How to Brine a Whole Turkey
We receive a considerable amount feedback – at local shows, by email, and on our social media pages like Twitter and Facebook. Of some of this feedback, the most common is that turkey meat is a relatively dry, which may turn off some consumers from eating turkey. Turkey is lean, especially the breast meat, meaning that the turkey itself doesn’t have a lot of fat to keep from drying out – often resulting in a dry turkey for your holiday dinner.
We do, however, have a solution that will turn skeptics into believers, and it will ensure that your turkey stays juicy and full of flavour throughout the cooking process. Brine your turkey before roasting.
A brine is a salt water solution, some recipes include herbs and spices, that infuses a whole turkey. The salt water solution breaks down the turkey’s muscle proteins, helping with overall moisture absorption. It guarantees a succulent, flavourful bird, even if you’re not confident with roasting a whole turkey.
Choose your turkey
Turkeys must be all-natural, i.e. not injected with butter or processed, for brining. We recommend buying a Granny’s Poultry whole frozen, or fresh turkey – their turkeys contain no added ingredients and the company is owned by local, Manitoba farmers.
Make some room
Your turkey will need to be refrigerated for the entire brining process, so clear a space for it in your fridge before you start. We recommend placing the turkey on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator – in case some juices excrete from the bag.
What you will need
You will need a brining bag, a large pot or a food-safe container. Brining bags are inexpensive and are available for purchase at any major retailer. If you decide to use a large pot or food-safe container, keep in mind that the entire turkey must be submerged in the liquid, so it needs to be fairly large and fit in your refrigerator.
The main, and most important ingredient for a brine is salt – kosher or sea salt works best. The following is a recipe that was created by Granny’s Poultry Corporate Chef, Jason Wortzman:
1 whole Granny’s turkey, fresh or thawed
1 ½ cups | 375 ml onion, coarsely chopped
2 tbsp | 30 ml garlic, chopped
½ cup | 125 ml sea salt or kosher salt
1 tsp | 5 ml black peppercorns
1 tsp | 5 ml coriander seeds
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs fresh thyme
¼ cup | 65 ml brown sugar
8 cups | 2l water
12 cups | 3l ice water
Here is how you put the recipe together:
- Combine all the brine ingredients except water in a saucepan. Add 2 l of water; bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Chill the brine by adding ice water and placing it in a cool place until cold.
- Remove the neck and giblets from the turkey and place it in a large pot, food safe container or a brining bag. Add the brine so that it covers the bird and store in a refrigerator for approximately 24 hours.
- Rinse the turkey with cold water, pat dry with paper towel and then coat the turkey with olive oil, unsalted butter, or a rub, as desired.
- Oven roast, barbecue, or smoke the turkey according to standard cooking instructions.
- A meat thermometer should read 170°F or 77°C when the turkey is done.
- Let the turkey rest for 20 minutes before carving.
As indicated in the instructions, your turkey can be cooked according to directions.