Domestic Goddess Tip : Turkey Brining

Domestic Goddess Tip : Turkey Brining

I suggested in a previous post (click on the photo to take you to ‘Got Turkey? Brine it!‘), I brine my turkey in a construction cooler.
Some of the benefits of doing it this way are:
*Its insulated, so it frees up your refrigerator
*You only dirty one container (and a measuring container)
*it fits up to a 20 lb bird (although you may have to cram it in)
*draining is a snap!!!
When your brining time is up, simply heft it up to the sink, push in the spout and drain out liquid. Then its a breeze to pull out your turkey, rinse it off and prep it for the oven.

(For brining recipe please visit the link : Got Turkey? Brine it!

Got Turkey? Brine it!

This next spring will be the big 2-5 celebrating hubby’s and my wedded bliss, which means I have been making Thanksgiving for going on 25 years, give or take a year or two away from home. That means, I have tried many brands of turkey and tried many variations of preparation. After some ok, mediocre, or pretty good variations, I have settled on the trick of brining my bird every year, which results in a perfectly seasoned, very tender, juicy and flavorful turkey. I also think I’ve perfected the cooking method, but we’ll leave that for another day.
(see How to Cook a Turkey)

First of all, do not use a pre-seasoned turkey like Butterball or Jennie-O. Those have already been injected with a solution to yield moist & seasoned turkeys. I have done the injection method from scratch, but I find it hit or miss.
I prefer not to ingest some of the additives, and I also like to control what goes in to my food. Brining allows me that control.

For this recipe, I use an all-natural, hormone-free, free range organic turkey, but just natural is perfectly fine. I like to try and support local farmers, so I find stores that carry fresh turkeys grown locally. Most people steer away from natural, free-range turkeys because they can be dry and tough. This method will ensure a tender, moist bird you can be proud to put on the table. An added benefit is the highly seasoned, flavorFULL gravy that results.
(Note: Do not add salt to your gravy until you have tasted it. The drippings will be naturally salty from the brine, so be sure to taste test and season the gravy. I have never had to add salt to my gravy since I started brining.)

Let’s begin.

First of all, pull together your brining solution. I saw this trick on an episode of Alton Browns “Good Eats” and it honestly is the best Thanksgiving tip ever. Use a construction cooler. You know, the orange kind you can buy at the hardware store? I bought mine a few years back and use it every year, sanitizing it after each use. (bleach, soap and hot water) I just mix the brine up directly in the bottom of the cooler and plop the turkey in:


That is one happy turkey!
Then follow that with a 7 pound bag of ice. I use bagged ice because it’s easier and I know that the ice is pure and clean tasting, not having any off odors or tastes that love to settle in home ice makers.


Finally, put the lid on tight, and stuff in an out of the way corner. I do this the day before Thanksgiving, usually late afternoon, early evening. The next morning, I pull the turkey out, rinse it off, pat it dry and let it stand covered for an hour before rubbing with herbed butter and baking. You can also use the handy-dandy pour spout and drain the water out directly into your sink! Your bird will sit in the brine for 8-12 hours, so back into your cooking time, allowing for some time for the bird to dry and come to room temp. The largest bird I’ve done this way was 20 pounds. Anything bigger and it won’t fit in the cooler.


Seriously, how easy is that? This method frees up your refrigerator, which is usually full to the brim anyway, and yields a truly yummy turkey and incredible drippings. Give it a try, and tell me how it went!

Honey Turkey Brine

1 gallon Very Hot Water
1 pound Kosher Salt
2 quarts Vegetable Broth
1 pound Honey
1 7-lb bag of ice
1/2 package Fresh Sage, roughly torn (you can use 1 tbsp of dried added to the hot water)
1/2 bunch of Fresh Parsley, roughly torn (do not use dried)
2-3 tbsp Herbs de Provence, added to the hot water to release the flavors.

Combine the hot water (and if using – dried herbs) and salt in the construction cooler. Stir until the salt dissolves. Pour in the vegetable broth and honey. Add half the ice and give a stir.


Place turkey, breast up – feet up – in the cooler. I submerge the bird as best as possible to get the brine in the cavity. Dump the last of the ice over the top. cover and let brine for 8-12 hours.

*Note: You can use a vegetable boullion also like Better than Boullion. The additional salt will not be a problem.


Salt Brined Roasted Turkey

Salt Brined Roasted Turkey

Since I posted the photo of my Leftovers Soup, I thought it fitting to show the turkey meal from which it started. While I’m at it, I thought I’d share a couple of cooking ideas and tips I’ve learned along the way.

I favor organically grown, free-range, non-injected birds. I know they are a bit more in cost, but I can be sure there are no added hormones or pesticides to mess with my still maturing/developing daughters bodies and ensure the animals were raised and slaughtered ethically and humanely. As mentioned in a previous post ‘Todd & A Well Stocked Freezer‘, I get most of my meat from the local farmer who takes it to the local butcher. However, I don’t yet have a source for my poultry, so I look for the best I can find at my grocer.

When you bring home your bird, remove the neck bone from the cavity and the innards from the neck flap. (if you have them) Then gently slide your fingers under the skin of the breast, loosening it on both ends. Try not to rip or tear the skin. Then, take kosher salt, and lightly rub on the breast meat in between the flesh and the skin. This will give your fingers a good workout and yes, it will be a bit chilly. But take heart, while your digits shiver, your turkey meat will come out seasoned, tender and juicy. I can’t give you an exact amount of salt to use, just make sure you’re not slathering it on. You will want it LIGHTLY dispersed. Then give the skin and thighs a good liberal rubbing of the salt, place on a dish or platter and wrap in saran wrap. I put a clean kitchen wash cloth under the bird to absorb any juices that it might give off. You can also use a few paper towels, but I find those can get kind of slimy.

Then put in the fridge and let sit for a couple of days. This is ‘dry’ brining. It’s results are similar to wet brining- juicy flavorful and tender meat – but this method allows the skin to cook up and not be all flabby soggy.

After a couple of days, the process should be complete and you can cook that baby up. I use an air roaster oven because it frees up my regular oven for yummy dishes like this creamed spinach. I got the idea from Emeril over at the Food Network, but modified it a bit by adding parmesan and baking it after cooking on the stove top. It was just scrumptious.

While the turkey was cooking I boiled a combination of jersey sweet potatoes with red potatoes, along with a thinly sliced leek. Try this sometime: cook the onion with the potatoes, then drain and mash together, its delicious! You can ‘scent’ your liquid with herbs, garlic, shallots or leeks. For example, rosemary scented mashed potatoes is a delicious pairing with lamb.

To make the gravy, simply pour all the drippings from your turkey (i baste my bird with white wine, butter and sage, it adds a lot of flavor to the gravy) in to a fat separator, pour a few tablespoons of the rendered fat in to a saucepan. Add equal amounts of gluten free flour and cook it a bit to get the starchy taste out of the flour. I figure I need about 1tbsp of fat and flour for each cup of gravy. Then add back those yummy drippings along with enough chicken stock to make a gravy. If you have time, it’s nice to make a turkey stock from the neck & gizzards, but chicken stock works as well. The wonderful thing about brining your bird is that the drippings are naturally seasoned. You will need very little salt, if any. Adjust the seasoning, if need be. I added a healthy sprinkle of Penzeys “Mural of Flavor” to mine.

Also, another trick is to pour the gravy back in to the roasting pan, (or make it in the pan) and really scrape up to include those bits called ‘fond’. It will add depth to your gravy, or any pan sauce you make.

Dry Brining is excellent to use for any thick cuts of meat such as roasts. I used this technique on my Christmas Prime Rib Roast.

So say goodbye to blah and bland meat. Give this simple and yet effective technique a try. I think you’ll be very pleased when your family and friends say YUMMMMM.