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Nov 19, 2012 10:18 PM

Turkey brining and basting question.

Hi all, I got some question on turkey brining and basting question. I know that brining a turkey will made the turkey moist and juicy even after cooking but I am not quite sure on how to brine it. What is suppose to be in the brining solution beside salt? I watch one of the Alton Brown piece but it seem it is a lot of ingredient for brining. Also, any idea how long am I suppose to brine it for? Some people say a day some say 2-3 days. My fridge is not big enough to hold the pot for brining.

As for basting, is it needed or as some people call it evil?

I always tend to use some type of foodnetwork receipt and they always seems to do fine but I want to improve upon it this year. I always some use kind of garlic herb favor butter and rub it all over the turkey and under the skin and it turn out pretty favorful.

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  1. The basic Brine is a salt solution with a sweet aspect, that will achieve the moistness aspect and be brined. Aside from just a moist turkey, it gives you the opportunity to add flavours to the turkey. You can add spices and herbs and various aromatics to aid in giving the turkey more flavour. Hence why most recipes suggest brown sugar instead of white, I often add maple syrup as well. You can add any number of flavours, citrus, herbs, spiced, etc.

    As far as fridge space, you can leave it in a cooler in a cool place like a garage or outside and keep adding ice to it. I never brine for more then 24 hours.

    1. Hi there!

      Brining is the best way to go, and we swear by Nigella Lawson's recipe, which works for a 9-11 lb turkey. This is what you need:

      6 litres (10 pints 11 fluid oz) water
      125 g (4 1/4-oz) table salt
      3 tbsp black peppercorns
      1 cinnamon stick
      1 tbsp caraway seeds
      4 cloves
      2 tbsp allspice berries (or 1-1/2 tbsp powdered allspice)
      4 star anise
      2 tbsp white mustard seeds
      200 g (7 oz) caster sugar
      2 onions, quartered
      7 cm (3 inch) piece ginger, cut into 6 slices
      4 tbsp maple syrup
      4 tbsp clear honey
      Handful fresh parsley leaves
      1 orange, quartered

      It seems like a lot of ingredients for brining, but it's worth it! 2-3 days is a good amount, and if you can't keep it in the fridge then you can keep it outside (protected from animals!) or in a cool place like a cellar.

      Basting is essential - it keeps the meat juciy and helps crisp up the skin, making it extra delicious!

      1. Well, technically a brine is just water and salt, but as a later poster to this thread pointed out, adding more flavor to the brine will just add that much flavor to the final product. I've seen an Alton Brown brine recipe which just called for water, salt and honey as a sweetener. Don't think you have to go nuts with the ingredients for the brine, however.

        As for basting, it is evil. It does literally nothing to enhance flavor, or color, or crispness. The flavor of your basting solution cannot penetrate the skin. Opening and closing the oven just allows heat to escape and lengthens the cooking time, while creating wide swings in the temp. Finally, it softens that beautiful crisp skin you're going for, while not adding moisture to the bird. You're better off drying the skin of the bird very well then rubbing it all over with olive or canola oil or other fat. That will help with the color and crispness.

        Good eating to you.

        7 Replies
        1. re: EarlyBird

          I am thinking of plan of attack. Should I brine it tonight, take it out tomorrow, rub the butter seasoning and put in the the fridge overnight to dry it out or brine it tomorrow night for 8 hours, take it out, add butter, and return it to the fridge to dry it?

          1. re: Xellosw2099

            you don't put butter or oil on it until *just* before it goes into the oven.

            1. re: Xellosw2099

              Do a dry brine. Rub kosher salt all over bird, in cavity too. Put on a rack over a sheet pan & dry uncovered in fridge overnight.

              It will brown beautifully, you won't even need the butter or baste, if you don't want. I don't so other, and just pour a glass of white wine over the breast halfway through cooking. Makes the gravy delicious.

              1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                But dry brine won't actually add the needed moisture into the meat to keep it moist during the baking process, doesn't it?

                1. re: Xellosw2099

                  Some may disagree with me, but I think moisture in the bird has more to do with how its cooked than a brining process.

                  1. re: Xellosw2099

                    What it does is allow the protein molecules to uncoil a bit, letting in the moisture that is extracted from the salt back into the bird. It most definitely produces a juicier product, but it's not added water, it's the bird's own moisture that the cells retain. I have been using this method for 10+ years, on birds & roasts and it works like a charm every time.

                2. re: Xellosw2099

                  As Sunshine mentions, slather the bird with oil or butter just prior to popping it in the oven, though, as Dirty mentions, it's not even necessary with a very dry skin.

                  You may want to create a paste of minced herbs (thyme, sage, rosemary) and butter, and put that under the skin, then as Dirty suggests, dry brine it. That means no liquid, you just rub the whole bird and inside the cavity with some flaky Kosher salt and put it in a bag. But a day before cooking take it out of the bag, dry the surface with paper towels, then leave it in the fridge uncovered overnight. That will dry and tighten the skin and make for super crispy skin.

              2. When you mention brine, you will always open a debate. Half the people will say wet brine, half will say dry. There is no definitive answer. Decide which you want to do and stick to it. Try the other next year or at Christmas and decide for yourself which you prefer.

                1. Terret has it right... There's not really a *right* only "to taste." assuming food safety and all. I'm doing a wet brine today, my variation on this one:
                  24 hours, and then butter and herbs under skin when cooking, no basting. I cover with foil for about 2/3 time then uncover last 1/3.
                  Good luck, and make it your own!