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Nov 23, 2009 08:04 AM

Is it necessary to brine a turkey before roasting?


Searching for Thanksgiving Roast Turkey recipes. I've seen recipes that just call for salt/pepper/unsalted butter before roasting and brining turkey 24hrs before roasting. I'm wondering is it necessary to brine before the roast. The two particular recipe I'm looking at is:


What do you think? The first one is Barefoot Contessa's recipe that don't call for brining and the the second is Alton Browns recipe that call for a 24hr brine.

Thanks for all tips and info!

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  1. I have done Ina's and it's delicious without brining. And I have don't either Bobby Flay or Tyler Florence's recipe and brined it overnight. Each year, my turkey was delicious.

    To me, it's a toss up.

    4 Replies
    1. re: mcel215

      Ahhh..thanks! It's good to know. So really no difference with brining or not. I guess I'll just do Ina's Turkey this year for the family. So I have your stamp of approval for Ina's Oven Roast Turkey recipe?

      1. re: Nutzer

        Yes there is a BIG difference IMO. A brined turkey will be juicier and more flavorful. It is not necessary to brine a turkey in order to cook it but you should know that they do come out different. There is even a difference between wet & "dry" brining.

        1. re: sparkareno

          I vastly prefer brined, especially with a heritage bird.
          But it's all good...

        2. re: Nutzer

          Hi Nutzer,
          Well, the only thing that I make sure I buy, is a very good fresh turkey.

          I belong to a message board that is dedicated to Ina Garten and a bunch of us just answered this question. Not one person, from young to old said there was much difference in the brined versus not brined Turkey. And the feedback came from family members as well as board members (about 40 people).

          I am sure you will get many different answers here though! Enjoy your dinner!

      2. If you search this board you will find hours' worth of reading in the many dozens of posts already addressing your question.

        1. I wouldn't say it's necessary to brine a turkey, but I feel like it gives me a little more leeway when roasting it. I don't worry so much about ending up with a dry breast or tasteless meat. Brining adds some saltiness and flavor (depending on the brine) and also keeps the meat moist during cooking.

          As a side note, whether or not you brine really depends on what kind of turkey you're starting with. Some frozen turkeys (and I think kosher ones) have already been brined or injected with a saline solution and brining them just makes it too salty. You'll also have to taste the drippings before turning them into gravy - some people think it makes gravy too salty if you use a brined turkey. I just add unsalted turkey stock and I think it turns out fine.

          1. I had never heard of brining poultry until I started to read this site. It's not something we do in the UK.

            1. No, it certainly is not necessary. It's a matter of personal choice, tastes and preferences as to how you wish to cook a bird.

              Brining suddenly became publicly popular a few years ago. I don't recall anyone I knew brining birds until it became the trend. Then as now, there were folks who could properly cook a turkey, and folks who couldn't.

              I did it once, and I won't do it again. Too much salt for me, and it was an average recipe, in terms of proportion of salt in the brine. I'm trying to find ways to *cut* sodium from my family's diet, not add it. I did *not* like what it did to the turkey's flavor. But at the same time, there are so many people, including many of our posters here, who are obviously very knowledgable and accomplished cooks or chefs and who swear by the process. So I honestly believe it's like many things in cooking--there's no one right answer.

              My SIL hosts T'Day, and I host Christmas. Nevertheless, I got an outstanding deal on a Turkey this week, and it made no sense to pass it by. But I didn't want to cook the whole thing, because I didn't want leftovers, since everyone will be having turkey again on Thursday. Therefore, I cut the bird up, frozen everything but half of the breast, to cook last night. Now, the breast is usually the driest part of the bird, but it was delicious, tender and juicy without brining. I mixed up some spices and herbs with some olive oil, applied to the underside of the breast (the rib cage), on top of the breast skin, and underneath the skin. A small portion of the skin was exposed (my cutting skills could be better), so on that I just put one small piece of slab bacon, during the roasting process. I added produce with high-water content into the roasting pan (onions, celery, an apple, mushrooms and the remains of one orange (whose juice I had squeezed over the spice/oil mixture on the breast). After it had roasted for a while, the veggies/fruit and the bird began to produce juices, so I basted it regularly until it was done. I let it rest probably 20 minutes before cutting. That is the one piece of the bird I would be least hopeful about being juicy when done, but it was.

              But again, I have no doubt that members here are turning out fabulous birds with the brining method. So that's why I think it's a matter of choice.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Normandie

                Dry turkey breast is the bane of roasting a whole bird because the dark meat takes longer to cook. If you have a thermometer, it's simple to produce a juicy breast as long as you are cooking it separately. Brining a separate breast won't create as dramatic a difference in juiciness as brining when roasting a whole bird. In recent years, basting has fallen out of favor. It creates uneven oven heating and slows the rendering of fat from the skin, so it's not as crisp as the skin of unbasted poultry.

                1. re: greygarious

                  I wouldn't know about brining a breast, separately. I wasn't referring to that. I've only brined a whole bird.

                  Yes, I'm aware that dark meat does take longer than white meat to cook, or more properly, the leg and second joint (versus the wing) take longer than the white meat, but through the centuries attentive cooks have produced plenty of moist birds nonetheless, as there are various ways to accomplish a moist breast and done dark meat, in addition to brining's recent surge in popularity. The cheesecloth method has been used, removing the cheesecloth for the last part of the process; slight incisions may be made in the skin between the leg joint and the main body *before* cooking begins; others choose to remove the turkey when the breast is done and let the carry-over heat bring the dark meat to doneness. It's important to understand, whichever method is used, how one's own oven behaves, too.

                  As I said, so many choices are matters of personal preference, greygarious. I'm not sure where basting has fallen out of favor; however, it is not out of favor at my house, for certain recipes and certain cuts of meat under certain methods. Perhaps you wouldn't have found the skin crispy enough, and that again is a matter of personal taste. However, as I noted, I do not baste from the beginning of the process and find that doing it at the end of cooking provides a balance between the juiciness of the meat and the doneness of the skin that we enjoy. Those who wouldn't find the skin crisp enough for their taste always have the option to crisp it up again by running the broiler or high-heat roasting function the last couple of minutes of the cooking. And Some cooks choose to dry-rub the skin with salt ahead of cooking, versus wet brining, to draw the moisture out of the skin, rather than inject the flesh.

                  This isn't an issue where one way is right and is another is wrong. Whatever may be fashionable, it's about personal preferences. OP may or may not find brining preferable; my point is that it is not the only way to produce a good result.