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Dec 25, 2013 01:02 PM

First brined turkey.

Having never done this I'm unsure if I need to rub the bird with spices, as I would an unbrined bird, before roasting. Google reveals many options, but no solid advice. So I turn to my fellow Chowers. I am fairly certain it doesn't need any salt and in fact think I may have over brined. I just pulled it out, rinsed, dried and put it in the fridge. Had been in the brine for 32 hours. I used Ruhlman's ratio of 1 cup of salt per gallon. Seems most recipes use less and call for fewer hours. I added rosemary, thyme, sage, garlic lemon and onion. After that much thyme in a spice bath I could easily see it not needing anything but a butter rub down. I mean, who doesn't like a butter rub down after a long, cold bath?


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  1. Since you added spices to the brine no need to season more. I prefer to leave my turkey, uncovered, in the fridge for 24 hours or at least overnight, after the brining. This allows the excess moisture in the skin evaporate making for a crispy skin. No need to baste.

    I don't care for butter on my turkey as I don't like the taste in my gravy but if you do go for for it.

    1. Well, it depends on the bird and when you plan to roast. If you used an injected/basted bird then yeah, it might be a little salty. But if you're sure it wasn't basted or pre-brined in any way you should be fine, although you may be surprised at how little herb or spice flavor it will have picked up.

      If you have some time before roasting I'd still do a dry herb/spice rub and let it sit in the fridge a day or two, and sure, go ahead and use some oil or butter if you like. In our restaurant we actually use rendered Turkey fat for this. It's pretty good and makes for a fantastic base for drippings for stock and gravy.

      1. I think you may find that the 32 hours in the brine will have left your turkey with that icky spongey texture that makes me dislike wet-brined turkeys so much.

        You can still do a spice rub if you want, sans salt. If you're putting the rub on just prior to going in the oven, you're basically just seasoning the skin.

        1. This was a disappointment. I was expecting moist, tender breast meat and it was tough. Perhaps this is the spongy character TorontoJo mentioned. It was hard to cut with a fork. I've had unbrined, overcooked breast meat that was, while dry and a bit chewy at least easy to cut with a fork.

          Overall a tad salty, almost no herb flavor. Of course one time is hardly a decent sample, but if this is what you get? Total waste of time. I've cooked much better turkey using the butter-herb rub under the skin method.

          I did a google search on spongey-brined-turkey and found an article that mentions it and says it can be avoided by using a dry brine. Perhaps next time.


          12 Replies
          1. re: JuniorBalloon

            Try the dry brine method. It is much easier and I don't think you get the spongey texture in the white meat.

            1. re: JuniorBalloon

              Dry brine is the way to go in my book. I've been doing it for years now, and the result is always wonderful.

              1. re: JuniorBalloon

                I do think you brined it way too long but I have no idea if prolonged brining can in any way cause toughening. I would expect not. Nor does seasoning the brine do much to flavor the meat. The spongy texture that can happen with brining does not make the meat hard to cut. Did you by chance buy a freshly-killed bird? That could account for the texture. Meat benefits from at least a few days between slaughtering and cooking. The enzymatic changes that eventually cause decomposition, in the initial stages tenderize the meat. Aged steak, for example.

                1. re: JuniorBalloon

                  You brined it for WAY too long.

                  It should not be salty or spongy.

                  1. re: JuniorBalloon

                    Without knowing exactly what kind of bird you got or how you cooked it, it's hard to know what went wrong. I've wet-brined birds for days and not had a tough bird, so that is not likely the problem. You can get very good results from either wet or dry brining methods, or a combination or both, so I doubt that's the issue.

                    Herbs in a wet brine are largely useless, as I noted above. It stuns me that even pretty smart guys like Alton recommend them.

                    If you got a Heritage, Heirloom, Organic or Free-Range bird, (or if you paid more than about a buck a pound for it for any other reason) that is much more likely to be the problem.

                    A spongy texture is most commonly associated with "fresh, never frozen" birds as they hover around the freezing point, constantly freezing and thawing, damaging the meat several times daily. Worst possible type of bird to get. And expensive, adding insult to injury.

                    1. re: acgold7

                      Was purchased to Whole Foods. 10 lb young, free range, but by no means an expensive heritage bird. Unbrined at $1,99 a pound.

                      I cooked it at 325 until the thigh was 155 and the breast was just over 170. I know that is a bit high for breast and a touch low for the dark meat, but what can you do?

                      I also fully realize it could have just been a tough bird. I cook a ton of chicken during the year and while I rarely have this issue with whole chicken I sometimes will get a tough, bone in breast. Two breasts cooked identically and one will be stringy and tough the other tender.

                      I will try again, but will use a lower salt to water ratio, 1/2 cup to a gallon and a shorter brining period. No more than 24 hours.

                      Thanks for the input.


                      1. re: JuniorBalloon

                        Free range could be a factor, too. More muscle development in birds that play in the dirt, compared to the "cage potatoes".

                        1. re: JuniorBalloon

                          gg could be right -- the free range thing rarely means good eats. Your best bet culinarily is usually a frozen farmed bird, but I get that not everyone is comfortable with this.

                          Your technique sounds right but your internal temps are a bit high -- you're done when the breast hits 150. It'll creep up to 160 as it rests if you've roasted at 325. You should roast breast down for most of the time, especially with a tiny bird like that (we call those chickens at my place). Bonus -- doing it breast down means the thighs cook faster and the breast is shielded.

                          Also note that a cup of Diamond kosher salt is half as salty as a cup of Morton's table salt. So you should always really measure by weight if the recipe is smart enough to indicate it. My wet brine is a cup of Kosher per 2 gallons, but only a half cup of Table salt. I go for a day or two -- time doesn't matter much at those low concentrations. No herbs.

                          Again, if it was advertised as Never Frozen, that also may have been your problem. That's the biggest problem out there and no one realizes it.

                          1. re: acgold7

                            Just for completeness I did measure by weight. Ruhlman's ratio is 225 grams of salt per gallon.

                            acogld7, is your restaurant in Woodinville? Are you allowed to tell the name on CH?

                            Thanks for the advice.


                            1. re: JuniorBalloon

                              Yes, it's in Woodinville. And no, they frown on that. But a quick Google search puts us at the top of the list for Turkey in Woodinville. Or it should unless I'm paying my SEO guy for nothing.

                              Thanks for asking!

                              If you stop by be sure to ask for me and say hello.

                          2. re: JuniorBalloon

                            Don't change the salt to water ratio. Big mistake. You need the salt to make the process work.

                            Just brine it for a shorter amount of time.

                            Or dry brine.

                            1. re: C. Hamster

                              No one is saying not to use salt. You can easily change the ratios and the effect is the same as changing the time. The notion that you can't change the ratio is another one of those Myths That Will Not Die.

                              We've tried various time/ratio combinations and they all work fine. Otherwise why would CI suggest stronger brines with shorter times?

                              Obviously there is a point at which there's not enough salt to do anything at all, but this isn't it.