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Brining turkeys- a messy waste of time?

I'm beginning to think that the brining craze is awee joke foisted upon us home cooks by the companies who prepare the thanksgiving turkeys, who have always injected a salt/broth/water solution and I always spent hours looking for turkeys who hadn't been treated that way. Now everybody's doing it themselves, and to tell you the truth I've had a lot of brined meat, often paired with an identical cut that was NOT b rined, and except for maybe a browner skin, nobody has ever been able to tell the difference. If you went out and shot a wild turkey, I can see wanting to force some moisture into the tissue, but honestly, the kind of turkey most of us buy really doesn't need it.

Am I talking out of my vent or not? Discuss.

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  1. Your question really makes me laugh! I have been thinking about that myself.

    I have had everything from the most expensive Turkeys to the small farm raised birds....to the free Butterball that is given when you spend over X amount of dollars. I honestly can't tell much difference in Turkey taste or texture. I think it's all about the cooking technique that please your individual taste (roasted, BBQ, deep fried, etc). I'm sure there will be some that will insist they can smell the difference from 10 blocks away, but I can't.

    It all just tastes like turkey to me.

    1. I wrote off brining when I found that you couldn't make gravy with the drippings.

      Mind you, I regard turkey as a way of producing gravy, stuffing, and home-made stock, rather than an end in itself.

      12 Replies
      1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

        Why can't you make gravy out of the drippings?

        1. re: maxandrick

          because to many of us, all that concentrated salt makes it inedible.

          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

            It has no concentrated salt taste whatsoever, so far, anyway, after several years. I still have to add seasoning to the finished gravy.

            1. re: mcf

              really? the couple of times i've had gravy made from the drippings of a wet-brined turkey it was horrid. i know i'm more sensitive to salt than most people, but even the person who served it to me the last time admitted that the salt level made it pretty much inedible.

              anyway, i saw below that you went for the dry method this year...how did it turn out? i think the texture is much better - wet brines tend to make the meat spongy IMO.

              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                The key to making gravy from a wet brined turkey is to rinse the bird completely inside and out anfter removing from the brine. The first time I wet brined, I didn't rinse it well, and the gravy was very salty. Every other time, it was spot on. Last year, I forgot to rinse a turkey after brining, and again, gravy was too salty.

                I don't think there's that much salt that enters the meat from brining - a little, yes, but not a ton. Yes, some of that salt will come out as the meat cooks into the pan drippings, but again, not a ton. Residual salt from a poorly rinsed bird - particularly any brine remaining in the cavity, which can be tricky to get out, is most likely to contribute to a salty gravy. At least in my experience.

                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                  Maybe it's because I very thoroughly rinse the brined turkey inside and out, but it added no salt to stuffing nor gravy on any occaion that I didn't deep fry it. The deep fried meat isn't salty, either, only the crispy skin, which I add salty seasoning to prior to frying.

                  I've never made a brined turkey that came out spongy, but I did taste one that had been pre brined by the store; it was water logged, spongy and a weird pinkish shade. That's a result of brining too long as I said earlier.

                  The dry brining is something I've done twice; still get a moister bird, a super crispy skin after letting it air dry in the fridge for at least 24 hours after rinsing off the salt. Avoiding soaking up a seasoned brine puddle with my jeans while wrestling a big ziplock bag on the floor is a Very Big Plus for this method.

                  BTW, after decades of cooking low salt, I'm extremely sensitive to the taste, too, though I use more of it now than I used to.

                  1. re: mcf

                    But you don't get the lovely citrus herb flavor I get! :)

                    1. re: Funwithfood

                      I did use a dry brine with lemon zest and herbs a couple of years ago, or last year, found on the dry brining discussion on CH, I think. It was very good. :-)

          2. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

            "Mind you, I regard turkey as a way of producing gravy, stuffing, and home-made stock, rather than an end in itself."
            I couldn't agree more!

            1. re: iheartcooking

              Me, too.

              Count me in with the "brining is just a fad" crowd. I do think heritage turkeys taste better, but the last couple of years in addition to our fancy turkey on Thanksgiving I've had a second meal where I've cooked the cheap turkey an indigent friend of mine brought from a food bank for him and it came out just fine -- this year's was the prettiest turkey I ever made!

              I don't think brining is necessary to ensure moist meat -- just don't over cook it!

              1. re: iheartcooking

                I just said this to my Wife last night!

                Roast turkey meat is meh to me, but I love the gravy, stuffing, soup (and of course slicing up some of that cranberry jelly and putting it on top of the turkey)

              2. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                No problem making gravy. Make sure to rinse the turkey after brining and don't add any salt to the gravy (or the broth) and it should be fine. Mine always is.

              3. I'm in the brining camp. In the last 6 years, I've done some turkeys and other large chunks of meat wet brined, some not. The source of the turkey has varied somewhat, so it's not a very precise experiment, but my experience suggests that brining does in fact work - meat is juicier when brined. For any doubters, check out some of the Cook's Illustrated work on the effects of brining. If I remember correct, they've taken several turkeys, brined some and not others, cooked them all identical, and then determined moisture content. Again, if I remember right, brined meat retained more moisture than non-brined meat.

                That being said, of course brining is not absolutely necessary, nor is the end-all-be-all. Quality of meat product and cooking technique are probably more important. But I've found it's a very useful technique, under the right circumstances.

                For what it's worth, some "experiments" suggest that dry brining is as effective (or nearly so), and a lot easier.

                1. I love Thanksigiving, but ironically I'm not a big fan of Turkey. Three years ago my father brined a turkey for 24 hours and other than the deep fried turkey we had the following year, it was easily the best, most succulent turkey I had ever had. Not even close to what a normal supermarket turkey tastes like.

                  1. In the interest of full disclosure, I'm not much of a fan of turkey in the first place so maybe that has a lot to do with my response: brining turkey seemed a lot more trouble than it was worth when I did it. First heating all the liquid, then cooling it, then putting the brine and bird in a large enough container and keeping it cold. A lot of trouble, and I still wasn't crazy about the turkey. (One of the best turkeys I ever tasted was cooked in a Reynolds bag.)