Blame it all on Alton Brown - I've been brining and smoking my Thanksgiving turkey since 2007. This year I'll be doing a Maple-Herb Brine. I've also made Alton's Honey Brined Smoked Turkey recipe, a Citrus-Stuffed Herbed Turkey with a honey and citrus brine and a Savory Turkey Brine using Kikkoman Soy Sauce. Yes, I'm a little brine happy, but who wouldn't be when it results in a delicious, succulent turkey!
So what's brining anyway?Brining is a process that is used to add flavor and moisture to a meat before cooking. Brine consists of water, salt, herbs and spices, and something sweet like juice, honey, sugar, molasses or maple syrup.
Many recipes have you heat the water to dissolve the salt and sugar. Afterward, you need to cool the mixture before use.
What kind of container?When you're ready to brine, you'll need a clean, non-reactive container large enough to hold the meat and the brine. I've used a cooler (both plastic ice chests and Styrofoam coolers). Some people like to use brining bags or very large, non-aluminum stock pots. You can also use food service containers and buckets or large Ziploc bags.
Even though it's insulated and easy to clean, using a cooler can be a problem if it's too big. Remember, you have to cover the turkey in brine, so unless you have a smaller cooler - or a very large bird - be prepared to make a lot of brine. You can also displace and rise the level of the brine, by adding other things in the cooler like a large pitcher of water, a heavy sauce pan, etc.
Finally, you must completely submerge the turkey in the brining solution overnight and keep it cold. Since turkeys tend to float, you can way it down with a heavy ceramic plate or bowl. You can also weigh the turkey with clean bags of ice, which will also keep it cold. If you're brining your bird in a cooler, move it to a cool spot like the back porch or garage, assuming you live in a cold area. Otherwise, add more bags of ice to the cooler.
How to keep your brining turkey cool overnight
If you're brining in a large stock pot, place it in the refrigerator overnight. If you're using a brining bag - and don't have room in the refrigerator - place it in a cooler packed with ice.
The next day, remove the bird from the brine. Some recipes have you rinse the turkey and others have you pat it dry with no rinsing. Either way is fine. Then you're ready to roast, smoke or fry your turkey. I'll be smoking mine this year in my new Masterbuilt Electric Smoker with a little cherry wood. Mmmmm...
Have a happy - and delicious Thanksgiving!
When Anne-Marie Nichols isn't planning her healthy Thanksgiving menu at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet, you can find her at Mom Central Food or on Twitter @amnichols. She's also a member of the Yahoo! Motherboard.