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Nov 10, 2006 06:10 PM

Two Turkey Questions

We are hosting Thanksgiving for the first time in many years. I have a couple of questions concerning the turkey. First, I have never brined a turkey, but have read here that it definitely improves it. Can I brine a frozen turkey, say a Butterball? Do I thaw it first?

Also, do you have any tips or tricks for getting that nice even brown color on the turkey? TIA for any advice.

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  1. to your first question, you must thaw first in order to brine, otherwise the turkey will not have any way to absorb the brine. But I don't see any reason why you couldn't brine a previously frozen turkey.

    1. There is no difference when brining a fresh than a frozen turkey, but it should be 85% or more thawed when you begin to brine it.
      I like to insert bits of compound butter under the skin and tightly tent the bird with heavy foil, but you must use a temperature probe to make sure you get both the color and the internal temps at the right time.
      Convection ovens are a great aid in getting crispy skin.

      1. Brining a turkey definitely improves the flavor and juiciness. You use a mixture of salt and sugar (can also add peppercorns and garlic for flavor). What happens is that osmosis will try to equalize the ion/water concentration between the brine and the turkey, resulting in the juice and flavor to stay inside the meat.

        You don't want to brine a butterball turkey. If you read the label, they are already brined. That's why they can claim that their turkeys always come out good and juicy. If you want to brine, you'll want to buy a different brand of turkey.

        1. Yep, as KingKong5 already remarked butterballs are already brined for you. I've brined my turkeys in the past, but have now realized it's not really worth the effort solely for retaining juiciness. (Brining for flavor is the only reason I would ever want to do that again, and then only if the flavoring will radically stand out.) What matters more is that you do not overcook your bird. I use a remotely monitored meat thermometer to "under-cook" the turkey until the dark meat reads abouts 150-155 degrees (depending on the bird). I then let it rest for 30 minutes and it goes up to a safer temperature, the juices get re-absorbed and the turkey doesn't dry out.

          1. You also shouldn't brine a Kosher turkey as this has already been soaked in salted water as part of the koshering process.