Brine is a basic salt-and-water solution that helps your turkey retain more moisture and flavor throughout the cooking process. Giving your bird a long, luxurious brine bath is a simple way to guard against dry meat. All it takes is a little planning ahead, and you’ll have your best turkey yet. Here are some of our essential brining tips:
- Be sure to choose a container that’s large enough to hold the bird and the brine. It also needs to be able to fit in your refrigerator or a large cooler.
- Plan to brine your turkey for at least 24 to 36 hours.
- To minimize clean-up, line a large 3-5 gallon container with an oven roasting bag. Add your turkey and cooled brine, then place the container in a fridge or cooler with ice.
- Tack an additional 30 minutes onto the estimated roasting time, just to be safe. There are many variables that come into play: from the temperature of the turkey, to an inaccurate oven, to frequent opening of the oven door (which drops the temperature) and even the temperature of the stuffing.
- Let the turkey rest. A rest period before carving is one of the secrets to a moist, juicy bird. The hot juices in the turkey must cool and relax back into the meat—carving it too soon could release them, resulting in a dried-out texture.
- The larger the bird, the longer it can stand at room temperature without cooling off. Allow 30 minutes for an average-sized bird of about 15 lbs. and up to 1 hour for large birds around 20 lbs. With the turkey on the platter, the oven is now free for reheating sides.
- Invest in a digital thermometer. If there’s one thing I would love to see in every kitchen across America, it’s an easy-to-use, digital read probe thermometer. Even if you’re just checking the proper doneness of poultry, it’s worth the investment.