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Do I really need to brine the turkey?

sandiasingh Oct 17, 2013 08:09 AM

We are going to smoke a turkey this year and I found this recipe on the CH site. Do I really need to brine it? I'm not crazy about the idea but I guess it will keep it moist?


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  1. biondanonima RE: sandiasingh Oct 17, 2013 08:30 AM

    No. If you like the texture of wet-brined turkey, by all means brine it, but if you don't, either skip the brine altogether or do a "dry" brine. To "dry" brine, you just rub the turkey in a generous amount of salt, wrap it up tightly and let it sit in the fridge for a few days. Unwrap it a day before cooking and let it sit in the fridge, uncovered, to dry the skin, and that's it.

    1. r
      rjbh20 RE: sandiasingh Oct 17, 2013 08:35 AM

      No, but it will taste better if you do, particularly if you're doing a low temp smoke.

      1. s
        smtucker RE: sandiasingh Oct 17, 2013 09:20 AM

        I brine my turkey before smoking, and the texture is perfect. Certainly not "wet" in any way. I use Alton Brown's recipe. Can't imagine a Thanksgiving with any other turkey now.

        We use cherry wood that I harvest from blow-downs in NH.

        2 Replies
        1. re: smtucker
          biondanonima RE: smtucker Oct 17, 2013 09:24 AM

          That is a gorgeous bird!

          1. re: smtucker
            sandiasingh RE: smtucker Oct 17, 2013 09:35 AM

            OK, I think I'm sold on the brining. A neighbor took down a cherry tree and we've been drying the wood for about five months. Will make Thanksgiving very special this year.

            I've seen Alton's show on turkey smoking and will look it up.


          2. d
            Diane in Bexley RE: sandiasingh Oct 22, 2013 01:30 PM

            Do you have access to a kosher turkey? A kosher turkey is soaked in salt water (is the light bulb going on?), so in essence it is already brined when you buy it.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Diane in Bexley
              INDIANRIVERFL RE: Diane in Bexley Oct 22, 2013 01:34 PM

              I always do it myself as I hate to pay for the weight of the water and salt at Kosher prices.

            2. m
              mike0989 RE: sandiasingh Oct 22, 2013 01:37 PM

              Agree about the dry brine. We've been doing this for years. Google the Latimes and Judy Bird. They have had instructions for this years. The inspiration was Judy Rodgers chicken, hence the name.

              1. ChefJune RE: sandiasingh Oct 22, 2013 02:10 PM

                Your turkey will not taste better from brining, but it will ensure the breast meat is juicy. Many people are unable to end up with juicy white meat without brining. If you are a novice turkey roaster, I'd recommend brining.

                6 Replies
                1. re: ChefJune
                  C. Hamster RE: ChefJune Oct 22, 2013 04:35 PM

                  I hardly ever disagree with you CJ but brined turkeys definitely taste better.

                  Been around the block on turkey cookery.

                  1. re: C. Hamster
                    sandylc RE: C. Hamster Oct 22, 2013 04:43 PM

                    True. Salted throughout is a tasty thing.

                    1. re: sandylc
                      eight_inch_pestle RE: sandylc Oct 22, 2013 05:14 PM

                      And it's not just the salt. If you make a brine with aromatics the salt carries all that flavor along for the ride into the flesh.

                      1. re: eight_inch_pestle
                        C. Hamster RE: eight_inch_pestle Oct 22, 2013 05:30 PM


                    2. re: C. Hamster
                      scubadoo97 RE: C. Hamster Oct 27, 2013 11:35 AM

                      Depends on the brine ;)

                      Certainly when it's seasoned throughout it will taste better. But a well seasoned non brined bird can taste as good just different. I'm a fan of using a dry cure method as well

                      Wet brining does add a level of full proofing the chances of a juicy breast

                      1. re: C. Hamster
                        zeldaz51 RE: C. Hamster Oct 28, 2013 07:45 AM

                        If you brine correctly, the meat is perfectly seasoned, and not just on the surface.

                    3. pagesinthesun RE: sandiasingh Oct 22, 2013 02:22 PM

                      Having both wet and dry brined over the past few years, I'd throw my hat in the dry brine ring. To me it is simpler with the same results, less mess and worry about storage during the brining process. After my second wet brine last year, I will only dry brine.
                      Either way, I do think the process of brining results in a tastier, more succulent turkey.
                      Four salt mix recipe ideas with tutorial on dry brine. This is the one I have followed with success.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: pagesinthesun
                        fldhkybnva RE: pagesinthesun Nov 6, 2013 05:57 PM

                        I have never brined a turkey and it's always been pretty good to me but then again I like turkey. I'm pondering brining this year as I love the Zuni chicken recipe which involves a dry brine. Did you find the dry brine was salty at all?

                        1. re: fldhkybnva
                          pagesinthesun RE: fldhkybnva Nov 7, 2013 02:48 PM

                          Not salty at all. We were able to use the drippings in gravy. If I recall, the recipe above calls for rinsing the turkey prior to roasting.
                          I also salt my chicken prior to roasting. It really does make a nice bird.
                          I'm following one of the BA recipes from the list above this year. Tried and true.

                      2. RealMenJulienne RE: sandiasingh Oct 22, 2013 02:53 PM

                        Just pre season it with salt and dry rub. Brining makes the bird juicier but dilutes the flavor because it makes the bird absorb water.

                        1. The Librarian RE: sandiasingh Oct 22, 2013 03:08 PM

                          I'm also a convert to dry brining. I use a mixture of hickory-smoked salt and a barbeque rub from Whole Spice (http://wholespice.com/display.asp?id=...), and let it sit in the refrigerator for 24 hours. The turkey is really great and juicy. I used to do a wet brine, but I like the taste and ease of the dry method much better. The only drawback is that you can't use the drippings for the gravy because they're too salty, but that's easily remedied.

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: The Librarian
                            mike0989 RE: The Librarian Oct 22, 2013 03:19 PM

                            <The only drawback is that you can't use the drippings for the gravy because they're too salty>

                            I haven't found that to be an issue with dry brining. Wet brine, yes.

                            1. re: mike0989
                              Dirtywextraolives RE: mike0989 Oct 27, 2013 11:18 AM

                              Neither have I...... Never have had a too salty gravy using the drippings.

                              1. re: Dirtywextraolives
                                The Librarian RE: Dirtywextraolives Oct 27, 2013 11:34 AM

                                I have to admit that I read that somewhere and don't speak from personal experience - good to know that it's not true.

                                1. re: The Librarian
                                  C. Hamster RE: The Librarian Oct 27, 2013 02:45 PM

                                  I've both wet and dry brined for many many years and never had a salty gravy problem.

                                  A not enough delicious gravy problem perhaps but never salty

                            2. re: The Librarian
                              smtucker RE: The Librarian Oct 22, 2013 04:25 PM

                              When you smoke a turkey, this is a non-issue. There are no drippings. I roast some turkey parts at the beginning of the week for the gravy.

                              1. re: The Librarian
                                C. Hamster RE: The Librarian Oct 22, 2013 04:37 PM

                                Of course you can use the drippings!

                                I have made great gravy from both wet and dry brined turkeys (and I agree that I prefer dry).

                                One only needs a ton of unsalted stock.

                                Been making killer gravy from brined birds for 20 years.

                              2. sandiasingh RE: sandiasingh Oct 27, 2013 09:28 AM

                                Thanks for all the great recommendations. I think I'll do a run-through with chicken to decide which will suit us best.

                                1. d
                                  Dirtywextraolives RE: sandiasingh Oct 27, 2013 11:18 AM

                                  Dry brining works just as well, is much more convenient, and practically guarantees a crispy, beautifully browned skin and juicy meat.

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: Dirtywextraolives
                                    hotoynoodle RE: Dirtywextraolives Oct 27, 2013 11:20 AM

                                    another vote for dry-brine. while i don't care for the semantics of the term, the results are great and next to no hassle vs. a wet-brined bird hogging up space in the fridge.

                                    1. re: hotoynoodle
                                      fldhkybnva RE: hotoynoodle Nov 6, 2013 05:59 PM

                                      How much salt per lb?

                                      1. re: fldhkybnva
                                        Dirtywextraolives RE: fldhkybnva Nov 6, 2013 07:19 PM

                                        I do about a 1/4 cup for an 8 lb bird. Maybe a hooch more.

                                        1. re: Dirtywextraolives
                                          hotoynoodle RE: Dirtywextraolives Nov 8, 2013 08:22 AM

                                          sorry, i don't measure!

                                    2. re: Dirtywextraolives
                                      TorontoJo RE: Dirtywextraolives Oct 27, 2013 12:14 PM

                                      Yet another vote for the dry brine. My turkeys have been consistently awesome ever since I started using this method.

                                    3. jpr54_1 RE: sandiasingh Oct 27, 2013 11:39 AM

                                      I think I will try the dry bring this Thanksgiving/Chanukah

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: jpr54_1
                                        The Librarian RE: jpr54_1 Oct 27, 2013 12:00 PM

                                        You should wear this apron like I'm going to: http://www.cafepress.com/+thanksgivuk...

                                      2. coll RE: sandiasingh Oct 27, 2013 12:17 PM

                                        This is all assuming you're buying a turkey from a local farm or whatnot. If you're getting a grocery store turkey, it is already "brined" for you: Whether you want it or not!

                                        5 Replies
                                        1. re: coll
                                          sandylc RE: coll Oct 27, 2013 12:25 PM

                                          Yes, many are, but not all of them. Label-reading is in order when buying ANY food.

                                          1. re: sandylc
                                            coll RE: sandylc Oct 27, 2013 12:26 PM

                                            Just a heads up.

                                          2. re: coll
                                            Uncle Bob RE: coll Oct 27, 2013 12:28 PM

                                            Exactly. I know lady who buys a butterball and brines it in a cooler. I just shake my head and smile.

                                            1. re: coll
                                              sandiasingh RE: coll Oct 27, 2013 03:31 PM

                                              Mine are coming from a local turkey farm.

                                              1. re: sandiasingh
                                                coll RE: sandiasingh Oct 27, 2013 03:32 PM

                                                Congratulations! I am jealous.

                                            2. Atomic76 RE: sandiasingh Oct 27, 2013 12:44 PM

                                              Your local meat shop will sometimes offer to brine the meat for you (for a little extra charge). It beats trying to find buckets or containers big enough to do this on your own. I saw one couple online who brined theirs in their bath tub (gross!). Personally I don't like brined meat since it tastes too processed to me. Plus the skin and the gravy have plenty of salt in them and I like the contrast between the fresh turkey and the salty gravies and sides.

                                              There is a really great article on Serious Eats about brining Turkey that you may want to read through: http://www.seriouseats.com/2012/11/th...

                                              1. b
                                                brooktroutchaser RE: sandiasingh Oct 27, 2013 01:33 PM

                                                Check your turkey. See if it says injected with salt or oil mixture. If so, it IS brined. If not, dry brine with sea salt 24 hours in advance.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: brooktroutchaser
                                                  Dirtywextraolives RE: brooktroutchaser Oct 27, 2013 01:52 PM

                                                  It's gotta be a coarse salt, sea salt is generally pretty fine.

                                                2. i
                                                  Isolda RE: sandiasingh Oct 27, 2013 01:43 PM

                                                  Okay, you've convinced me to try dry-brining, but I have some questions. Do I just do it the day before? Do I need to wipe off the salt prior to cooking? How much salt for, say, a 12 lb bird? And can I use this method even if I'm roasting it rather than smoking it?

                                                  I rarely make turkey, even for Thanksgiving, but we're hosting some college kids who probably want a traditional meal while they're away from home.

                                                  16 Replies
                                                  1. re: Isolda
                                                    Dirtywextraolives RE: Isolda Oct 27, 2013 01:49 PM

                                                    Yes, roasting it is fine.

                                                    I'd use at least a quarter cup of kosher salt (has to be kosher or it will be too salty, has to be the big grains of salt) for a 12 lb bird; that is about the size I get since I usually only have six for T-day dinner.

                                                    I would do it two days before. Some people cover it for a day, then uncover it. I have done it uncovered for two days, and it came out great. The point of uncovering it is to dry out the skin, which will make it brown & crisp it up. No, you don't need to wipe off the salt, as it should have been absorbed by the liquid extruded from the bird, and absorbed back in, which makes the meat seasoned.

                                                    1. re: Dirtywextraolives
                                                      Isolda RE: Dirtywextraolives Oct 27, 2013 01:54 PM

                                                      Thank you!

                                                      1. re: Isolda
                                                        Dirtywextraolives RE: Isolda Oct 27, 2013 01:58 PM

                                                        You're welcome! Hope it turns out great for you!

                                                      2. re: Dirtywextraolives
                                                        sbp RE: Dirtywextraolives Oct 27, 2013 05:45 PM

                                                        Ditto. Dry brining is the way to go. Wet brining for too long will change the texture of the meat- it can get a bit spongy. Dry brining also gives you a better shot at a crisp skin. Just be aware crispy skin is tough to do with low and slow smoking - it tends to get leathery, not crisp. But with turkey, a high heat smoke works well too (and you can brush with butter and blast in a 500 degree oven for 15 minutes at the end, if need be).

                                                        1. re: Dirtywextraolives
                                                          fldhkybnva RE: Dirtywextraolives Nov 6, 2013 06:00 PM

                                                          Do you salt over and under the skin? Cavity as well?

                                                          1. re: fldhkybnva
                                                            Dirtywextraolives RE: fldhkybnva Nov 6, 2013 07:17 PM

                                                            Not necessary to do under the skin..... But cavity, I do salt.

                                                            1. re: fldhkybnva
                                                              scubadoo97 RE: fldhkybnva Nov 6, 2013 07:35 PM

                                                              You could do a closer Zuni method of putting herbs and a little seasoning under the skin

                                                              1. re: scubadoo97
                                                                Dirtywextraolives RE: scubadoo97 Nov 7, 2013 07:52 AM

                                                                An herbed butter works really well under the skin also, and makes the skin crispy as well.

                                                                1. re: Dirtywextraolives
                                                                  fldhkybnva RE: Dirtywextraolives Nov 7, 2013 01:35 PM

                                                                  I just picked up my favorite Kerrygold herb butter, just in case I need an assist.

                                                                  1. re: fldhkybnva
                                                                    Dirtywextraolives RE: fldhkybnva Nov 7, 2013 07:39 PM

                                                                    Oh I've not seen that, I bet that will be nice if you use it......

                                                                    1. re: Dirtywextraolives
                                                                      fldhkybnva RE: Dirtywextraolives Nov 7, 2013 09:57 PM

                                                                      It's great on literally everything.

                                                            2. re: Dirtywextraolives
                                                              Erika RollerGirl RE: Dirtywextraolives Nov 13, 2013 06:46 AM

                                                              I'm sorry but I don't believe this to be a reflection of my experience with dry brining poultry. I have used the Zuni method on multitudes of chickens and a handful of turkeys and have always used regular small grain sea salt without any overly salty issue (or any other issue to be honest!)

                                                              I also primarily salt under the skin versus over it and I like to place some fresh herbs like thyme and rosemary under the skin as well. Never had any need for butter as the skin turns out perfectly brown and crispy and insanely delicious.

                                                            3. re: Isolda
                                                              mazwe RE: Isolda Oct 27, 2013 07:28 PM

                                                              The rule is 1 tablespoon of Kosher salt for every 5 lbs. Russ Parsons of the LA Times recommends 3 days in the fridge. You can also add dry herbs such as sage to the salt mix.


                                                              1. re: mazwe
                                                                mike0989 RE: mazwe Oct 28, 2013 09:13 AM

                                                                We've been using this recipe since it first came out. It's pretty much follproof.

                                                                1. re: mazwe
                                                                  fldhkybnva RE: mazwe Nov 6, 2013 06:01 PM

                                                                  Oops, here is the answer to my question. I'm planning an heirloom turkey low and slow and I guess I'll be dry brining this year. Do you use any oil before cooking?

                                                                  1. re: fldhkybnva
                                                                    Erika RollerGirl RE: fldhkybnva Nov 13, 2013 06:52 AM

                                                                    You might want to reconsider low and slow for quick and really hot a la Zuni. If memory serves me, I want to say I'm able to perfectly roast a 14 lb turkey in approximately 2 hours in an extremely hot oven. The quick cooking (along with the dry brining) does not allow for the moisture to escape the meat and you end up with a moist bird and very crispy skin. The only thing you have to worry about is smoking up your house a bit, but it's worth it when you can free up your oven for other items so easily.

                                                              2. EWSflash RE: sandiasingh Nov 6, 2013 06:49 PM


                                                                1. n
                                                                  Nancyhartman RE: sandiasingh Nov 6, 2013 08:27 PM

                                                                  The secret to perfect juicy chicken and turkey is simple - Brine them before cooking!

                                                                  This is the secret that chefs never tell you about. It's very easy and economical, and requires no special cookware.
                                                                  Brining is like a marinade, as it keeps food moist and tender. Brining or salting is a way of increasing the moisture holding capacity of meat resulting in a moister product when it is cooked. Salt changes the structure of the muscle tissue in the meat which allows it to swell and absorb water and flavorings which results in a tender turkey or chicken once cooked.

                                                                  With that said, you cAn adjust the amount of salt in your brine if the sodium content is a concern. I'm not sure on how much sodium is retained. There are no strict rules on the salt to water ratio for brining. Traditionally, 3/4 pound of salt per gallon of water, but since we’re not concerned with the brine as a preservative, you can cut back on the salt. You can also cut back on the amount of time for brining to reduce the sodium content. For a whole turkey 1-2 days of brining is recommended, so 1 day of brining would be better for lower sodium content. Instead of table salt, use either coarse kosher salt or sea salt. Here's a link that reviews a formula to calculate sodium retained from brining: http://www.salon.com/2010/03/23/brini...

                                                                  Here are comprehensive instructions on brining your turkey

                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Nancyhartman
                                                                    fldhkybnva RE: Nancyhartman Nov 7, 2013 05:23 AM

                                                                    I've had plenty of non-brined turkeys that were moist and delicious just to be devil's advocate.

                                                                    1. re: Nancyhartman
                                                                      C. Hamster RE: Nancyhartman Nov 7, 2013 06:08 AM

                                                                      Although the rules for brining may not be strict, it doesn't work if you cut back too much on the amount if salt you use.

                                                                      1. re: Nancyhartman
                                                                        sandiasingh RE: Nancyhartman Nov 7, 2013 06:42 AM

                                                                        Thank you, Nancyhartman.

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