Dry-Brining Question, help needed
Hey, I have to go to Japan on business next week, so we're doing Thanksgiving a week early. Bought a frozen turkey on Friday and defrosted it in the fridge until last night (I know frozen is not ideal, but I understood it to ultimately be okay with this technique). Following the LA Times dry brining article, I salted the turkey last night (1 tbsp/5 lbs). When my roommate took out the turkey this morning to massage the salt in (about 15 hours from salting), he was alarmed by how mushy the texture of the turkey had become. I checked it and he was right, the turkey is mushy all over, feels completely different than from last night. Neither of us have experience with turkey, but it's *really* mushy, like incredibly noticeable.
Is this normal and part of the process, or is my turkey ruined? I was going to cook it on Wednesday; should I cook it sooner to avert spoilage? It still smells normal, it just feels broken down. Is there a way to salvage mushy turkey?
I'm freaking out. Help would be very much appreciated.
It's probably mushy because the cells were frozen, and are now broken down a bit from the thawing process. It will "feel different" as hbgrrl points out, but I've never had a mushy bird. After dry brining for 3 days or so, it should be a little dried out, with some moisture & blood (or just pink water really) on the paper towel, that's under the rack it's elevated on) with the skin nice & dry, and the salt crystals (kosher or coarse only) barely noticeable.
I doubt that it's going to spoil or anything, but I would make sure to dry brine it UNCOVERED to air dry it and let any excess water that the damaged cells cannot take back in, to evaporate. That will help with browning & crisping the skin. as long as it's in the coldest part of your fridge, you should be fine.
I'm not an expert by any mean. I only did a dry brine for the first time last year and don't have much memory of the process. I do remember, however, that it's a 3-day process. The first couple days the turkey is giving off juices to equalize the salinity. The last day it is taking the salty juices up again.
It could be that you're reacting to it prematurely somewhere within that complete cycle.
Remembering that we liked the turkey I dry-brined last year, I'd be of stout heart and carry on through the whole cycle.
The brining process DOES change the structure of the turkey chemically. So, yes, it will feel different. If you're really worried, you can rinse the turkey today, keep it covered and then let it air dry in the fridge uncovered Tuesday night. Then Wednesday you'll be good to go.
BTW, I've wet brined and dry brined, and your turkey feeling mushy is what I've found with the wet brining process. It's actually more of a spongey texture, right?
I don't think your turkey is'bad'. I think with the turkey being the frozen kind, it may be injected with other liquids, and the salt increased the amount of fluid in the turkey.
I'm sure it will be fine...just don't add any additional salt when you're cooking it, imho.
Ok, thanks very much for the reply hb grrl. I was freaking out enough that I went next door and got the grandma to come look at my turkey. She looked at it, felt it, and then stuck her arm in the cavity and told me it wasn't defrosted all the way, and the defrosted texture was normal. So, basically I'm a complete idiot, and the reason it felt so much firmer last night was because it was still partially frozen.
Now what I'm worried about is that the already absorbed salt will hold the excess liquid from freezing. Does it work that way? If so, I assume that would be bad all around. I'll definitely try the air drying regardless, hopefully that will dry out anything that isn't supposed to be there (idk, just kind of confused at this point.)
There's no such thing as "excess water". What you're trying to accomplish with the brining process is to get the turkey to take on additional water that will be converted magically to "juiciness" when the meat is cooked. Brining adds flavor but it's also the remedy to meat that tends to dry out as it cooks.
It's going to be good! Just carry on. ;>