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WHAT DOES BRINING DO AND HOW DOES IT HELP
This process makes the meat juicier , uniformly seasoned , without tasting salty, just a nice honest flavor. It also provides a "cushion" for the breast meat so that even if it gets a little overcooked it is still juicy! Since it takes longer to cook the thigh than the breast usually this is particularly helpful.
The Internet seems to be fantastic in the way that once there is a cooking technique that gets great response it becomes spread very fast. Maybe you are not familiar with this procedure but you have heard about it. The advantages of brining are being regalled in cooking magazines, TV shows and shows up repeatedly on internet recipe lists. Our fellow cooks are anxious to share the discovery of this curious and spectacular technique of soaking meat in water with a bit of salt and if you want some additional spices.
Though the art of brining meats is centuries old, I am thinking that brining is going to become a standard procedure in the preparation of turkey, chicken, pork and even prawns, while beef won't be brined quite as much.
First of all Brining makes meat more juicy by increasing the amount of moisture in the meat , Cooking Illustrated magazine did extensive tests on brining turkeys, and found that an 11 lb. Turkey will gain on average ¾ of a pound in weight after brining and after cooking it still weighs 1/3 to ½ lb more than turkeys of the same weight that weren't brined. Also brining provides a "cushion" for the breast because the thigh needs to cook to a 170 degrees to be done and the breast only 160 degrees. So usually by the time the thigh reaches 170 then the breast is 180 and has the texture of sawdust. Because of the extra moisture in the brined bird it is still moist though a higher temperature.
WHY THE SALT THEN
Brining increases the moisture content in meat through a process called Osmosis. The salt is very important in this process that causes the cells to incorporate more water without absorbing much of the salt.
You can read more about the scientific process of brining here;
The Cook Shacks BBQ 101
DOES IT MAKE THE MEAT SALTY?
Some salt is absorbed, but by following the guidelines the meat never tastes salty. I have been amazed that the meat just tastes WONDERFULLY well seasoned. You don't taste salt nor do you feel the need to salt the meat afterwards.
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BASIC BRINE RECIPE
GO here to see this recipe step by step with pictures
1 gallon water
1 Cup Kosher or sea salt. Or ½ cup Table Salt.
½ Cup sugar
You can multiply this however many times you need to cover the meat.
For the 20 lb. Turkey that I used I needed 4 gallons of brine.
Here is the step by step;
For 2 gallons of brine,
1. Measure out 4 cups water in a microwave safe container , or in a pan on the stove.
2. Add salt and Sugar and heat until the water is very warm. ( about 5 minutes on high)
3. Stir till the salt and sugar are fully dissolved. If they don't dissolve totally, your water is saturated so add some another 2 cups of water.
4. Add to your container that you are going to brine in.
5. Add 6 quarts of cold water to the container making 2 gallons.
6. This should be enough brine for a small turkey.(11 pounds) Double for a large turkey.(20 pounds)
Here are some other things to put into a brine.
There is no real set amount for each item, I will give some guidelines.
CONTAINERS for BRINING
the two containers of choice are the large insulated food chests that you take on picnics.
Also the 5 gallon buckets work well. Line the buckets with 2 clean plastic trash bags.
OTHER FLAVORS TO ADD TO YOUR BRINE
Substitue ½ cup molasses or honey for a cup of sugar.
PER EVERY TWO GALLONS;
Add 8 cloves garlic smashed,
2 onions peeled and rough chopped
A handful of fresh Rosemary, a few tablespoons of crushed peppercorns, hot pepper flakes, thyme, bay leaf, mustard seed, coriander seed, juniper berries, ginger, cinnamon, clove, star anise, or vanilla bean.
KEEPING THE PROPER TEMPERATURE DURING BRINING
If you can not refrigerate your Turkey while brining it is important that you keep the brine below 40 degrees temperature. You can achieve this by adding some iced gel packs or ice cubes in plastic storage bags. I then put the ice in a large plastic trash bag and add to the brine. I don't put the ice cubes directly in the brine as this would dilute my solution.
HOW LONG TO BRINE A TURKEY
Around 24 hours is a good rule of thumb for a Turkey. If its 23 or 22 or 25 it is not going to make that much difference. If you go too long , like 30 or 48 hours you risk having turning the turkey meat a bit mushy.
If you want to speed up the process double the amount of salt and sugar and cut the time in half.
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ROASTING A TURKEY AFTER BRINING
Step by Step with Pictures
Rinse the turkey after brining well and roast however you would like. There is no reason to use salt if you are going to rub the turkey with a seasoning. However you are the judge and if you want to add more salt then fine. Just be careful.
One of the problems with roasting a whole turkey is that the breast gets done before the thigh. Not only that but the thigh and leg can get away with being overcooked a bit but the breast turns to a dry sawdust texture. This doesn't seem fair.
The Best way to roast a turkey in my experience and according to many experts is to roast it breast side down for the first few hours. The juices baste the breast and keep it moist. Flip it over and finish it breast side up to get a nice browned finish.
Prepare a Roasting pan making a cradle with heavy duty foil.
The larger the turkey the lower the temperature that you should roast it.
Now is a good time to invest in a meat thermometer if you don't have one.
I like to check the temperature on the turkey ever hour in the thigh and breast to see how it is doing.
For 11 lb. birds roast at 375 degrees and for an 18 to 22 lb bird roast at about 300 degrees.
Here is a timetable for how long to roast the turkey
flipped the turkey over after a 2-3 hours, by rotating it being careful to lift it slightly not to rip the skin.
Baste the turkey brushing every half hour or so with 1/2 stick of butter melted with 1/2 cup of honey.
The turkey is done when the thermometer in the center of the thigh is registering 165 degrees.
I pull the turkey out when it is 160 degrees, and leave it on top of the stove, and keep the thermometer in the thigh. It will climb to 165 degrees all on its own with the residual heat.
Let the turkey sit for 15 to 30 minutes before slicing.
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THE HISTORY OF BRINING
Probably the first type of preservation ever done was with Salt.
I am sure that somehow man found that salt sprinkled on meat kept it from going bad.
The practice of putting meat in crocks layered with salt has been used since recorded time. This is how Corned Beef was made, (Corns being salt that were the size of kernels of corn) The Jewish practice this method and call it "koshering" with all of their meat. If you see Kosher salt in the grocery stores, this is just a larger grained salt that has not had iodine added. The purpose of Koshering is to draw out the remaining blood in the meat that remains. This is for health reasons
To read more about the history of Corned Beef go here
300 000 year old site in France called Terra Amata.
remains found on that site show that shell fish were preserved in a salt water brine
Smithfield hams are soaked in a brine and then smoked......Smithfiled Virginia since about 1775
Christo Columbus carried pork in a salt brine to the new world in 1492
To read more about the Jewish practice of Koshering meat go here
On our staff is a chef from Israel, Mickey Schick Shtamer, feel free to email her if you have questions.
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