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Turkey: Wet or Dry Brining

Turkey: Wet or Dry Brining

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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

dry brining a turkey photo

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 turkey image

Turkey: Wet or Dry Brining

Yield: 1
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Additional Time: 12 hours
Total Time: 12 hours 15 minutes

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.

Ingredients

Wet brining:

  • 4 litres water
  • 1cup of table salt
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon allspice berries
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 rosemary sprig
  • 1/2 cup of orange juice
  • 1/2 cup of lemon juice

Dry brining:

  • 1 tsp coarse herbed sea salt
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp mustard
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • Zest of 1 lemon (about 2 tbsp)
  • Freshly grated black pepper
  • 2 tbsp carino (poultry spice)

Instructions

Wet brining;

  1. Wash and scorch the turkey.
  2. Heat some of the water and dilute the salt and sugar.
  3. Put all the remaining ingredients in a larger container and mix.
  4. Add the turkey and cover with cling film.
  5. Refrigerate overnight.
  6. Next day turn it over and let it marinate for twelve more hours.
  7. Wash the turkey before roasting.

Dry brining:

  1. Put the salt in the mortar with the garlic and using the pestle, crush the garlic into a paste.
  2. Combine all the ingredients and mix them together.
  3. Rub the bird with the marinade, inside out.
  4. Cover with cling film and refrigerate overnight.
Nutrition Information
Yield 1 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 1074Total Fat 3gSaturated Fat 1gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 2gCholesterol 0mgSodium 114353mgCarbohydrates 277gFiber 17gSugar 236gProtein 7g

"These values are automatically calculated and offered for guidance only. Their accuracy is not guaranteed."

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Niki

Monday 29th of December 2008

Ivy, I love, love, love brined turkey! I did it for the first time in one of my classes at culinary school and will never made a turkey another way again! It was the juiciest turkey I have ever had in my life, and like Peter said, even the leftovers were moist and juicy. It's just too bad I have no control over the turkey at Thanksgiving time.... I'm waiting for the day when I can take over!

Abigail

Monday 29th of December 2008

I've never brined a turkey before, and in fact had never even cooked one until this year, and I thought of brining it, but I couldn't find anything big enough to put it in! Even my bucket wasn't big enough. :)

This looks great and I bet the citrus juices in it helped make it really tender.

Gloria

Saturday 27th of December 2008

Your turkey looks gorgeous! Glad that Santa was able to save the day with a new refrigerator. :)

Reeni

Saturday 27th of December 2008

Your turkey looks gorgeous! I have never brined but would like to try it and see what the difference is in taste and moistness.

Rosa

Saturday 27th of December 2008

That's interesting! I bet the turkey was deliciously moist. Yummy flavors!

Cheers and have a wonderful day,

Rosa xoxo

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