Thanksgiving is coming so I decided it was high time I posted my brining recipe. I’ve been brining our Thanksgiving turkey for years now because we think it’s the best thing to do for a turkey. Brining involves soaking your turkey for several hours in a salt water solution which guarantees a moist and juicy turkey every time. You add sugar to balance out the salt, plus a bunch of spices and aromatics which infuses your turkey with delicate flavor. If you have someone like my brother-in-law, Anthony, who can fry the turkey after brining, whoo-ee! You’ll think you’ve died and gone to turkey heaven.
I find that using a brining bag or turkey-sized oven bag is a huge help. Put the turkey and brining solution into the bag, then squeeze out as much air as you can before sealing it which ensures the turkey is fully immersed in the brining solution. Then the whole thing goes into the fridge or if you don’t have room in the fridge (I never do), you can put it into a cooler filled with ice or ice packs where it brines for the required number of hours. Just keep replacing the ice as you need to. If you can’t find a brining bag, you can brine your turkey directly in a large bucket or in a cooler that’s just large enough to fit the turkey. I’ve heard it said that it’s best to brine fresh turkeys because frozen turkeys are usually injected with a salt water solution, but I’ve brined frozen turkeys and Butterball turkeys and they’ve turned out just fine.
(For 14-16 lb. turkey or any poultry)
- 1 gallon vegetable broth
- 1 cup sea salt
- 1 cup white sugar
- 2 tbsp. crushed dried rosemary
- 2 tbsp. dried sage
- 2 tbsp. dried thyme
- 2 tbsp. dried savory
- 1 gallon ice water
- In a large stock pot, combine broth, salt, sugar, rosemary, sage, thyme, and savory.
- Bring to a boil, stirring frequently, until salt and sugar are dissolved.
- Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
- When broth mixture is cool, pour into a brining bag or a large, clean bucket.
- Stir in the ice water.
TO BRINE TURKEY
- Wash and dry turkey. Make sure to remove the innards.
- Place turkey breast side down into brining bag, making sure cavity gets filled.
- Squeeze as much air as you can out of brining bag before sealing tightly.
- Place brining bag in refrigerator or in a cooler filled with ice or several ice packs.
- Brine for 1 hour per pound; turn bird halfway through brining.
- Remove turkey carefully, draining off excess brine. Discard brine.
- Rinse bird inside and out with cold water.
- Place on roasting rack and pat dry very well.
- Remember brined turkeys cook 20-30 minutes faster so watch the temperature when roasting.
NOTE: Thaw turkey 3-4 days in refrigerator before brining.
I decided to brine some pork chops to serve over the Cheddar Grits I was planning to make. Brining lean meats like pork chops, chicken breasts, fish fillets, and shrimp is a great way to keep them moist and juicy after they’re cooked. Brining is really easy. It’s simply marinating your meat in a solution of salt and water before cooking. How long you brine your meat depends on what you’re brining. Small, thin pieces like fish fillets and shrimp should be brined for no more than 30 minutes or less. A large turkey can be brined overnight.
This chart is from one of my early issues of Fine Cooking magazine and gives you a good idea of the ratio of salt to water for each of the different meats and how long to brine them. Make enough brining liquid to completely submerge the amount of meat you plan to cook.
The chart above gives salt concentration and brining time for various foods. Concentrations listed are for Diamond Crystal kosher salt. For table salt, cut salt amounts by 1/2; for Mortons kosher salt, cut amounts by 1/4.
You can add different herbs like rosemary, thyme, garlic, etc., to your brine. You can also change the brining liquid to broth or apple cider. You can even add sugar. All these additions are flavor enhancers, but the main ingredient in a brine is salt. You can’t have a brine without it. Make sure that whatever you’re brining is completely submerged in the liquid and keep it in the refrigerator for the required period of time. After the required brining time, remove the meat and rinse it under cold water so that it won’t be too salty.
GRILLED BRINED PORK CHOPS
- 6 pork chops
- 1 quart apple cider
- ½ cup salt
- Mix apple cider and salt in a plastic baking bag or a ziploc bag.
- Add the pork chops and seal the bag partway, pressing to remove all the air you can before sealing the bag completely so the pork chops are fully submerged.
- Place bag in refrigerator and allow pork chops to sit in brine for 4 hours.
- After 4 hours, remove pork chops from brining liquid and discard the liquid.
- Rinse the pork chops under cool running water and pat them dry with paper towels.
- Grill or pan fry to desired doneness.
Note: I served the pork chops over a bed of polenta with roasted butternut squash.
EASY ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH
- 1 large butternut squash (about 3 lbs.)
- 3 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 tbsp. garam masala
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Peel squash, remove seeds, and cut into 1-inch chunks.
- Place squash in a rimmed baking sheet.
- Drizzle with olive oil, then sprinkle with garam masala, salt and pepper.
- Toss all together well.
- Bake at 400°F for 25 to 30 minutes or until squash is tender when pierced with a fork.