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Am I the only one who doesn't like a brined bird?

wyf4lyf Nov 23, 2006 04:36 AM

Brining seems to be all the rage these days. But I don't like the way the brining changes the texture of the meat. It doesn't taste real to me...it tastes processed. Yes it's moist, but in a fake way. I used Emeril's brine a few years ago and the ingredients were good, and the flavor was fine, but the texture was awful. And I didn't overbrine....I followed the instructions.

I way give me a fresh, free-range, non-antibiotic, not-injected-with-solution-of any-kind bird and it will be flavorful, moist and wonderful.

Am I alone in my madness??


  1. m
    MakingSense Nov 23, 2006 04:48 AM

    If the texture of the meat changes, you're brining it too long.
    I brine only overnight - 8 to 12 hours max. for a really large turkey. I use only kosher salt. And I just don't buy that flavorings, sugar, spices make that much difference - all those can be added after brining with the same effect.
    Have been doing this for decades, started doing it with wild game before I tried it with a turkey.

    1. jillp Nov 23, 2006 01:18 PM

      You are not alone; I dislike brined meats and it is certainly not due to overbrining. I've tried brining a few times and found that while the meat is wonderfully tender and can have good flavor, the actual texture of the meat is altered in an unpleasant way.

      1. l
        lyn Nov 23, 2006 01:51 PM

        nope not alone. I think it taste like deli lunch meat or something. I love Zuni dry brine on chicken, but hate cooks illistrated wet brine for chicken. I think it has less to do with whether it was prepared right or wrong than personal taste. I don't know what compelled me to try again this year...maybe all the hype. Anyway I prepared the 12-24 brine (this year with even less salt) with course sea salt and 5 hours into the process I panicked and aborted the mission. I paid big bucks for a free range and I decided to let this puppy shine. So I know my 5 hour brine could not have ruined it, but will be curious if it impart any flavor at all. Have a great thanksgiving everyone!

        2 Replies
        1. re: lyn
          wyf4lyf Nov 23, 2006 04:25 PM

          Exactly what I thought -- it tasted like deli lunch meat. To each his own!

          Happy T-Day everyone!

          1. re: lyn
            choctastic Nov 23, 2006 05:29 PM

            I agree, the Zuni dry brine method is the best. Actually Cooks Illustrated's latest edition did the zuni dry brine technique and they admitted it tasted more like turkey and texture was less spongy. I have to agree.

            LA Times' Russ Parsons did 4 techniques to cook turkey and the zuni way came out on top.

          2. Candy Nov 23, 2006 04:39 PM

            For me brining = poor texture and flavor.

            1. l
              lyn Nov 23, 2006 06:36 PM

              my weak 1/2 as salty 5 hour brine did no harm. Turkey was great..but I am sure glad I pulled it out though as the texture was starting to already head to a bad place. who knows I may have liked it better w/o any brine at all. I also let it dry uncovered in the fridge for a day. I don't mean to sound catty or anything, but I think our tastebuds are getting so accostomed to processed foods that the brined turkeys appeal to a lot of peoples taste. as I mentioned,I think dry brined chicken is a whole other animal though.

              1. TorontoJo Nov 23, 2006 06:38 PM

                I'm with you too, wyf4lyf. I've never been happy with a wet brine. A dry brine, on the other hand, is great. I'm trying a dry brine on a large bone-in turkey breast for today. Hope that turns out well. And yes, despite my name, I also have U.S. citizenship, so I get to have TWO Thanksgivings a year!

                1. m
                  MakingSense Nov 23, 2006 10:25 PM

                  Kosher chicken is an example of brining done properly. Many non-Jews seek them out because they are juicy with an excellent texture.
                  Most of the recipes that people have invented recently use far too much salt, or the wrong types of salt, and leave the poultry in the solution too long in an effort to introduce other flavoring into the meat in the manner of a marinade. So following bad instructions perfectly still gets you nowhere.

                  If done properly, the physics work and moisture enters the cells of the meat without changing the texture. Otherwise, you might as well buy cold cuts. And that's what a lot of badly brined turkeys do taste like.

                  1. k
                    KRS Nov 24, 2006 12:57 PM

                    The NY Times finally gave in this year and recommended cooking the breast to 150, rather than the styrofoam-and-sawdust 180 the schoolmarms at the FDA used to recommend, or even the dried-out 165 they recommend now. As the breast rests, it stabilizes to 165, which kills any bacteria, and you have time to take off and finish roasting the legs.

                    Any water at all starts you down the slippery slope to Wendy's boiled burgers. IMHO, the only proper amount of water added to meat is ZERO.

                    1. e
                      ElizabethS Nov 24, 2006 02:23 PM

                      I've tried it a couple of times and while the meat is OK I find the gravy too salty (and I like salt). I do like brined pork roast, though.

                      1. Andiereid Nov 24, 2006 02:26 PM

                        I'm not a fan of brining turkey. I do brine some cuts of pork and find that it improves the meat, but I figure since I'm starting out with a tougher meat than a turkey, that makes sense. I think brining a turkey makes it a little too mushy.

                        1. hotoynoodle Nov 24, 2006 02:34 PM

                          had my first brined turkey yesterday. not a fan. the skin is not crispy, and the leg was not completely cooked. btw, they didn't remove the legs and cook them longer -- a comment i just noticed here.

                          1. NYchowcook Nov 24, 2006 02:39 PM

                            Yup, give me a natural free-range turkey or good quality local humane pork, and it cooks to perfection w/o brining!

                            1. toodie jane Nov 24, 2006 11:39 PM

                              I'd rather use lots of herbs/seeds and savory veggies on poultry to add flavor than to inject salt into the meat. To me salt is better applied to the finished cooked meat rather than within the raw.

                              1. s
                                scott123 Nov 26, 2006 07:20 AM

                                Brining is popular for two reasons

                                1. The heavy endorsement of chain smoking celebrity chefs who need to add as much salt as possible in order to taste the food.

                                2. Brined birds are less likely to be overcooked/dry. This larger roasting window is appealing to huge numbers of inexperienced, paranoid 'I only know how microwave' cooks.

                                Salt detanures (cooks) proteins. Although brining adds water/moisture, it basically pre-cooks the meat, resulting in a tougher end product. Moist but tough. An extreme example of brining is deli meat. Deli meat has a huge amount of liquid in it, but it's tender only because it's sliced thin and against the grain. A thickly sliced piece of deli meat is both hard to cut and hard to chew.

                                Brining is impairment. There isn't a quantity of time/brine/salt where the process enhances and a point beyond that where the process impairs. It's only a matter of slightly impaired meat that's not that noticeable and heavily impaired meat that is. Any amount of salt and water takes the meat in the direction of deli meat. If you love deli meat, you'll love brining. Me, if I want deli meat, I go to the deli. Otherwise, I prefer the opaque succulence of an unbrined properly roasted bird.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: scott123
                                  DanaB Nov 26, 2006 09:30 AM


                                  I have to say, I'm not a routine briner, but one of my favorite chicken recipes involves it, and it does not end up with a deli meat flavor at all. Rather, it ends up with a succulent, juicy, tasty bird.

                                  Maybe you've been the victim of overbrining?

                                  1. re: scott123
                                    jasmurph Nov 26, 2006 11:19 AM

                                    I'm not sure which group you think Thomas Keller belongs in--chian smoker who needs lots of salt or inexperienced microwaver--but he has a recipe for brine in the Bouchon cookbook that is great. Granted it's for chicken and pork, no mention of turkey, but my point is a drop of temperance might go some way on this topic.

                                    1. re: jasmurph
                                      scott123 Nov 28, 2006 10:15 AM

                                      So, you have irrefutable proof that chef Keller doesn't smoke? I'd love to see it :)

                                    2. re: scott123
                                      lyn Nov 26, 2006 01:07 PM

                                      scott123 so with you. And as I nibble on the leftovers I am beginning to agree even my very brief weak,wet brine began to send things down hill. There are only a few of us that make the lunch meat analogy but it is quite true-even though everyone says we must have overbrined (not..unless you concider any brining over brining which I think I do). still I think the zuni, dry chicken brine is good (but not necessary if the cooking process goes flawlessly) good point about restaurent chefs recommnending this-your argument makes sense.

                                    3. a
                                      Ace_Mclean Nov 26, 2006 01:24 PM

                                      I'm kinda thinking the same thing as DanaB. I'v'e brined and I've not brined. I've noticed no appreciable difference in actual texture, and certainly never lunch meat results. The brined birds I've cooked have somewhat better flavor and are actually slightly more moist. The major difference that I've noticed is that the gravy tastes better.

                                      I'm sure there's some place I could research the science of it. But as I understand it, if you taste salty lunch meat then you have experienced an over-brined bird.

                                      1. LordOfTheGrill Nov 26, 2006 06:57 PM

                                        We've brined our turkey five years running, and we'll never go back to the old way. Brined some ribs last summer, and everybody said they were the best ribs they'd ever eaten.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: LordOfTheGrill
                                          Kari Nov 27, 2006 05:09 PM

                                          Us too, we started brining a few years ago and everyone loves it, and we are not inexperienced, paranoid 'I only know how microwave' cooks.

                                          1. re: LordOfTheGrill
                                            mwalton Nov 27, 2006 09:24 PM

                                            We also started brining our turkey 4 years ago using Alton Brown's recipe and have always had a good outcome. His recipe calls for an overnight brine in a veggie stock and then stuffing the turkey with aromatics including apples, onions and a cinnamon stick. We love it.

                                          2. c
                                            christy319 Nov 26, 2006 07:46 PM

                                            I've never experience a brined turkey that tasted tough or like lunchmeat, either. But people do taste things differently-anyone see the Tony Bourdain show on Ferran Adria, where some people reacted violently to one very bitter substance, while others tasted absolutely nothing bitter whatsoever?-so it's not shocking to me that some might not like brined turkey.

                                            For the poster that had un-crisp skin, though, that has nothing to do with brining. I'm a crisp skin fanatic, and there are certain things you do with chicken or turkey to get the skin crisp (make sure the skin is dry, air dry it in the fridge, push your fingers between the skin and meat). Brining doesn't influence this either way.

                                            1. m
                                              momjamin Nov 26, 2006 08:03 PM

                                              I heard Harold McGee on radio (as part of a series of prepping for turkey day) say that he didn't care for brining because it made the whole bird taste the same (and salty), and you didn't get the distinction between the light and dark meat.

                                              I haven't tried it yet, but had only heard good things from all kinds of sources until this McGee spot.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: momjamin
                                                scott123 Nov 28, 2006 10:20 AM

                                                For years I had Harold McGee pegged as a typical food science pro-briner (a la Alton Brown or Shirley Corriher). He totally blew me away when he stated that brining was 'not his preference.'

                                              2. r
                                                ricepad Nov 27, 2006 04:31 PM

                                                My brother (a pretty good cook for an amateur!) loves to brine turkeys. I have never had the heart to tell him I thought they tasted like ham.

                                                1. Scagnetti Nov 27, 2006 07:45 PM

                                                  I brined before it was fashionable but I don't do it anymore. People TELL me that the turkey is moister but I can't tell that much of a difference and brining is a pain in the neck so I don't do it anymore.

                                                  Don't tell Christopher Kimball I said this, he's a brine bigot.

                                                  1. a
                                                    amoncada Nov 27, 2006 09:45 PM

                                                    If you cook your chicken or turkey with the breast side down for the first half, you eliminate the need for brining. This method is the only method you need to keep your meat juicy and tender. Give it a whirl...you will not be disappointed!

                                                    I too dislike texture that brining gives to the meat and it's very time consuming.

                                                    1. m
                                                      Mr. Cookie Nov 27, 2006 10:02 PM

                                                      I dry-brined a turkey this TG a la Zuni, a little less than 3 tablespoons Kosher salt for an 18-lb. bird. The meat came out tasting fine, perhaps even more tender than usual, but not as juicy as some free-range turkeys I've cooked w/o salting first in the past.

                                                      My main complaint this time was that the pan drippings were too salty to make a good gravy. And how do you serve TG dinner w/o gravy? I made it anyway but it was too salty..

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: Mr. Cookie
                                                        TorontoJo Nov 28, 2006 12:24 PM

                                                        I "zuni'd" a whole turkey breast. For the gravy, I made stock from parts a couple of days in advance, with no added salt, then made a roux-based gravy with the stock. On t-day, I poured out the salty fat and juice and deglazed the roasting pan with some plain stock and added that to the gravy. The extra saltiness of the deglazing liquid perfectly balanced out the slightly bland gravy.

                                                        1. re: TorontoJo
                                                          Mr. Cookie Nov 28, 2006 05:32 PM

                                                          Your method sounds like it's worth a try, thanks. I don't know that it will produce that nice, dark gravy that pan drippings make, but at least it won't be oversalted.

                                                      2. l
                                                        luckygirl Nov 28, 2006 12:52 AM

                                                        I am in the camp of folks who aren't fond of brining. I really dislike how it changes the texture.

                                                        I have found the same change in texture in Kosher turkeys and chicken.

                                                        1. spigot Nov 28, 2006 04:54 AM

                                                          Haha ha ha ha - love this thread.

                                                          Especially scott123; you are fab. And ricepad; I have been there too.

                                                          I hate brining. Love to see the backlash gather steam :-)

                                                          1. a
                                                            Ace_Mclean Nov 28, 2006 12:21 PM

                                                            Food is an amazing animal (pun intended).

                                                            Those of us who don't like brining say we don't like how it changes the texture, yet those of us who do like it don't report any noticeable texture change.

                                                            How can this be?

                                                            1) Brining does change the texture somewhat, but in a way that is acceptible to brining lovers, who therefor don't really notice it.

                                                            2) Proper brining does not really change the texture, so those who dislike it are really reporting bad experiences with bad brines.

                                                            I find myself in the like brining category. My white and dark meat are fork tender, and not salty.
                                                            I do cook several turkey's a year and don't always brine, so I like it both ways. I usually only do so when I have the time and have planned it out in advance.

                                                            Is it possible this is not one of those right way/wrong way discussions? Perhaps it really is a matter of taste rather than skill and quality?

                                                            1. g
                                                              gourmaniac Nov 28, 2006 04:53 PM

                                                              Nice thread and clearly a controversial topic. I'm on the not brining side. It seems to me that roasting is all about timing. Brining makes it easier to have a moist product but it doesn't compare to a perfectly roasted bird or pork loin. I agree that brining causes a certain sameness to the taste that i find a little boring. Turkeys are especially difficult because of the size and the white/dark differential. I've occasionally brined a turkey breast (making the white meat tolerable) but never brined a whole bird.

                                                              1. m
                                                                MikeG Nov 28, 2006 05:31 PM

                                                                I've never brined a whole bird, but didn't like the pieces I tried a couple of times, way back when this whole brining thing was first coming into vogue. The meat was "moist", but in a weirdish, almost watery way, not a "proper amount of fat in the meat" way. Basically it tasted like kosher chicken from the supermarket, which I find almost inedibly salty. But then I am very sensitive to the taste of salt. Brined pork chops are pretty good, maybe because pork is a denser meat and the salt doesn't penetrate it quite as completely, but the texture still wasn't any better than just cooking it carefully in the first place, to avoid overcooking.

                                                                1. e
                                                                  echo Nov 28, 2006 09:47 PM

                                                                  thanks ace mclean for the helpful mediation. i'd agree that overbrining (specifically injection) definitely changes texture in the gelatinous direction of canned ham. deft brining seems to have the potential of minimizing this effect, while increasing the likelihood of getting a moist end product without relying on pitch perfect timing and roasting technique.

                                                                  but in either case, you have to be a deft briner, or a deft roaster to put a good bird on the table. so if i had to choose which path to take, i'd enroll in the more natural, less interventionist classic roast school.

                                                                  the drawback appears to be that apprenticeship would be littered with mistakes of sawdust rather than the marginally more useful oscar meyer.

                                                                  (but of course, i've leapfrogged the whole question by changing TG tradition to standing rib roast of buffalo. that's my real recommendation)

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