm allowed to post the link here but you can search for "Kim Severson dry-brined turkey recipe" and it should come up.
 
Matilda L. November 2, 2011
I find that brining poultry makes the meat take on a more processed texture (ie: it starts being more mock-chicken than chicken) plus I have a very narrow refrigerator, so I can't even jam a big piece of meat in there, much less meat+brining liquid. Brining DOES make the meat juicier and gives you more flexibility--overcooking will not affect the final bird at the end, but I've found that dry brining gives that evenly seasoned taste and tenderizes the meat with less logistical headaches.
 
Peter November 2, 2011
Working for Food52, I have the benefit of tasting various recipes as they're tested. I know the fabulous kitchen staff tested a dry-brine -- basically packing the turkey in salt for a few days -- and it was moist and delicious... but without the need for the giant cooler and all that water.

Maybe someone will follow up this post with the details?
 
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