Brining Poultry


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For truly juicy poultry you may wish to try brining.  Before trying it on your Thanksgiving turkey, I suggest you experiment with a chicken first.


Brining is basically a marinade.  It helps to moisten and tenderize the chicken or turkey and it can add flavor, depending on the type of brine you use.  Salt changes the structure of muscle tissue and allows it to swell and absorb moisture.  This results in a more tender and moist product when roasted.


Brining is quite easy ad economical, and it requires no specialize equipment.  


A basic brine is about 1 cup salt and 1/2 cup sugar to 2 gallons of liquid.  From there it’s up to you.  You can add herbs and spices, honey or molasses in place of sugar, fruit juice, beer, wine vinegar, stock, broth or bouillon.  Even oriental flavors like soy, ginger and Chinese Five-spice are nice, but not I think for Thanksgiving.  A good combination I think is crushed garlic cloves, several slices of onion, a sprig of rosemary, a bay leaf and replace half the water with beer or apple juice.

Finding a container large enough to brine your big bird in could be difficult.  I like to use a stout trash bag. 

It is essential to employ some sort of refrigeration.  The USDA tells us that food should be kept under 40°f or over 141°f.  If your bird won’t fit in the refrigerator, you can use a cooler or  large clean plastic bucket.  When your bagged bird is in the cooler or bucket, pack ice or blue ice around it.  If using ice, it will be easier to handle if you put it in zip-lock bags.  Keep an eye on it and replace the ice to keep cold enough. 

To be on the save side, use a thermometer and keep the turkey and brine under 40°f.

Turkey in a bag

Turkey Brine Ice Pack

How long should the bird stay in the brine?  That of course depends on the size.  Overnight is good for most turkeys.  For chickens, four to six hours is usually adequate.  If using a bag, it’s a good idea to turn the bag over now and then to insure that the brining will be even.  If this is your first time brining, leave it less time than more.  You can add more salt at table if needed, but you can’t take it out.


Before stuffing and roasting your brined turkey, rinse it well and pat dry inside and out.  You are now ready to begin.  Good luck.

The English Country Kitchen


        Copyright © 2008 - Geraldine Duncann

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