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Brine Virgin: Turkey Breast - Two Questions

Not a brine virgin anymore - I brined for the first time yesterday and cooked today - a turkey breast - about 6lbs. I used a brine mixture I found online which called for one gallon of water and 1 1/2 cups of salt along with 1/2 cup brown sugar and various spices. I brined overnight and rinsed the turkey breast and dried it before roasting this afternoon. Here are the questions:

1. While the breast was very juicy, moist and evenly cooked, I thought some of the meat tasted salty. Did I not rinse it well enough? Do you need to soak it a while? Did the brine mixture I referenced above call for too much salt?

2. We have leftovers and because the meat is a little salty and tastes, well, brined, I wouldn't do my usual turkey leftover stuff - turkey salad, turkey soup, etc. Does anyone have any recipes specific to leftover brined turkey meat?

Thanks all.

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  1. Makes really good turkey salad. Also, Shepard's Pie. Or, throw it in the Crock Pot wtih BBQ sauce for good sandwiches

    1. what kind of salt did you use? I do it with kosher salt & it never has the salty flavor

      1 Reply
      1. re: pamd

        That's the thing - I used kosher salt. That's about all I cook with except for the occasional sea salt. I never use the plain old Morton's iodized stuff.

      2. Hmmm...I'm wondering if you put the salt/sugar mixture in hot water so that it dissolved...my brining sleight of hand involves boiling a smallish portion of water for dissolving the salt and sugar, let it cool, and then add cold water for the remaining amount. My brining mix also includes diced veggies like carrots, onion, leek, fennel, carrot, celery, and I also add coriander seeds, a pinch of cayenne, black peppercorns, pink peppercorns....

        2 Replies
        1. re: 280 Ninth

          The recipe specifically called for ice cold water so no, I didn't use any hot. Do you think that was it? Your brining mixture sounds great. If you'd care to share the specifics, I'd love to try it. I'm definitely not doing this one exactly this way again.

          1. re: laylag

            The recipe is right...you ALWAYS want to brine in cold water. BUT you also want the sugar and salt to dissolve, too, and the best way to do that is to boil a small portion of the water initially to dissolve the sugar/salt, and then cool, add cold water.

            I agree that 1 1/2 cups of salt is a lot. I use half that amount for over one gallon of water. In terms of other things to add, I've always made it up as I went along....a mixture of aromatics, some bay leaf, a bunch of veggies, Gala apple, it all works in my opinion. Good luck...a cooking instrucor told me that it takes ten times to get a recipe right, so you've still got nine lives!

        2. That sounds like too much salt to me. I use 1 cup of Diamond Crystal kosher salt per gallon of water. That's 134 grams. I also add a little sugar, but no more than 2 Tbsp. I don't like any other herbs or spices in the brine, as I find they make the meat taste too much like the additives, and too little of turkey. If I want more flavor, I put it on the surface.

          2 Replies
          1. re: phofiend

            So you just use 1 cup salt, 2 tbsp. sugar per gallon and that's it? Hmmm. Could try that too. Since I'm a novice, I need to try all different ways to figure out what I like the best. So much to try now that I've actually gone ahead, gotten over my "it's too much trouble" attitude and finally done it once, even if my result was not perfect.

            1. re: laylag

              That recipe is my default brine. It works well for all types of creatures, including pork, shrimp, and rabbit, without altering the natural flavor of the meat. I avoid any acid such as fruit juice or wine as I think it makes the meat mushy.

          2. It also depends on how long you brined it. 1 1/2 or even 2 cups of salt works for a quick brine, but I use 1 cup of kosher and 1/2 cup of sugar per gallon for a longer soak. Sugar, IMO, is necessary to enhance the savory flavor, but you can add it to taste. SOme people like even more, others less.

            1:1:1/2 and brine the bird for 8-12 hours.

            The brining process will pull any flavor componenets in your brine into the turkey meat, so don't be shy about using garlic, bay, onion, sage ro anything else that suits you.

            Also remember that Diamond Kosher has even larger crystals than Morton Kosher. Thus less salt will be in a measuring cup of DK than in one of MK. Table salt has the smallest crystals so more of it fits into the measuring cup than the others, thus baking the brine more salty .

            1. It is my understanding that if the size of the salt crytal is uniform the larger the grain the more salt will be in a cup. As an experiment you can pour more water in a bucket full of small marbles than large marbles.

              1 Reply
              1. re: jfish

                Perhaps, then its the size and irregularity of the crystals that creates the difference in density. Kosher salt has larger, more irregularly shaped crystals. When poured into a measuring cup, it will be less dense and less salt will be in the cup when compared with table salt and, thus, the brine will be less salty.

                This is why cooks have to adjust salt measurements to account for the density difference. Here's Cook's Illustrated's formula:

                "Because kosher salt is less dense than table salt and one brand of kosher salt is even less dense than the other, our standard formula must be adjusted. Substitute 2 cups of Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt or 11/2 cups of Morton Kosher Salt for 1 cup of table salt."

              2. I think overnight was too long for that amount of salt. The Cook's Illustrated turkey brine that never fails for me calls for a 4 hour brine, using either 2 cups diamond kosher salt, 1 1/2 c. Morton's kosher salt, or 1 c table salt to 1 gallon of water.
                They do have an overnight recipe that calls for 1/2 cup table salt per gallon of water.

                You might find this helpful:

                http://www.cooksillustrated.com/turke...

                1. It definitely appears that 1 1/2 cups for an overnight brine was too much. I've noticed that about the Morton's kosher vs. Diamond. Interesting for all recipes to adjust salt measurement depending on whether you use kosher or not. I always use kosher and perhaps I shouldn't for baking and where measurements should be very exact.

                  Anyway, I will live to brine again. Thank you to everyone for all your great insight and assistance.

                  1. I used to brine poultry, and gave it up- switched to soaking in buttermilk overnight instead- nice tender meat and no problem with saltiness. You can add flavoring and herbs to the buttermilk if you want.

                    1. When I brined, I used Alton Brown's recipe and the turkey was great..not salty at all. However, I have since been getting a high quality fresh turkey from our grocer and that has made brining unnecessary

                      1. You can also try dry brining ala Zuni Cafe cookbook.