No matter how you cook your turkey, roast, smoke, deep fry, whatever, soak it first in this turkey brine. This brine locks in moisture for a plump and juicy bird. Plus, it pre-seasons the turkey so you don’t really need to later!
Ever since I could remember the whole family would pack up and go to Nanny’s house for Thanksgiving dinner for the huge family reunion. Nanny’s turkey was my only basis for comparison my whole life until I began cooking turkey for myself. Both mine and Nanny’s tasted fine, but I always caught myself going for second helpings of gravy just to help get the dry meat down.
I came to the realization that I didn’t much care for making turkey at home because it went dry so easily. That is until I discovered the secret to brining! Brining is essentially soaking something in a salty water bath. The meat absorbs the salt and whatever other flavors you put in there, and helps to trap the moisture during and after the cooking process. Now, it doesn’t matter which way I choose to cook my turkey, and I’ve tried deep frying, smoking, and roasting, but I never do any without first soaking that bird in brine.
One year at Nanny’s, I asked her if I could brine her turkey overnight (I usually like soaking mine for two nights). She gracefully acquiesced and let me try my experiment. the next day around the Thanksgiving table everyone was complementing Nanny on her turkey and asking her what she had done differently this year. Though I think word soon got out about who made some adjustments, I was just happy to have helped out and enjoyed my plate without needing to make a second trip for gravy.
Aaron’s Turkey Brine
For any size turkey that can be submerged in about 2Gal of water. I like to use a 5Gal bucket. You can pick one up from your local hardware store. Just be sure that it’s never been used to store paint and you properly clean and sanitize it before use. I have one from my home brewing kit that works great. Otherwise, most grocery stores sell brining bags which work just as well.
•1 1/2C Kosher or canning salt (don’t use iodized table salt. The proportions don’t come out the same.)
•1/2C Brown sugar
•1/4C Worcestershire sauce
•6 garlic cloves, minced
•2T Freshly cracked pepper
2 bay leaves
In a medium sauce pan combine salt, sugar, pepper, garlic, bay leaves, Worcestershire sauce, and about a quart of the water. On medium to medium high heat arm ingredients and stir until salt and sugar are dissolved.
Allow water to cool as the other ingredients steep. Then, when cool, add to your bucket or brining bag with turkey and as much of the remaining water as necessary to cover entire turkey.
Place in refrigerator for 24-48 hours. Two days is better.
*Note: this is just the basic recipe for brine. If I want to do a more Southern style. Smoked turkey as I like to do, I’ll add other herbs, hot smoked paprika, and onion powder to the brine as well. Start off with the above ingredients and see where it takes you. Let me know how your turkey turns out below!