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Oh Bother Blog / Fall

Why I’m Still Brining After All These Years

November 23, 2015

Whole turkey with crispy skin and moist & juicy meat showing on wood board.

There are plenty of ways to prep a turkey, and even more wonderful ways to cook it.

There’s nothing wrong with simply roasting the darned thing, given that you take care with the cooking — there’s nothing is worse than dry turkey except maybe … well, I can’t think of anything right now.

My personal favorite method of turkey prep is to spatchcock the bird (cut out the backbone and flatten) the bird, quickly cure it by rubbing with kosher salt and spices, and refrigerate it for a day or two. The cure gives me flavor and the spatchcocking allows for fast cooking; ergo, reduced moisture loss.

But this year, like so many years, I’m not only wet brining, I’m brine-thawing.

Here’s the situation: Let’s say you wake up Monday or even Tuesday morning facing the reality of a frozen turkey, as in hard-as-Plymouth-rock. You need to have this critter on the table by noon Thursday. Even if you could somehow bend the rules of thermodynamics and thaw it in the fridge in your less-than-ideal time frame, who wants to clear out room in there for a 20-pound hunk of ice? Not I! And even if I did, there would be no time remaining to augment the flavor other than to inject the bird with some kind of “self-basting” solution — that is, assuming you haven’t purchased an augmented bird (i.e. Butterball), which I hope you haven’t.

The solution (see what I did there?) is to thaw the bird by unwrapping it and submerging in a brine contained in a large bucket, cooler, or other food-safe vessel, covered and tucked away in a closet or garage or … wherever. I slap a probe thermometer in the brine with an alarm set to go off if the temperature of the solution rises above 40°F.

That said, I typically go with a two-day soak and have never had an instance where that temperature has been reached. By the time the bird is thawed, the brine has done its job (two jobs, actually) and I’m ready to roast.

Is the flavor as good as the dry cure method? It’s not quite as intense but on scale of 1 to 10, I’d still give it 8.7. And when it comes to leftovers (can you say “sandwich”) I don’t think a brined bird can be beat.

Happy Thanksgiving.