Brining Thanksgiving Turkey

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Thanksgiving Side Dishes
Thanksgiving 2011

“I don’t brine my meat. Ever.”  That’s what J. Kenji López-Alt of Food Lab writes in this article on “The Truth About Brining Turkey.”

I love reading Kenji’s food science articles. He does some pretty in-depth scientific food experimentations to determine things like what makes a perfect chocolate chip cookie or a perfect fried chicken wing.

But despite what Kenji says about brining turkey, I respectfully disagree with him and will continue to brine my turkey because mine does turn out moist AND flavorful.

I’ve previously posted about how I brine my turkey in my Thanksgiving 2011 post. Here’s what I do in a little more detail.

Brining the Turkey
Brining the Turkey (Thanksgiving 2011)

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This is my brine recipe that I have used for the last 6 Thanksgiving turkeys. It is from Emeril Lagasse at the Food Network:

BRINE: (per 2 gallons of water).
1 cup table salt
1 cup brown sugar
2 oranges, quartered
2 lemons, quartered
6 sprigs thyme
4 sprigs rosemary
1 Tb Black Peppercorns
2 gallons water

To make brining solution, dissolve salt and sugar in 2 gallons of cold water in a non-reactive container (such as a clean bucket or large stockpot, or a clean, heavy-duty, plastic garbage bag). Add the oranges, lemons, thyme, and rosemary. Rinse the turkey inside and out under cold running water. Remove the neck, giblets, and liver from the cavity of the turkey and reserve for the gravy. Soak the turkey in the brine, breast down, covered and refrigerated, for at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours.

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My turkeys are usually between 8-10 kgs (17.5-22 lbs). As you can see in the photo above, I use a clear IKEA plastic box (39 x 28 x 28 cm or 15.4 x 11 x 11 inches) lined with a Glad ForceFlex garbage bag (size is 13 g/49.2 L bought at Carrefour but I have not seen this for years so will just use a different garbage bag this year) for easy cleanup. I further place the plastic box inside an IKEA vinyl bag with handles to make it easier to lug into the fridge.

Once the turkey goes into the brine and the box goes into the fridge, I don’t touch it until it comes out of the fridge 24 hours later so no turning the turkey or swirling the brine.

One year, I decided to brine the turkey for 36 hours because I thought the longer I brine it, the better it’ll taste, right?

Oh so wrong in this instance. Although the turkey was not ruined, I did feel that it tasted a little saltier than I would have liked it. So do follow the instructions – it says “up to 24 hours” for a good reason.

Do you brine your turkey? Are you happy with the results to prove Kenji wrong?

And if you have any turkey brining tips to share, please leave them in the comments below. Thank you.


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  1. I am one of the fortunate ones to have been a guest at the annual Ginger & Scotch Thanksgiving dinners and what a great feast it was every time!

  2. I’ve been blessed to enjoy this very recipe in the company of Ginger and Scotch and have to agree it’s the best turkey I’ve had. Now I’m back in USA and will be making my own turkey this year. This is the winning recipe. Thanks for posting for the world to see (and for reminding me it’s here!). Happy Thanksgiving to you!