Help w/dry brining a turkey for Canadian Thanksgiving
Canadian Thanksgiving is right around the corner and it's time to talk turkey! I've searched through some old postings but haven't found a definitive answer to the question: "can I make a turkey a la zuni roast chicken?" I'm not a fan of wet brining, but love the results of dry brining a chicken.
Does a turkey lend itself to this technique or is it too large? If it's a go, how long should I dry brine?
Does the high heat technique work with a turkey? If so, what's the correct roasting time?
Am I better off trying this with a couple of turkey breasts instead of a whole turkey?
So many questions... help!
LindaMc posted a good report about her Zunified turkey last year:
I tried dry brining for 4 days (was forced to for that long b/c we were out of town), and I thought it was brined for too long. The meat was overly cured and dry (almost prosciutto-like) and the skin got too taut.
I think dry brining for 2-3 days (depending on size of bird) would be better, although I'm still not sure if dry brining will really work w/ turkey because it has such low fat to meat ratio. Maybe overnight would be best...And thus begins the quest for the perfect turkey this year!
re: Carb Lover
Thanks, Carb Lover. That's actually the post I had decided to follow. I'm picking up a 15 lb. turkey on Thursday afternoon, and will only be able to dry brine for 2 days (dinner is Saturday afternoon).
And thanks to everyone else for the helpful replies. I've done the wet brine and no brine, but really want to try a dry brine this year. Maybe it will make no impact at all because of the size of the turkey. We'll see. I'll report back!
Okay, here's another question.
I have a smoker and like to smoke my turkeys. Not all in my family are the same and I usually defer to the conventional bird.
This year I've decided that I'll buy a bird, get the butcher to cut in half. Do half for Thanksgiving and the other half at Christmas.
Can I brine the half bird or will the exposed flesh cause me any problems??
I'm very curious about the dry brining thing, have never heard of it (as BRINE means SALT WATER!).
I can say that a wet and flavorful brine makes a fine effortless roasted turkey.
I've tried the high temp roasting on a whole turkey. You can't stuff it first of all. Second, keep it out at room temp for 1 hour before your roast which will help get the whole thing roasting quickly. Start breast down for first 15 minutes at 425F as low as possible away from the heating element, turn over and roast again for another 15. Make sure to use a probe thermometer. When the breast is done, remove the legs and put them back in until the probe says they've reached the magic 161F.
Everytime I used the high temp start the breast cooked very quickly and quite beautifully, but I've always had too pull the legs off and give them more time.
Hope this helps. Can you give me a like to this Zuni, dry brine method?
I've been brining my turkey for about 5 years. I've done all sizes. It always turns out great. I put mine in a heavy plastic bag in a cooler with blocks of ice (I freeze them in large size yogurt containers.) The San Francisco Chronicle web site has had some great articles about brining turkeys. Recipes, size recommendations, gravy, etc. One article that I have talks about large birds. SFgate.com
Here's a link:
There are scads of recommendations on these boards re Thanksgiving and turkey (the same rec's apply regardless of border side!).
The Zuni method is really designed for much smaller birds (there is a reason recipes specify bird size, even though people think it won't have any effect if they ignore the specification; the cause of much poultry misery).
Large pieces of flesh do not do well with high heat unless they are opened up in some way: it's perfectly ok to joint the bird to make this easier. Stuffing a bird with an edible stuffing (as opposed to a bit of aromatic vegetables and lemon) means it takes even longer to cook a bird and increases the likelihood of dry breast meat.
It helps to start the bird on one side, then the other side, before breast up.
Salmonella is killed at about 161F. You want to take the bird out when the breast and deepest part of the thigh have reached that point; the bird will continue to increase in temperature while resting -- you should take it out of the frig an hour before cooking to remove some of the chill (if the bird is too cold when it goes in the oven, the amount of aftercooking when the bird is removed from the oven will be much higher -- as much as 15-20F more!)
Do the Wet Brining, just do it 2 days before cooking. After the brining is done, RINSE IT OFF, pat it dry and put it uncovered in you fridge for 24 hours. This will dry the skin and allow it to get crispy.
Stuff, roast and enjoy. Cooks Illustrated magazine # 53, December 2001 has the article: Brining 101. It is an excellent guide.