It’s mid-November, and time for the age-old Thanksgiving dilemma that has been plaguing home chefs since the dawn of American time: how to make the most delectable, juicy turkey with a rich and flavorful gravy to die for – with the least amount of time and effort.
Of course, there are many cooking philosophies when it comes to the Thanksgiving turkey. Some swear by the deep fry, others insist on going all-organic, and many very much enjoy the simple commercial varieties.
Yet, we are here to contemplate the brine, which is nothing more than a turkey soaked in salted, seasoned water. Brining leverages osmosis to force the turkey to draw up water into itself. The theory being that the meat ends up juicier and moister after being subjected to the salt solution.
When a turkey is heated, the moisture in its meat is pushed out. It’s an inevitable part of the cooking process. Brining fills in the gaps bringing additional moisture and injects salt into the meat. Because the salt in the brine will dissolve some of the proteins responsible for forcing out the moisture inside the bird when it is heated, brining not only allows the muscles to absorb the seasoned brine but causes the meat to release less moisture when cooked.
And while it sounds like the perfect kitchen secret, it can also add time and labor to the equation. Below we have laid out the pros and the cons, followed by an easy to follow flow chart to help you make your brining decision.
- A well-seasoned turkey with nice, juicy meat.
- Takes up time and space
- Requires a large vessel to soak the bird in (that can be hard to carry) – a sanitized “Homer” bucket from Home Depot works wonders
- Can get messy with all that water sloshing around
- Frightens people with the very idea of soaking a bird in water
- Creates an “artificial” juiciness
- It makes the skin harder to crisp and achieve the near-sacred golden-brown color and texture
Long story short: there is no one best way to cook a bird, and brining leads to a moister, more flavorful bird. It is important to remember that many commercial turkeys are pre-brined, they have often done a bit of food magic by injecting a solution to make the meat near-perfect (and foolproof) every time. For these magic butter-birds, a home brine is unnecessary.
So…wondering if the brine is right for you? Here is a handy-dandy flow chart to help you decide:
So, join the debate! Let us know if you are pro-brine or au natural – the Masiello Employment Team awaits your answers!