For days you slaved in the kitchen making pies, bread doughs, side dishes planning out the best Thanksgiving ever. You stuff your bird and put it in the oven. Several hours later it comes out and while it looks gorgeous you cut into it and it’s well, dry. It’s perfect temp but it’s not like that perfect turkey you’ve had at your favorite restaurant. You’ve followed the instructions yet it’s just not the same. You blame your oven, the recipe or the bird. However the solution may be easier than you think. Ask yourself one simple question – did you brine your turkey? Turkey is a leaner meat which means the lower the fat content. Lower the fat content means the less ‘juicy’ it is. Now you can make great turkey and meats without brining them but I’m telling you what folks you have no idea what you’re missing. Brined meat is absolutely AMAZING. So juicy and tender…
So why brine? Well brining meat in a salt mixture helps lock in the meats own juices by tenderizing the meat. This mixture of water, salts and seasonings helps to tenderize and lock in the juices. Without brining, when you heat up meat you break down the protein or you’re ‘denaturing’ it. When meat is cooked, the connective tissue breaks down (denatures) turning into gelatin. Additionally the proteins in the muscle fibers also denature and end up creating a cross linking, making the meat tough again.
Typically without bring these leaner meats you lose up to 30% moisture. We’ve all had that ‘shoe leather’ piece of meat that you have to gnaw on just to get the thing to a quasi-chewable manner. But if you brine your meat you can limit the amount lost to ~15%. That’s HUGE folks. Now what you’ll have to keep in mind is if your turkey is 20lbs before you brine, it can weight 6-7% more after you take it out of the brine. It’s “bloated” from all that water – this is GOOD. It means your turkey will be more juicy and tender when you roast it.
Now there are a bajillion (and 7) brine recipes but the rule of thumb 1 cup of table salt to 1 gallon of water, divided (1 quart warm, 3 quarts cold). Keep in mind not all salts are the same. You need to weigh out the salt. Also add the salt to 1/4th of the water being warm. It’s way easier to dissolve salt in warm water than cold. Once dissolved add in the rest of the water (cold). NEVER put your meat in a warm brine. Also store the entire container (plastic lidded bucket works best) in the fridge. For me I tend to add some sugar, and seasonings to my brine mixture. This then is popped in the fridge. Now the length truly depends on 2 factors – the size of the meat and the amount of salt.
♥ Whole turkey: up to 24 hours
♥ Whole chicken: 12 – 24 hours
♥ Pork Chops: 12 – 24 hours
♥ Cut chicken pieces (bone in): 1 1/2 hours
♥ Pork Tenderloin: 12-24 hours
Once the meat has brined, remove it from the fridge and liquid. Rinse it and pat dry the meat (inside if applicable) with paper towels. Your meat is then ready for roasting.
If you’ve brined, do you have a favorite brining recipe?