Are you the lucky person in charge of the turkey this Thanksgiving?
If this is your first time doing so, don’t fret. I have 10 turkey brine recipes guaranteed to impress even the pickiest eaters.
Turkey is the star of Thanksgiving, so there is absolutely no room for error. If you want to lock in your turkey’s success, brining is the way to go.
Those not familiar with the method may find this process intimidating, but it’s in fact, wildly easy to execute.
And don’t worry, I’m here with you every step of the way. I’ll fill you in with all things brining.
By the time you’re done reading, you’ll have absorbed everything there is to know about this cooking technique.
Now, first things first:
What is Brining?
It’s the process of bathing meat in a salt and water solution through osmosis.
Besides providing flavor, the salt also alters the meat’s proteins to let the cells absorb more moisture.
It breaks down tough muscle fibers, enabling them to soak up the brine easier.
The liquid gets trapped within the muscle fibers, so instead of evaporating, it stays inside the meat during cooking.
This results in a moist, tender, and juicy cut of meat.
That’s some impressive science, right there.
In short, brining is an excellent solution to lean pieces of meat that are prone to drying out and becoming rubbery.
These include pork chops, seafood, chicken breast, and you’ve probably guessed it – turkey.
With this technique, you’ll safeguard your meat from drying out, just in case you overcook it. Basically, it’s a fool-proof method of cooking meat.
Also, in case you’re wondering – no, brining and marinating aren’t one and the same.
They have a similar method of soaking meat in a liquid mixture, but the components in the solution differ.
A brine is made up of water and salt, while a marinade is a mixture of oil and acid.
Salt is also added to marinades for flavor, but not as much. There are two ways to brine meat: wet and dry brines.
Wet brines, which are the more traditional method, require soaking the meat in a solution of salt and water (about 1 tablespoon of salt per cup of water).
Dry brines, from the term itself, don’t use water at all. It’s just a matter of rubbing the meat with pure salt – about 1 tablespoon for every 2 pounds of meat.
The beauty of this method is that it gives the meat just the right amount of moisture.
Yes, there is such a thing as too much moisture! Infusing too much liquid into the meat will water down its natural flavors.
In the dry brine method, the salt combines with the meat’s natural juices, giving it a more concentrated flavor.
It’s also a lot easier to do, which is why it’s the more commonly used technique for Thanksgiving turkeys.
Tips for Brining a Turkey
Now, here are some helpful tips to get you one step closer to brining success.
First, be sure to get an unbrined turkey. Check the label well! Some brands already pre-brine the bird.
Second, take note of brining times. Naturally, the duration of brining depends on the kind and size of your meat.
A good rule of thumb is to brine meat for an hour per pound. You won’t want to go overboard with brining, because it’ll make the meat way too salty.
For turkey breast, give it 4 to 12 hours of brining time. A whole turkey will need somewhere between 12 to 24 hours.
If you accidentally over-brine your meat, you can remedy it by soaking it in cold water to release some of the salt.
My next tip is to add more flavor to the brine solution. This works whether you use the dry or wet method.
Just add your favorite herbs, spices, and seasonings, and it’ll work the same way.
Place the meat in the fridge during brining, especially when dealing with a huge piece of meat.
FDA states that raw meats can only sit at room temperature for up to two hours.
Any longer than that, and it’ll be prone to bacteria contamination.
After brining, pat the meat dry with paper towels. You don’t have to rinse it with water.
You can still flavor the meat further with your choice of seasonings, but obviously, skip the salt.
Also, you don’t have to cook the meat right after brining.
Some cooking methods actually yield better results if you air-dry the meat for a while first as it helps caramelize and crisp up its exterior.
Brined meat can sit in the fridge uncovered for 12 hours. Cover it with plastic wrap, and you can refrigerate it for up to 24 hours.
Now that we have the basics covered, let’s proceed to the recipes.
Without further ado, here are 10 turkey brine recipes that will make your Thanksgiving party a sure hit.
The Best Turkey Brine Recipe To Make Your Bird Sing
1. Easy Turkey Brine
Let’s start you off with the simplest, easiest turkey brine recipe that delivers impressive results.
In this recipe, you can pick whether to use a wet or dry brine, so it’s totally your call.
Whichever method you opt for, you’re guaranteed to end up with a perfectly moist and insanely flavorful turkey.
2. Smoked Turkey Brine
If you love the combination of savory turkey and sweet apples, I highly recommend this recipe.
Besides salt and apple juice, the brine solution also contains brown sugar, cinnamon, peppercorns, candied ginger, cloves, and dry herbs which give the turkey such a wonderfully complex flavor.
3. Cranberry Citrus Brine
If you’re not afraid of adding a fruity flavor to turkey, this recipe’s for you.
With a blend of orange and cranberry juices, brown sugar, cinnamon, and dry herbs, this brine lends a sweet and salty flavor profile to the bird.
4. Vinegar Poultry Brine
Don’t worry, this brine solution won’t make turkey unpleasantly sour.
It has a perfect blend of sugar, vinegar, salt, and spices, which provides the bird with nothing but wonderfully balanced flavors.
Brine in the fridge for 1 hour for every pound of turkey.
5. Citrus Turkey Brine
Think orange chicken, but on a massive scale.
This brine has a combination of lemon, orange, onion, garlic, and spices, so flavorful is an understatement.
It will not only give the turkey a citrus twist, but it’ll make it extremely moist as well.
6. Herb Brined Turkey
Nothing flavors a bird better than herbs and butter do. Case in point: this herb-brined turkey.
Coated with a variety of fresh herbs and cooked with a rub of herbed butter, this turkey is nothing short of spectacular.
7. White Wine Citrus Brine
Want to impress your guests with fancy turkey? This white wine citrus brine will do the trick.
This flavor-packed brine will make that turkey taste out-of-this-world delicious. Your friends and family will surely be begging for the recipe!
8. Maple Turkey Brine
Give your turkey a sweet glaze with this maple turkey brine. It’s not only ideal for turkey but other types of meat as well.
With a mixture of brown sugar, maple syrup, soy sauce, salt, whiskey, and herbs, this glaze will make your turkey a certified hit.
9. Hawaiian Turkey Brine
Here’s another sweet brine that will absolutely delight all you sweet and salty flavor fans.
With a blend of pineapple juice, soy sauce, salt, and maple syrup, this brine has the perfect combination of sweet, salty, and umami flavors.
10. Apple Cider Brined Turkey
Apples and Thanksgiving go hand in hand, so it only makes sense to infuse that bird with apple cider.
This brine will give your turkey a sweet and fruity twist.
Herbs such as rosemary, sage, and thyme also give the bird a lovely earthy flavor. There are some peppercorns in there, too, to give it a bit of heat.
Together, the brine components will moisten and flavor turkey like no other.
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