brined turkeyWho wants a juicy, flavorful turkey, raise your hands! You, and you, and you, and you? All righty then, let's talk turkey brine. Brining is one of a Thanksgiving chef's best secrets. Done correctly, it can give you one mouth-wateringly juicy roast turkey.

First of all, make sure you choose a turkey that will respond well to brining. Some turkeys come injected with a saltwater solution (they're already brined, sort of). So check the label carefully to make sure nothing has been added -- no "enhanced" or kosher turkeys. If you brine a pre-brined bird it'll come out salty and mushy. And now -- the fun begins! Here's our brining tips for a perfectly juicy bird.

Plan ahead. Way ahead. This is not a last-minute project. Not only do you need ample time for brining, you also have materials to gather and prepare. Some brines take 24-48 hours, and you'll need to make your solution the day before that.

Pick your brine. There are two different ways to brine. A "wet" brine is when you actually submerge your turkey into a liquid. A "dry" brine is when you rub the turkey inside and out in salt and let it sit, wrapped in plastic, for a day or two. Generally, a wet brine can be juicier but with a more diluted taste. A dry brine will get your a more flavorful bird.

How to wet brine: Find a recipe that sounds like what you want your turkey to taste like (besides turkey, of course). Alton Brown has a good traditional brine recipe. Martha Stewart's brine recipe is just a leetle bit more fancy. You'll need a container large enough for the bird and the liquid -- that you can fit inside your refrigerator. Or you can buy a special brining bag. Follow the directions in the recipe carefully.

Dry out your brined bird before roasting. If you wet brine, remove your bird from the brine a full hour before roasting. Pat it dry as best as you can, and allow it to air dry for an hour.

How to dry brine: This method may take up less room in your refrigerator and -- in my opinion -- results in a tastier bird. The simplest way to dry brine a turkey is to rub kosher salt all over the inside of the turkey and under as much of the skin as possible (you'll need to really dig in and separate the skin from the flesh with your hands). You then keep the salted turkey refrigerated in a bag or plastic wrap for 24 hours to three days. 

Russ Parsons (via the LA Times) appears to be THE authority on dry brining. Here is his basic recipe for the "Judy Bird" and some of Parsons' more flavorful dry brine recipes. Again, you'll want to let that bird dry a full hour before roasting. Enjoy!

Have you ever brined a turkey?


Image via scottfeldstein/Flickr