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The Secret of the Juiciest Turkey Revealed

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Turkey Brine
The Local Palate Turkey Brine. Photo by Andrew Cebulka

Laboring for hours in the kitchen on Thanksgiving Day is a ritual for many cooks across the South, and carving the turkey is one of the show-stopping moments of the day. To make sure your bird is juicy when you make that first cut, leave the dreaded dry turkey behind with a brine. A brine is a concoction of salt, water and aromatics that is used to add moisture into the meat of the turkey. Talk to your grandma about roasting a turkey on Thanksgiving and she will undoubtedly tell you about hours of basting over a hot stove. Opening the oven door to pull the bird in and out for basting lowers the temperature of the oven, which can be problematic, and basting a turkey only brings moisture to the outer layer of the meat. Brining, on the other hand, distributes moisture throughout the turkey, as the salt in the brine causes the meat to absorb liquid. As a bonus, brining is also much less labor intensive than basting.

The salt to water ratio is the
most important aspect of a brine.

TOO MUCH SALT
and it begins to break down the meat and will make your turkey too salty.

TOO LITTLE SALT
and the liquid will not be absorbed in the meat, and the brine will not do its job.

Tips for Brining Turkey

  • Thaw the turkey completely before adding it to the brine.
  • Make sure the brine solution has around 1 cup of salt per gallon of water, and if you plan on using kosher salt, use 1½ to 2 cups of kosher salt per gallon of water. Kosher salt dissolves easier than table salt and so it is a good choice for a brine.
  • Add other ingredients like orange juice, soy, aromatics like peppercorns, sprigs of rosemary and bay leaves to add additional flavor to your bird.
  • After preparing the brine, let it cool completely before adding the turkey. Consider making it a day ahead and storing it overnight in the refrigerator.
  • Always keep the turkey refrigerated while brining.
  • Brine the turkey in a non-reactive container like stainless steel or plastic. Look for brining bags to help keep the brine contained.
  • Rinse the turkey after removing from the brine and before roasting.