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Can I brine my turkey?

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I have a frozen ShopRite store brand turkey and all it says is "up to 6% retained water, no additives, minimally processed". Is this considered a saltwater solution like the Butterball turkeys? I would like to brine my turkey using Alton Brown's recipe, but I'm not sure if I can.

I don't want salty.

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  1. Sweetea25, this is an opinion which is based on my understanding of brining but is not something I have put to the test in the real world.

    Brining is about creating a balance between the salty solution on the outside of the turkey and the less salty liquid in the interior. Through osmosis, the cells allow the outside liquid (the brine) into the turkey until the salt concentration in the brine outside the turkey matches the salt concentration of the liquid in the cells on the inside of the turkey.

    In other words, there is going to be an equilibrium in the salt concentration inside and outside the turkey. This is what you want to have happen.

    It doesn't sound as if brine had been added to the turkey while it was processed. The "up to 6% retained water" just sounds as if the turkey was injected (or soaked) with water prior to freezing. But even if the turkey was injected with brine, or soaked to get more brine into it, it does not seem to me that it should matter. After you put the turkey in your own brine, if the interior of the turkey was more salty than the brine that you use, the turkey will lose salt. If the interior of the turkey was less salty than your brine, it will gain salt.

    Therefore, brining your turkey should not make the finished product any saltier than the brine that you use. I hope that this helps, and in the words of Sir Thomas More in "A Man for All Seasons," "I trust I make myself obscure." Good luck!

    2 Replies
      1. re: gfr1111

        I agree that it sounds as if the OP's turkey was not injected with a seasoned (salty) solution. I'm puzzled why not, if they're going to inject at all. But if the label says water, then it's just water. Most labels say something more like "seasoned solution."

        However, I would actually disagree a bit about brining an already brine-injected bird. gfr's description of brining process is correct, as far as I know, but I don't think the goal is ever to make the bird as salty as the brine. Wouldn't that be over the top? Brines are very salty!

        That's why brining instructions generally tell you not to soak something too long. If perfect equillibrium of salt levels were the goal, there could be no such thing as soaking too long. And in fact, the only oversalty turkeys I've had were when I brined already injected birds.

        Alas, It's getting hard to find uninjected birds around here...

      2. In mass poultry production the birds are dipped in cold or nearly freezing water to quickly cool them, that is where the "up to 6% retained water" comes from. It is not a brine, the bird is not injected, and you can certainly brine the turkey yourself.

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