Keeping a whole, roasted bird moist and tasty is a challenge thousands face every Thanksgiving. Soaking your raw bird for several hours in a good turkey brine recipe before you cook it can do a lot of the heavy lifting for you, though. There are hundreds, if not thousands of turkey brine recipes, but a basic understanding of the science is all you really need.
Why you want a turkey brine recipe
Some shy away from most turkey brine recipes because of the amount of salt, but most of that salt doesn’t actually enter the meat. Instead, the salt in a brine helps open up the cell walls of the muscles that make up meat. The liquid in the turkey brine soaks into the meat, then gets locked in by the salt. When you roast the turkey (or any other meat), the brine keeps that moisture in. It takes just a few hours, and a good turkey brine recipe will make your Thanksgiving dinner much tastier.
Basic turkey brine recipe
A basic turkey brine recipe requires three ingredients: water, salt and sugar. The water provides the moisture and the delivery system for the rest of the seasoning. Sugar helps caramelize the meat, providing even more flavor. Salt is the magic ingredient – not only does it flavor the meat, but it helps open up the muscle fibers and lock in the moisture. A basic turkey brine recipe just means boiling together 1 gallon water, 1 cup table salt and 2 cups sugar. Cool, add a bunch of ice, soak the turkey for six to eight hours, then roast. You can read more about the science of a turkey brine in this PDF. But why not bring more flavor to your turkey brine recipe?
Ultimate turkey brine recipe
A good turkey brine recipe not only keeps the meat moist from start to finish, it adds flavor to your roasted, smoked or barbecued turkey. Boil together:
- 1 cup kosher or table salt
- 1 gallon chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
- 4 cups apple juice
- 1 tablespoon candied ginger, chopped
- 5 cloves garlic, crushed
Pour the brine into a clean 5-gallon bucket and cool entirely. Add the thawed turkey and enough ice to completely submerge the bird. Brine the turkey for at least 4-6 hours; roast as usual.