Preparing a turkey breast can be a difficult process for many cooks, often because they are concerned about cooking the bird to the necessary doneness while keeping the breast meat moist and tender. Brining the turkey before roasting can help keep the breast from drying out and add flavor to the meat. To brine a turkey breast, one should prepare a solution of salt, water and sugar and soak the bird in this solution for five to 10 hours before cooking. Additional herbs and spices may be added to help boost the flavor of the turkey. The brining solution must be kept under 40 degrees Fahrenheit (roughly 4 degrees Celsius) during the brining process to avoid the growth of harmful bacteria that can leave the meat unfit to eat.
Before starting to brine a turkey breast, the cook should purchase the ingredients for the brining solution and select a waterproof container large enough to hold the breast. Many recipes recommend large plastic buckets, coolers or mixing bowls that have been cleaned thoroughly and disinfected prior to use. The container must be constructed of a material that will not react with the salt in the water; it also may be lined with a plastic bag that can hold the turkey breast and brine.
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When mixing the brining solution, it is important to follow the correct proportions of salt, sugar and liquid listed in the recipe. Cooks also should pay attention to whether the recipe calls for kosher or table salt, because various types of salt may require different measurements. To properly brine a turkey breast, the cook should prepare enough of the solution to completely cover the meat as it rests in the container.
Some recipes recommend boiling the brine to help dissolve the salt and sugar, but it should be cooled completely before use. Ice packs can be added around the container to help keep the temperature of the mixture cool enough to inhibit the growth of bacteria. If the container is small enough, it can be placed in the refrigerator during the brining process to help keep the meat at a safe temperature.
While salt and sugar are standard ingredients when one wants to brine a turkey breast, other herbs and spices may be added to the solution to add flavor. Some recipes recommend allspice berries, peppercorns, cloves or bay leaves. Cooks also can experiment with different types of liquids, such as juices, stocks, wines or vinegars in combination with water.
The time needed to brine a turkey breast varies based on the weight of the breast and what type of brine is being used. In general, cooks should follow their recipe instructions regarding both the brining time and whether to rinse the meat after removing it from the solution. Brined turkey may cook faster than regular meat. Brining will increase the level of sodium in the final dish, so people with on a low-salt diet may wish to avoid this type of preparation.