The most common complaint heard about turkey is that it is over-cooked. Because of the texture of the meat, it is difficult to successfully prepare such a large bird to a state of perfection. Most people simply baste the turkey, cover it with a dry rub, or bake it in a pan that needs to be frequently refilled with water. There is an easier way, and though it’s not often found in the cooking magazines, brining turkey is probably the simplest and best method for a flavorful and moist result.
This is odd, because brining turkey is not the stuff of arcane knowledge. People have brined foods both for immediate consumption and as preparation for smoking and long-term storage for literally thousands of years. Brining turkey is a process, just as baking or roasting is a process, which involves a few rules, a good brine recipe, and just a little additional effort.
A simple brine recipe consists of one cup (236 ml) of kosher or sea salt and one cup (236 ml) of sugar combined with one gallon (3.8 ltr) of water. One can add any herbs or spices desired to this base, with items such as mint, dill, bay leaves, peppercorns, and garlic being popular choices. To further enhance the taste, fruit juices can replace the water. Artificial sweeteners can even replace sugar, which is handy when cooking for those on a sugar-restricted diets.
Brining turkey begins with pouring all the ingredients into a large stockpot. Stir the ingredients until they are dissolved, but do not let the water boil. Take the pot off the burner and let the brine cool for approximately 30 minutes. While the brine cools, pour ice cubes into a chest cooler. Place the turkey in a large zip-top bag, and lay it breast-side down on top of the ice.
Pour the brine over the turkey, and add an additional 1 gallon (3.8 ltr) of water or juice. Make sure the bag is full of brine, and that the turkey is completely submerged. Brining turkey requires that the bird remain in the solution for one hour per pound (4.5 kg). Do not leave it longer than that, or it will be very salty.
After the required time has passed, remove the turkey from the cooler, scoop liberal amounts of brine and spices over it, and roast as normal. Brining turkey is commonly viewed as the only reliable method that allows turkey meat to remain juicy. Strong hints of the brine’s flavor will also have naturally been infused throughout all of the meat.