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To Brine or not to brine? . . . that is my question.

I have been brining for the last three years but read two recipes in the LA times and Food and Wine that dont call for brining. One calls for "salting the bird" for three days but I will only have a day - MAYBE two to work with the bird. The other recipe calls for a simple seasoning, herbs, salt and pepper and tucking bacon underneath the skin - this obviously sounds good, but, frankly I just dont know. I am using a Diestel free range turkey - any suggestions to help suade my indecisive mind will be much appreciated.

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  1. We always brine the turkey. The process adds seasoning, salty and flavor to the bird. If you do not use too much salt and seasoning if will serve as a background taste to the turkey itself.

    I just use polutry seasong, salt, brown sugar and some herbs (bay leaf, thyme, sage or whatever tickles my fancy but everythin in the pantry). Boil some water to dissolve the salt, and sugar and blend the herbs then add to a bucket of ice. Brine overnigth at least.

    1. I think it depends on how you cook it. Brining turkey has become so popular because we are trying our darnedest to keep the breast meat form drying out. It's a result of over-engineering our "butterball-ish" turkeys to the point where they are bred for more meat and no flavor. If you're using a good quality bird and cook it at a high temperature for a short period of time, (like 450 for about 2 hours) you're usually ok. Will brining help add flavor and moisture? Of course, but it also takes a good bit of time and effort itself.

      3 Replies
      1. re: HaagenDazs

        The method and cooking time is also very important to the whole process. I also cook at high temperature for a short time and then let it sit in the oven with the oven turned off to complete the process. The temperature and total time will depend on the bird. Then if it a large turkey I will remove the hingquarter and put it back into the oven for a short time to cook.

        Nothing worse then a dry turkey.

        1. re: yimster

          I have a pre brined turkey I ordered and was curious if when I go to cook it if I just dry it off and put it in the oven or if I need to put butter on the outside still, any other seasoning ? Any input?

          1. re: Joels

            I would butter it before I put it into the oven and then one hour into the process I would check the skin and see if it is brown enough for looks and then complete the cooking process. I normally let it rest for a couple of hours to finish the cooking and just prior to serving I base the turkey with some honey and water mixture and heat the bird a little (without over cooking to give it a glaze).

      2. I would definitely brine. It adds so much flavor and is like an insurance policy for the inadvertent over cooking.

        1. I started brining two years ago and I think it makes all the difference in the world. Some people will say with the 'right' bird you don't have to brine and while that may be true, I find with my organic, local, fresh turkeys it still makes a marked difference. I'm a fan of not just salt but a heavy dose of brown sugar in the brine as well. Actually, my favorite brine includes: kosher salt, brown sugar, crushed garlic, peppercorn, onion and a bit of citrus.

          Good luck - why not give it a go? It certainly won't be worse than what you'd make instead and it might be better!

          5 Replies
          1. re: krissywats

            I agree completely. I think the only question is effort/time. If you have the time and desire, go for brining. If not, try a quick roast (no stuffing!) and watch the temps like a hawk.

            1. re: krissywats

              btw - I brined and THEN added a prosciutto hazelnut compound butter under the skin and it was wonderful.....so if you're careful with the amount of salt I don't think there's any reason you can't do both the brine AND the bacon.

              1. re: krissywats

                This is good to know, because I've been brining for the past few years and loving it, but I've also been dying to do a bacon butter under the skin, but have been worried about too much saltiness. I'm going to try it out this year.

                1. re: JasmineG

                  I think it's just important to rinse the bird well and you'll be fine. Good luck!

                  1. re: JasmineG

                    For many years I have been doing a brine along with a stuffing that goes under the skin. In addition to bacon, the stuffing includes sausage along with the regular stuffing ingredients (onion, bread, etc). This seems to assist in keeping the breast meat moist as well.

                    I make sure the turkey is rinsed well to insure it isn't too salty before I stuff it.

              2. I've brined for the last three years, very happy with it. We eat fresh free-range birds, Bronze Heritage this year. My understanding is that brining is especially helpful with the leaner, less breast-heavy, heritage birds.
                Those "butterballish" birds are already brine-injected btw. I don't mess with those things.

                But I'm totally wondering about a Zuni-chicken method salting . . . the "dry brine". Kinda makes you want to cook two birds side-by-side . . .

                6 Replies
                1. re: pitu

                  The "dry-brine" method works great, but you do need 3 days (in my experience). An article I heard on the radio did a comparison test and the "the Judy bird" (in honor of Judy Rogers) came out on top.

                  1. re: Claudette

                    The L.A. Times did a side-by-side comparison of brining, dry salting (the "Judy method"), and high heat roasting, and said that the dry salting won by a landslide.

                    1. re: Amuse Bouches

                      I've brined the last three TG birds, but I'm going to take the LA Times's advice this year and dry-salt it, following the procedure given in the article. I'll have just shy of 3 days, since my "fresh" turkey, when I picked it up yesterday, was basically frozen solid and I had to put it in a bucket of water overnight, and I'm just now getting ready to rub on the salt. I will try to remember to give a report and some pix.

                      1. re: Amuse Bouches

                        Stop the presses! Never heard of dry brining == maybe will give it a go for Xmas!

                        1. re: gridder

                          try the "recipe" (more like a synopsis) on latimes.com food area. I hope it's still on the site. I do it for chiken too and it is the best chicken ever.