For many families (usually mine included), Thanksgiving is the only time of the year a turkey is cooked at home. This means expectations are high; it must be succulent, with crispy skin, and well-seasoned. It’s a toss-up whether to make it the same way every year or throw caution to the wind and try something new, isn’t it? We tend to mix it up in the Boulder Locavore kitchen but there is one constant every year; wet brining the turkey.
If you aren’t familiar with wet brining, it is soaking the turkey in a mixture of salt, sugar, and water (can include seasonings) for up to 18 hours before cooking it. Lean meats such as turkey can lose up to 30% of their natural moisture during cooking. Brining allows extra moisture to permeate the turkey, reducing the moisture loss to about half of an unbrined bird. If you were to weigh a turkey before and after wet brining, you’d find it gains weight from the additional moisture absorption.
Generally brining a turkey overnight before you plan to roast it works best. Food-grade buckets with lids or bags specifically for brining are the easiest containers to use. We purchased a food bucket a number of years ago which we only use for brining and store it in between uses. The turkey must be refrigerated so if your refrigerator is full in preparations for the holiday, consider packing a cooler with ice or ice packs if you live in a colder climate where putting it in the garage would yield refrigerator-level temperatures.
This year our Thanksgiving will have reminders from France where we spent 10 days in Paris this summer. Today we have an East-meets-West melding of flavors in a brined turkey to share. Each the brine and the final glaze are a mix of white wine, ginger root, star anise, thyme and other beautiful flavors that culminate in a uniquely tasty bird. Should you not desire to roast a full turkey, I shared a recipe last year for a brined turkey breast last year that offers plenty of juicy breast meat: Brined Lemon-Ginger Turkey Breast with Pear Port Glaze.