What Does Soaking a Turkey in Brine Do?
Soaking a turkey in brine does more than make it more juicy. The water and salt in the brine are absorbed into the meat and reintroduced into the cooking process, adding flavor to the turkey.
Brined meat is juicier and tender than unbrined meat, which has lost most of its moisture as it cooks. The salt also breaks down the proteins in muscle tissue, helping the turkey stay moist and preventing it from becoming dry.
Brining is done by soaking meat in a solution of water and salt, and it takes about 12 hours for the brine to penetrate the meat fully. The longer you soak the turkey, the more salt it will absorb and the juicier the meat will be.
The ratio of salt to water in a brine is usually about 5 percent by weight for a whole turkey, but you can use higher or lower proportions for smaller cuts. In addition, you should always add flavorings to the brine to add more depth of flavor and to accentuate the turkey’s natural flavors.
Depending on your tastes, you may want to experiment with different brine recipes. Some are made with a combination of water and liquids, while others are just salt and aromatics. The latter type often has more flavor impact and is a good choice for a festive holiday meal.
There are two main methods for soaking a turkey in brine: wet and dry. Wet brining saturates the turkey with salt water, while a dry brine draws the turkey’s natural moisture out of the muscle and then mixes that with the salt, so it re-absorbs into the meat.
Wet brining requires a large container for submerging the turkey in the saltwater. You’ll need a 5-gallon container, a stock pot, or other non-corrosive container that fits in your refrigerator (and has plenty of room for the turkey to swim in the brine).
A wet brine will defrost your turkey faster and keep it moist when you roast it. It’s also a great way to keep a turkey that’s been frozen for a day or so before Thanksgiving.
If you don’t have enough fridge space for a 5 gallon container, it’s easy to brine in a larger cooler with replenished ice. Just be sure to monitor the temperature of the brine and replenish ice as necessary.
It’s important to cool the brine thoroughly, or it could cause bacteria growth. This is especially important if you’re preparing the brine on a day when you won’t be able to leave it alone for long periods of time.
When a turkey is out of the brine, it’s best to dry it with paper towels and then roast it for the appropriate amount of time based on its size. This will ensure that every part of the turkey gets cooked and a juicy, delicious holiday meal!
If you’re not ready to commit to a full-fledged wet brine, there’s also dry brining, which involves putting the turkey in a sealed bag and placing it in a deep pan of cold water. This method is also very simple and hands-off.