Brining a turkey makes it moist and juicy. You can either brine it in a water solution with salt, water, sugar and spices or dry brine it.
During brining, the turkey absorbs extra moisture, which in turn helps it stay more moist and juicy both during and after cooking.
I suppose most of you know how to brine a turkey but for me this was the first time. I decided to try it this year and it is a fact that it produces a great tasting turkey which is tender and juicier.
I am glad I decided to brine it this year as I do not know what would have happened to it with my old fridge breaking down. I read a few methods on the internet here and here and added a few ingredients of my own.
Basically what you need is salt and water. Sugar is optional and the rest of the ingredients depend on what you like to add in the brine.
The ratio of water to salt is 1 gallon (1 Gallon = 3.785 litres) to 1 cup of table salt.
For a five kilo turkey you will need about 2 gallons of water.
I always buy a fresh turkey so before brining it there is a lot of work to wash it and remove some roots of the feathers. I even use tweezers to remove the feathers as it is very difficult to remove them. After removing all the feathers there are some very tiny hair which are burnt off.
You can use a frozen turkey if you prefer but it should be properly thawed, at least two days before brining, in the refrigerator.
Before brining the turkey, I scorch it to remove any unwanted feathers or tiny hairs. I yet some cotton with alcohol which I light in the sink and pass the turkey over the flame for a few seconds until the feathers are burnt.
The largest container I have is a large green bowl which I use in the kitchen and I use it only to clean and wash my greens (horta) and make dough.
I put the turkey inside and measured the water needed. As you may see the turkey is not fully covered. I then removed the turkey and mixed in the ingredients until the salt and sugar dissolved. I then put the turkey in again, covered it with cling film and let it brine overnight for twelve hours and in the morning I turned it on the other side and let it brine for another twelve hours.
As we live in an apartment in Athens, on the third floor, I leave the container outside on the balcony, which is safe as no animals or thieves can do any harm.
After brining the turkey, it must be washed so that the salt and sugar is removed.
I cooked the turkey the traditional way I make it every year and stuffed it with chicken giblets. You may find the recipe for my stuffed turkey here. The only addition this year was adding chestnuts instead of almonds to the filling. I added two cups of boiled and skinned chestnuts, which added an additional sweetness to the filling. I am definitely going to be making this every year from now on.
Update: Brining ingredients 2012:
- 19 cups water
- 1 cup mandarin juice
- Juice of 1 orange
- Peels of mandarins and orange (pith removed)
- 1 1/2 cups coarse sea salt
- 1 cup crystal sugar
- 2 tsp Black Peppercorns
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 tbsp oregano
- 1 tbsp thyme
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 1 tbsp wild mountain tea (or use sage)
Update: Christmas 2018
Greek Dry Brining Marinade
After brining the turkey with the above method for ten years, this year I decided to try a dry brining method.
I made the brine with Greek spices and other ingredients which are simple pantry staples.
With a dry brine, you just mix the salt with garlic, honey and spices, lemon juice and mustard and rub it into the meat and cavity and you’re done.
Cover it overnight and it’s ready to cook.
Wet brining; Dry brining: