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I've never brined a turkey . . .

  • CindyJ Nov 10, 2011 06:08 AM
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...or anything else, for that matter. Does it really make that much of a difference? I'll be roasting a fresh 12-14 pounder. If I brined it, where could I do it? In the kitchen sink? In the bathtub? I need a crash course in brining. Can anyone help? Thanks!

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  1. I brine my birds in a tall, sports type cooler, and let it rest in the garage. Makes a huge difference in moistness and texture, I think. Always use AB's technique:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uiSfKD...

    1 Reply
    1. re: BiscuitBoy

      AB's method all the way! Ditto others on the 5 gallon bucket idea.

    2. For containers, you can line a five-gallon bucket with a food-grade bag or garbage bag, or just go with a clean bucket dedicated to this operation; or if you have a picnic cooler (with drain spout is nice), that helps with insulation, and it is the optimal choice.

      Take note of your bird's labeling info: if it's already injected with a salty solution, go light on the brine time or even just skip it. Otherwise you can get an-oversalty bird and make a pan gravy way too salty.

      1. I have a 5 gallon bucket that I keep in a storage closet that has TURKEY written on it. Alton Brown does have the best brine recipe.

        1. My mom cooked Thanksgiving for decades before we tried a brine when I first got into cooking. She now swears it's the best, simplest change for preventing dried out turkey and will never skip it again. We had a hot Thanksgiving 2 years ago and couldn't leave the bird outside in a bucket like normal, so we bought those giant liner bags for crock pots and brined it in the bag in the fridge, much like marinating. We put the whole bird in the bag, filled with brine, knotted it tight, bagged it again, then placed it in the roasting pan to catch leaks. We just had to turn it several times since it wasn't fully submerged. Just wanted to share that bucket-alternative!

          1. I really do think it makes a difference...I'm not a big fan of turkey, but back when we thought we HAD to have one, I used to brine it overnight and it was much tastier. There are a lot of brine recipes out there, and you can toss in lots of flavor-enhancers, like mashed garlic cloves, bay leaves, pepper (though I found out the hard way that poultry & peppercorns don't mix...no matter how well you rinse & check the turkey after brining, there's always some sneaky little peppercorn still stuck somewhere...grind it!), citrus juice or zest, or some sort of fruit (had a friend who did an apple juice brine on her turkey...it got very dark in the oven but was delicious)...I just brine in a big old garbage bag and toss it in some ice in a washtub (I'm alarmingly casual about food-borne pathogens, I know). You CAN leave it in the garage or porch if you live somewhere cold, but beware...raccoons and possums like turkey (yep, speaking from experience. I thought the side porch was secure. It wasn't). I think once you try brining you won't ever NOT do it...for me it seems to make a huge difference for poultry and for pork, as well.

            1. As the others have said, brining is a great choice and makes all the difference. Again, check the label carefully and make sure it says "All Natural" and the words "Basted" or "Enhanced" or "Solution" do not appear anywhere. If they do, it means it's already effectively been brined and if you do as well, it'll come out too salty.

              Even if you brine with nothing but salt and water it'll be great. You don't need an elaborate brine. A half-cup Kosher Salt per one gallon of water for an overnight soak is enough to enhance flavor and juiciness without making the meat taste salty. If you use Table (Normal) Salt, remember that it is twice as salty as Kosher Salt so you use half as much, or 1/4 cup per gallon of water. This seems like less than most brines, but you have a small bird and going overnight you don't need a very strong brine. The other flavors may not come through very much and many people feel they are a waste of time after all that work. Any sugar in the brine (fruit juice, etc) will make the skin turn very dark which can be good but can burn.

              You can use an ice chest, as others have said, or a food-grade plastic bucket with a lid available at restaurant supply stores. If it's cold enough where you live and you are concerned about critters getting to it, you can lock it in your car trunk overnight.

              4 Replies
              1. re: acgold7

                The trunk? Of the car? Oh lord, acgold7, you are a genius! Why didn't I think of that?

                1. re: tonifi

                  I admit I didn't think it up. I think I heard it on the radio, possibly from the late great Paul Harvey.

                  The weather here in Seattle this week is perfect for this... lows around 28 at night and daytime highs around 40, so I have three Gobblers brining in 5-gallon lidded restaurant containers and two huge stockpots of Turkey Stock cooling on the back porch as we speak.

                  1. re: acgold7

                    Oh, think of how disappointed the foxes would have been if I had done that my first brining year!

                  2. re: tonifi

                    yes, truly brilliant thinking!

                2. I have limited fridge space and a small apartment, so the one and only time I wet-brined a turkey, I bought a new plastic garbage can for the purpose, washed it well and kept it filled with ice. After Thanksgiving the garbage can got washed again and is now used for garbage - because I will NEVER wet brine a turkey again! The following year I adopted a technique known as "dry-brining," where you rub the bird with a generous amount of salt, then wrap it tightly in plastic and let it sit in the fridge for a day or two. The day before T-day, you uncover and let the skin dry out. The salt draws moisture out of the meat, and the tight plastic wrap holds the resulting salty juices close to the meat. The salty liquid is (partially) drawn back into the meat through osmosis, so that the turkey is nicely seasoned throughout. This method also avoids the sponginess that can result from a wet brine, and the skin-drying step creates incredibly crisp skin. SO MUCH EASIER than a wet brine!!!!!

                  12 Replies
                  1. re: biondanonima

                    This is another excellent alternative method. And if you have an injected/basted (frozen) bird like a Butterball, you can do this but omit the salt. Just use the seasonings of your choice. The herbs and spices will permeate throughout. Well worth doing even if you don't brine or salt.

                    1. re: biondanonima

                      I mean to try dry-brining, too. But I should add that you can wet brine a bird and then air-dry it for a day in the fridge, too. The skin crisps very well that way, as well. I haven't noticed sponginess in my birds over 20 years now, but I wonder if that might happen when an already treated bird is then further brined?

                      1. re: Bada Bing

                        I've heard/seen several complaints from people that wet brining imparts a spongy texture - not sure if they were re-brining an already brined bird, or if perhaps they left the bird in the brine too long and it just got waterlogged? Regardless, the dry process is so much easier that I will never go back! You are right though, that you can leave a wet-brined bird uncovered to dry and you'll still get that nice crispy skin...which in my opinion is the only part of the turkey worth eating!

                        1. re: biondanonima

                          wet-brining does make the meat a little spongy, but it's the kind of thing you'd only notice in a side-by-side test. dry-brining is a whole lot better, though, and so much easier.

                      2. re: biondanonima

                        a few years back had a wet-brined turkey at a friend's. i could not stand the texture and the skin lacked that crispy crunch that i love. (if only they sold just turkey skin!)

                        i dry brine birds all the time to much acclaim. it also takes up far less valuable fridge space since i don't have an outdoors or a garage.

                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                          Does wet brining always prevent the skin from getting crispy?

                          1. re: CindyJ

                            am thinking my friend just brined til t-day and never air-dried after, which would help crisp the skin. but i found the flesh texture unpleasant so have never bothered with the wet-brine production.

                            1. re: hotoynoodle

                              Okay, so now I'm thinking that there's more to successful brining than just soaking the bird in brine. What do I need to know about air drying? For how long? In the fridge or somewhere else? I'm not willing to compromise on crispy skin. Will (wet) brining work for me?

                              1. re: CindyJ

                                when i have time, i dry-brine any kind of bird. the salt pulls moisture out of the skin, and this can be done while air-drying. the lack of humidity in the fridge also pulls water out of the skin, so it's a combo effect. overnight is usually enough, but 2 nights is awesome. oh, definitely in the fridge. however, i move the meat out of the fridge for at least an hour to room temp before roasting. yeah, i know pathogens, blah, blah. meat cooks better and more evenly when it's not icebox cold and i've never killed anyone yet.

                                1. re: CindyJ

                                  After you take it out of the brine, season with your favorite herbs and spices and let air-dry in the fridge for at least one day, preferably two, on a rack. Skin will be crisp and delicious after roasting.

                          2. re: biondanonima

                            blond, this is so interesting.just salt, no sugar etc? most brines include salt, sugar, flavorings, water.

                            1. re: opinionatedchef

                              For it to technically be a "brine" (as has been discussed ad nauseum on this board), it has to include water. However, with this technique, the juices that seep out of the bird itself dissolve the salt and do create a sort of super-concentrated brine, which is partially reabsorbed by the bird due to osmosis. You can certainly add herbs/flavorings with this method, and I don't see any reason why you couldn't add sugar too if you wanted - but it's the absence of additional water that makes this method super-convenient and avoids the issue of waterlogged or spongy meat.

                          3. Brining does work great, but check out the other post about cooking breast side down, its much juicier and cuts out all the additional abosrbed salt

                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/815779

                            8 Replies
                            1. re: ROCKLES

                              That's another technique I highly recommend and always do, but they're not mutually exclusive. You always need some salt anyway, so whether you get it in and on the bird via dry or wet brining or just putting it on the outside via your seasoning mix, you can't just shove it in the oven without any salt at all. The advantage of the brining process is it gets the salt deep inside the meat so every bite has flavor, not just the skin. If it tastes "salty," you've used too much. Salt is there to enhance the flavor, not make the bird taste like salt.

                              1. re: acgold7

                                I am wondering if one could "brine" a Butterball turkey in only water and spices/herbs, but no salt, in order to have the spice/herb flavor penetrate the turkey meat. Any thoughts on that.

                                1. re: Wtg2Retire

                                  Others may disagree, but my experience is that not much of the herbal flavors will actually get into the meat this way. I've had better luck, as I wrote above, by actually dry-rubbing with an herb and spice mix and letting it dry-season for a few days in the fridge. You get crisper skin this way as well.

                                  1. re: Wtg2Retire

                                    The way I've heard the theory of wet-brining described, it wouldn't serve as a way to flavor a Butterball. The idea (I crib from Alton Brown and others) is that flavor elements take a ride into the meat with a salty solution that only enters the meat in the first place because it is saltier than the meat itself.

                                    I've been led to suppose that, in reverse, soaking a brined item in plain water would have the effect of removing salt and perhaps some other flavors from the meat. That is, in fact, how people often prepare country ham for baking (soak it in changes of fresh water over a few days to remove salt).

                                    1. re: Wtg2Retire

                                      It won't work. A dry rub would be ok, though. Flavors don't "penetrate" meat, they just stick to the outside.

                                      1. re: Wtg2Retire

                                        Thank you all for your replies. Won't bother trying it. Will just rub in some herbs and spices and air-dry in fridge for a couple of days.

                                        1. re: Wtg2Retire

                                          The salt is what makes it work, so no.

                                          1. re: C. Hamster

                                            Hi WTG2RETIRE,

                                            Hamster is 100% correct. The salt-water is the vehicle that allows moisture and other seasonings to be pulled into the meat fibers. I hope that you give it a shot - it's super easy and you'll love the results. Even a mere 6 hour brine will yield a nice improvement in flavor and moisture.

                                    2. Well, judging from the posts here, it seems like brining is the way to go. I'll be roasting a fresh turkey, so I don't think I need to be concerned about over-salting. I have an old picnic cooler that will work just fine -- I hadn't even thought of that -- but could someone say a little more about keeping the bird cool? If I fill the cooler with the brining solution, how do I keep the bird cool enough to insure it'll be safe?

                                      ...never mind! I just watched the AM video. Thanks, BiscuitBoy!

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: CindyJ

                                        Picnic cooler in the garage. Some of the brine solution should be made with ice, so it can become ice water. Even in So Cal at night, temps are in the low forties, which is fine. Dry brine is the way to go.

                                      2. Many people here are into dry-brining. Is there a line to draw between that and curing? Or are they akin?

                                        32 Replies
                                        1. re: Bada Bing

                                          curing takes weeks and part of its aim is to dehydrate the meat.

                                          dry-brine is a misnomer that totally bugs me. it's just like a salty spice rub for ribs. it's how i start duck confit too.

                                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                                            I'm not sure why you're so annoyed. The salt draws liquid out of the muscle, dissolving the salt and making a saline solution. Dry rubs without salt don't do that.

                                            1. re: jaykayen

                                              it's the word-nerd in me. a brine equals liquid. this is not that.

                                          2. re: Bada Bing

                                            Now I'm getting confused. I thought, by definition, brine was a salt/liquid solution. So what's a dry brine? And, if it's akin to a dry rub, isn't that a totally different thing than brining?

                                            1. re: CindyJ

                                              yes, it's a misnomer and i'm not sure how it caught on. maybe so as not to be confused with a bird found for the bbq? dunno.

                                              1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                what you want to call it is an internet argument. i think dry-brine works well for the very reasons others have pointed out on this board -- the salt pulls liquid which is then re-absorbed. plus, it fulfills the same functions as a brine. a "dry rub" is something different -- a seasoning mixture that is applied shortly before cooking. "curing" is totally different, as is "salting."
                                                whatever you want to call it, it works great. as someone who was a wet-briner for years, i'd never go back. when you have an alternative that is both easier and works better, you just accept it ... whatever you want to call it.

                                              2. re: CindyJ

                                                As has already been pointed out, a dry-brine includes salt in the spice rub (or is salt only) so it draws moisture from the bird and actually does make a brine solution, which then goes back into the bird. It is in fact a brine, so it's not a misnomer. It does not add any new moisture to the bird, that's true, but it is no less a brine.

                                                My mom was doing this decades before it became hip and anyone called it a dry brine. She just called it "seasoning it up." It works great and you should do whatever works best for you. Allow two days in the fridge for this.

                                                Those who get their panties in a twist about this should probably find something else to get pedantically semantically annoyed about.

                                                1. re: CindyJ

                                                  Hi Cindy,

                                                  That is correct - brining is soaking the meat in a salt water solution. Once you start doing it, all chicken, turkey and even some fish will end up being brined in your house. You'll LOVE it.

                                                  I have every confidence that the AB method is good and I'm a big fan of his. But sometimes Alton has a propensity for complicating things that don't need it and sometimes using too many steps or ingredients. I have been using "salty water" (only kosher or sea salt) for many years and the results are very good. It is the Salt that is the essence of the brine - that allows the water to be absorbed INTO the meat to increase moisture as well as to season. So feel free to "keep it easy".

                                                  I'll just brine for 12-24 hours, in the bottom of the fridge. And use my largest pot, which can hold a good sized turkey. If the turkey is too large for your largest pot, do it in a plastic bag, inside another plastic bag (in case of leaks) - and the bag can just sit in a baking dish/tin. No big deal and no need to overthink it. I'll use about 1/4 - 1/3 cup salt with about 2 quarts of water.

                                                  After you brine, just use a whole bunch of paper towels and thoroughly dry the bird, inside and out. After brining you do not need to let it sit inside the fridge for hours or days to "dry it out". Your skin will be FINE. This will be a result of how you cook it, not from "fridge drying" Toward the end of your cooking cycle, you will turn up the heat a bit to crisp and brown the skin - light brushing with ghee (clarified butter) is worth doing.

                                                  There is no such thing as "dry brining". If you rub meat in salt and put it into the fridge then that is a technique for aging meat. This is good for steak, beef or pork to intensify the flavor but you'll lose about 10% of the moisture. I personally find that it IS worth doing for steak and I'll age a whole beef tenderloin for 3-5 days this way, though not using salt at all. I have also done it with whole pork roasts, with and without salt - and I'm honestly not sure that the results are worth the extra time.

                                                  1. re: jkling17

                                                    Thanks so much for the step-by-step details. Am I correct to assume that drying the bird with paper towels is all that's needed to remove the brine -- that is, I don't need to rinse it in cold water before drying? Also, is 2 quarts of brining solution really enough for, say, a 12-14 pound turkey? Or was that simply the ratio of salt to water? I was imagining that the bird would be submerged in the brine.

                                                    1. re: CindyJ

                                                      Hi Cindy,

                                                      >> Am I correct to assume that drying the bird with paper towels is all that's needed to remove the brine -- that is, I don't need to rinse it in cold water before drying?

                                                      That is a good idea actually. Sure! Go ahead and give it a good rinse, inside and out. Then use LOTS of paper towels to really dry it up. This is mostly to remove the excess water from the skin and the meat. It's not so much to remove salt from the skin per se. Whatever salt is still on the skin won't hurt anything.

                                                      If I were brining chicken, I might use things other than salt-water but with turkey I just want it nice and simple.

                                                      After you dry it, you can safely store it in the fridge, uncovered (except with paper towels), until you are ready to cook it. This is easily done for hours or even overnight and will also help to air dry it.

                                                      >> Also, is 2 quarts of brining solution really enough for, say, a 12-14 pound turkey? Or was that simply the ratio of salt to water? I was imagining that the bird would be submerged in the brine.

                                                      2 quarts probably will do it, so long as the bags are supported so that the brine is forced up and around the entire bird. 2 quarts is a lot of water :-) If you find that you need to use more water then just slightly increase the salt but don't over-do it. And you don't need to brine all so long to get a big effect. I'd probably recommend that you shoot for 12 hours. If for some reason you need to do a longer time, then decrease the salt a bit. If your bird is going to be BIG, then use less salt and more time.

                                                      An 11 pound turkey brined for 12 hours will gain approximately 3/4 pound. All that is extra moisture being absorbed into the meat, along with a mild salty goodness. And about 60% of that extra moisture will remain AFTER it is roasted. This helps to give you a buffer zone - so that you have a really nice moist bird, even if you "over cook" it a bit.

                                                      You'll want to cook it breast-side down to start at 400 degrees, on a rack, probably for about an hour, perhaps a bit more. Then flip it to breast side up to finish. Brush it 2-3 times after you flip with ghee or butter. And keep a bit of chicken stock/water on the bottom of the roasting pan to help catch the drippings - you don't need much - just don't let it dry out.

                                                      You'll do great and have a fabulous Thanksgiving.

                                                      1. re: jkling17

                                                        What's the advantage of starting it breast side down? I have a feeling I'll end up with the turkey on the floor if I try to flip it.

                                                        1. re: CindyJ

                                                          You roast breast side down so the juices settle there rather than draining out through the back while roasting. Works great. Use a dowel, rolling pin or heavy metal spoon inside the cavity to leverage the bird around when you flip it, and wear heavy mitts while doing so. I roast breast down the entire time except for the last half-hour or hour. You don't need to baste or turn up the oven at all after turning, although some people like to do so.

                                                          1. re: CindyJ

                                                            Hi Cindy,

                                                            LOL. You'll be just fine - I promise You can just use two small towels to grab the thing then rotate it and place it back down. You can always ask one of the guys to help :-)

                                                            With a whole turkey, we have a complicated situation that isn't the case with chicken parts or chicken breasts. We've got all these different types of tissue at different thicknesses and we need to get the dark meat somewhere around 175-180 degrees to be done. But white meat would be badly overcooked at that temperature. So we really want to start cooking it breast side down to partially cook the dark meat. Then it can be finished breast side up, so that the dark meat gets completely done and the white meat is perfect but not overcooked at all.

                                                            That's also where the magic of the brine comes into play. Your 11-12 pound turkey will have absorbed nearly 1 1/2 cups of additional water so it'll stay nice and moist! It'll be nearly impossible for you to overcook it. You're guests will be saying how they have NEVER had such a moist and delicious turkey before.

                                                            Here's a very good link on how brining works. Again for Turkey I would just recommend only salt and nothing else.
                                                            https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&am...

                                                            1. re: jkling17

                                                              Ahhhh... and I JUST remembered why it is I haven't roasted a whole turkey (I've only roasted whole turkey breasts) in years and years -- it's the white meat/dark meat dilemma.

                                                              Gee... how silly of me to think that my original query -- "I need a crash course in brining. Can anyone help?" -- would result in a simple explanation.

                                                              (BTW - I can't get that link to work)

                                                              1. re: CindyJ

                                                                Sorry! Try this link and then click on QUICK VIEW for the 2nd one - it's from cooks illustrated. I can't get the "real link" to work but the quick view works perfectly.

                                                                https://www.google.com/search?client=...

                                                                I apologize if all that writing makes a simple thing seem daunting. I promise you that it's easy. It's just brining then one flip during cooking. That's it. No magic involved - but magical results. Your guests will sing your praises, be asking for seconds, and fighting over who gets to bring leftovers home with them.

                                                                I spend a lot more time making my sides, homemade giblet gravy and homemade walnut & sausage stuffing - and very little time on my actual turkey.

                                                                1. re: jkling17

                                                                  That link takes me to a generic Google home page.

                                                                  I'm up for the brining challenge. If the bird comes out overly salty, or spongy, or soggy, or dirty from the floor, I guess we can always phone for pizza. OR, better yet, just make a meal of all the sides and desserts.

                                                                  By the way, do you season the inside at all before roasting?

                                                                  1. re: CindyJ

                                                                    Sorry again! Chowhound isn't great about copy/paste links. Just google "brining". The second link - use QUICK VIEW. That'll be the article.

                                                                    Just follow the recipe and you'll be set. Don't tell your guests about the brining and bask in the glory of their admiration!

                                                                    >> By the way, do you season the inside at all before roasting?
                                                                    Ah no I don't but I do stuff it with homemade walnut and sausage stuffing, first preheated to something like 130-140 degrees before I stuff it. But I also make a full-size pyrex dish with lots more stuffing, all homemade. Mmmmmm. Man I can't WAIT to cook for this year!

                                                        2. re: CindyJ

                                                          Hi Cindy,
                                                          Definitely rinse the bird well after brining, inside and out - don't skip that step! I've been brining my turkey for the past 10 years. I found that if the brine isn't rinsed off, not only is the outside (skin, under-skin, etc.) too salty, but the pan drippings can't be used for gravy. Only made that mistake once - and we didn't have gravy that year!

                                                          After rinsing, dry thoroughly. It's ok (but not really necessary) to then replace the salt on the skin with a very light sprinkling. Although it seems counter-intuitive, you're removing a lot more salt by rinsing than you're adding back.

                                                          A good bit of salt still comes off the bird into the drippings, so don't use any salty liquid in the bottom of the roasting pan or in your stock. Hope that helps!

                                                          1. re: RBMBill

                                                            On the other hand, I never rinse and the turkey is never too salty.

                                                            And it's imperative that you use the drippings and liquid to make your gravy.

                                                            Just use UNSALTED homemade turkey stock to make the gravy, and it will be super delicious and not too salty.

                                                            I've done it this way for 12 years now with only rave reviews even from a few sodium-phobes I cook for.

                                                            Also, make sure you air dry it if the crispiness of the skin is important.

                                                        3. re: jkling17

                                                          I think you might need to read up more on dry brining. As mentioned above, salt rubbed onto meat and then given time, forms a brine, and reenters the meat. Thus dry brining it. All the while, the skin dehydrates just enough to help it crisp in the oven.

                                                          1. re: Becca Porter

                                                            Hi Becca,

                                                            I am not disputing that there is a valid technique for rubbing salt on meat and then curing it in a cool area or fridge. I do savvy that there is this "new fashionable label" that some are calling dry brining. However, a BRINE by definition requires water. It is what it is.

                                                            It's a bit of a misnomer, really and is more accurately a form of curing with a salt rub. There's nothing wrong with that but it's just not brining. As Cindy is new to this, I'm merely trying to be very clear about the differences and where I do brine and when I use a salt rub.

                                                            1. re: jkling17

                                                              It's not actually a misnomer for the reasons I point out above, because there is water involved. It's just not water provided by you.

                                                              1. re: jkling17

                                                                Yeah, but it is utilizing water in the turkey to make it's own brine which is than circulated through the meat. I think the term curing is much more of a misnomer:

                                                                cured meat
                                                                meat which has been treated with salt and nitrate or nitrite. The salt dehydrates the meat, the nitrate releases nitrous acid which converts myoglobin to nitrosomyoglobin which has an attractive pink color when cooked. The cooking process converts the nitrosomyoglobin to nitrosohemochrome.

                                                                1. re: jkling17

                                                                  The technique I described (which I refer to as dry-brining for convenience's sake) is a bit different than aging or simply rubbing with salt to cure the meat. By tightly wrapping the bird with plastic after it has been salted, the juices that are extracted dissolve the salt and form a super-concentrated salt solution (brine), which is then partially reabsorbed by the meat due to osmosis. I have never weighed my turkey before and after doing this, but on a 20 lb bird, a 10% loss of water weight would amount to at least a pound of water (presuming only 50% of the bird is actually meat), and I guarantee I've never had 2 cups of juices left at the end of this process. Usually there's no more than a quarter of a cup, maybe half a cup.

                                                                  1. re: biondanonima

                                                                    Yes it's a bit different than traditional salt curing or aging. As no added liquid is involved, I think it is unfortunate that someone decided to label this as dry brining. To me, it's still.much more similar to a salt cure. Or Salt-Wrapped or similar or whatever would be more accurate :-)

                                                                    And yes - the plastic wrap allows some of the moisture that first leaves the bird to be partially re-absorbed over time, along with some of the salt. But we're still not adding moisture and are actually losing some.

                                                                    But - with real brining, we can add a LOT of additional moisture into the meat, along with some salt, etc. With a 12 hour brine of an 11 pound turkey - we have a weight gain of about 3/4 of a pound. That is nearly 1 1/2 cups of water! Pretty impressive, eh?

                                                                    However interesting "dry brining" may be as a technique, it can't add moisture that wasn't there to start with.

                                                                    1. re: jkling17

                                                                      I absolutely agree - with the "dry-brine" or "salt-wrap" method, you're not adding any additional moisture. However, in my experience, turkey treated in this manner doesn't need any additional moisture - it's plenty juicy and flavorful, due to the changes in the cellular structure caused by the salt.

                                                                      ETA: regarding the absorption of water with a regular brine - yes, it's "impressive" that a turkey can soak up 12 oz of water. However, I find turkey to be pretty bland in any case, and I don't really want to dilute its flavor further by adding additional water. I would much rather have a less watery bird with more concentrated flavor, which IMO is what the "dry-brine" method brings to the table.

                                                                      1. re: biondanonima

                                                                        As long as you are happy with the results, that's all that matters! It sounds like an interesting technique for chicken breasts or chicken thighs, perhaps in combination with a spice rub. I like walkerswood. Good stuff, if you like heat.

                                                                        I only cook whole turkeys a handful of times each year so I'll stick with what's been tried and true. I find that even the leftover white meat stays nice and moist for a day or two, whereas without brining they are overly dry very quickly.

                                                                2. re: Becca Porter

                                                                  I "wet-brined" for years and tried the dry method the last two years and the last two turkeys turned out much better. The flavor was concentrated turkey and the texture was better than the sponginess that can happen with the wet method. Universally agreed upon by the Thanksgiving crew.

                                                                  As a bonus, I didn't have to wrestle an 18lb wet turkey out of the brine and then rinse it and splash turkey "juice" all over the sink, kitchen and myself.

                                                                  That makes it a winner for me -- less cleanup and worry of where exactly the raw turkey juices have gotten. I don't want to inadvertently give the family food poisoning. They might have to stay longer.

                                                                  1. re: lsmutko

                                                                    "I don't want to inadvertently give the family food poisoning. They might have to stay longer."

                                                                    HA! lol.

                                                                    1. re: lsmutko

                                                                      Is that the dry salt-only method you used, or did you use another type of dry rub?

                                                                      1. re: CindyJ

                                                                        First year was dry-salt only, and only for two days, because of the way travel timed out. Last year, I added chopped rosemary and it was really good, just a hint of herbaciousness that was a great accent to the flavor.

                                                                        This year, because we're traveling mid-week from SE PA to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, I'm picking up a free-range turkey from the farm market and prepping it at home, then will travel with it in the cooler across four state lines. This may be in violation of the Mann Act. But that's how happy I've been with the results.

                                                                      2. re: lsmutko

                                                                        well, darn. We've done a smoked goose the last few yrs. With CH encouragement re turkey dry brine on this thread, this year I switched to just a heavy salt dry rub/dry brine for the smoked goose, for one day. But i much prefer the wet brine i've done (maybe because of aromatics of herbs and orange rind i usually add which also made the skin much more flavorful than this dry rub did.) Maybe my one day dry brine wasn't long enough but i think the aromatics (and the sugar element)made for a preferred version.

                                                              2. For about ten years I've barbecued turkeys using the various brine turkey techniques to help my wife out at thanksgiving time. The turkey breast and thighs were uniformly moist and tasty as advertised, but the skin texture was quite variable, and the stuffing and drippings were too salty as were the thinner parts such as the wing. In addition, because of fears of inadequate cooking we stopped stuffing the bird. The latter was a loss but my wife makes sticky rice with mushroom and chinese sausage as a starch anyway. And jook for the next few days.

                                                                Last year, with a remodeled kitchen and new oven to work in, I found and tried the Cook's Illustrated/America's test kitchen technique for salting and barding a turkey. I'll have to review the steps this year for the details, but conceptually:

                                                                The breast and upper thighs are salted by rubbing salt under the skin of the areas through subcutaneous pouches, The skin is rubbed with a mixture of salt and baking soda for crisping. It is stored in fridge for 24 hours The cavity is salted and at the time of roasting filled with part of the stuffing wrapped in cheesecloth. And at the time of roasting, strips of salted pork are layered on the backbone to salt and drip fat over the dependent skin.

                                                                After a period of roasting, the salt pork and the stuffing pouch are removed. The bird is put back into the oven to finish roasting. The stuffing is added to the remainder of the stuffing and cooked until done.

                                                                The gravy is separately made using roasted turkey wings and broth and finished well ahead the dinner. Drippings from the main bird, still rather salty are added to the prepared gravy per taste.

                                                                I liked the result, the appropriate areas were moist, the thinner parts were not too salty and the skin was uniformly crisp. We can change the proportions as desired, for example we found the cavity could use less salt. We will do that this year which will be significantly more populous this year, because of a change in schedules, we will have our son's family with a 3 yo grandson and a step-grandaughter, our daughters and their boy friends and a brother-in-law. Can't hardly wait.

                                                                1. Just to follow up, I started with a fresh turkey I bought from an Amish poultry vendor at the local farmer's market and I decided to make a dry-brined "Judy Bird." It was about as perfect as a turkey could be. The skin (the best part of the bird, IMHO) was crisped to perfection and both the white meat AND dark meat were moist and flavorful. Yes, it required a bit of up-front preparation and roasting attention, but it was worth it, and I'd definitely use this method again.

                                                                  10 Replies
                                                                  1. re: CindyJ

                                                                    cindy, this is a LONG thread, but i could not find a Judy listed. plse specify the poster so we can learn from you!

                                                                    1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                                      Sorry about that, OChef. After reading a number of opinions about brining here, in this thread, and on a couple of other posts here on CH, I decided to use the dry brining method. I believe I may have followed some links from other posts that took me to an article and a recipe for what had been dubbed the "Judy Bird" because the method was developed by Judy Rodgers, chef and owner at San Francisco's Zuni Cafe.

                                                                      Here's a link to the story that appeared a few years ago in the LA Times: http://www.latimes.com/features/food/...

                                                                      And here's a link to the recipe: http://www.latimes.com/features/food/...

                                                                      The only modifications I made to the recipe were (1) trussing the turkey according to Alton Brown's YouTube demo http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=auQB7D... and (2) brushing the turkey with butter and seasonings (garlic powder, paprika, thyme) before roasting.

                                                                      1. re: CindyJ

                                                                        THNX CINDY. i'll use this recipe in the future. p.s. why truss?(I watched the video)-- just to look nice? he mentions even cooking but i don't really see that reasoning.....

                                                                        1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                                          Supposedly it helps the bird to cook more evenly (not unlike folding the thin end of a tenderloin roast up and tying it with the rest of the roast to create a more-or-less even "cylinder"). Uneven cooking has always been my concern with roasting a whole turkey, and the reason why I almost always default to a bone-in turkey breast when turkey is on the menu. The dark meat supposedly takes longer to roast than the white meat; therefore it's not uncommon to have undercooked legs and thighs when the breast is done to perfection. I know that this method of roasting -- roasting the breast side down at higher heat for 30 minutes, then flipping it over -- is supposed to compensate for the disparity in roasting times, but I trussed the bird just the same. Trussing it was easy, the compactness made it easier to flip, and it did look nice when it was done.

                                                                          1. re: CindyJ

                                                                            Trussing makes the uneven roasting problem worse. By tucking the legs in close to the body, you prevent the hot air from entering the cavity and you slow down the cooking of the dark meat.

                                                                            To make a whole bird roast more evenly, never truss. Trussing is purely cosmetic. This is the myth that refuses to die.

                                                                            1. re: acgold7

                                                                              Well, I can tell you with absolute certainty that my turkey was perfectly cooked -- perhaps because of, or maybe in spite of, the trussing.

                                                                              Actually, now that I think about it, if trussing prevents hot air from entering the cavity, wouldn't that have the effect of slowing down the cooking of the breast meat? The dark meat -- legs and thighs -- is all external. Wouldn't that make a stronger case for trussing?

                                                                              1. re: CindyJ

                                                                                No. There is no rib cage on the inside of where the thighs are, so the hot air, if it gets inside the cavity, can cook the thighs from both sides. That's why Vertically Roasted birds cook in half the time.

                                                                                Not Trussing does help the breast cook faster too, but not as much as the dark meat.

                                                                                1. re: acgold7

                                                                                  ah, words... they can get so confusing. ac, since overcooked breast is what we all work against, isn't your post above another reason to truss rather than not to truss?

                                                                                  is this too long for a CH moniker-
                                                                                  totrussornottotruss; that is the question
                                                                                  ?

                                                                                  1. re: opinionatedchef

                                                                                    I don't think so, because not trussing, overall, speeds up the relative cooking time of the dark meat vs. the white, evening out the process.

                                                                                    But it's easy to experiment for yourself and see if I'm right or full of hot air, so to speak. I've done the experimentation on hundreds of birds and I'm confident with my results, but I guess others can disagree, with or without actual data.

                                                                                    1. re: acgold7

                                                                                      Since "first time briner" CindyJ got the results she was satisfied with using a method published which included trussing, it matters not a whit, that her explanation varies with the experimental data of a third person. As a long retired former scientist, I am aware that results of experiments may differ depending on the methods used and endpoints desired.

                                                                                      For example, my wife and I used the Cook's Illustrated method mentioned in my previous post for preparing thanksgiving dinner this year. After salting, we stuffed the bird with 1/2 of previously prepared bread and spices, tied the legs together and roasted breast down at 315 degrees until the breast had reached 130 degrees in its deepest part. We flipped the turkey, removed the stuffing and put it breast-up into the oven at 450 degrees with the legs untied until the breast reached 160 degrees in its deepest part. Its thigh temperature was then above 175 degrees. We took it out, rested it and then carved a bird which the lovers of each part of the bird were satisfied with the differential in cooking temperatures. The stuffing, by the way, was mixed with the remainder of the spiced and toasted bread and cooked in the oven until the temp was greater than 160 degrees, which allowed us to have a safe turkey stuffing for the first time in years.