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Old 11-21-2012, 03:01 PM   #21
bobbrews
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Friendly chef advice...

A brine is not a marinade. The sole purpose of a basic brine is to boost inner moisture content and to preserve the meat. Not to inject flavor per se. That would be a marinade.

If you toss herbs, citrus, vegetables, sugar, salt, etc. into cold water and then drop in your turkey is not going to do much in terms of flavor (FYI - sugar was in a lot of old brines, but it is more for preservation purposes and can be excluded altogether nowadays).

Back to the complicated brine... For all of these items to go to work for you, you would need to simmer the brine first for flavor extraction. This is a sort of brine-marinade hybrid. It would then need to be cooled down before you add your turkey.

A lot of home cooks do not want to go through these extra steps and just want a simple brine. For a simple brine, dissolve 120 grams (or about 1/2 cup) of kosher salt for every 4 liters of cold water . If you brine a turkey with salt, you will still need to generously salt the skin before cooking or you will have bland meat.

The total time spent brining should be between 18-32 hours for optimal benefit.

More time = more dry. Possible water-logging / flesh become rubbery.
More salt = the meat will be a ton more dry.
Less time = less of a moisture/texture benefit from the brine.
Less salt = your brine isn't really doing anything.

For those who want added flavor without wasting all those ingredients in your cold brine without extracting it first via heat, I would suggest making a compound butter with rosemary, thyme, sage, salt, pepper. Mix the softened butter with the minced herbs and seasonings. It should be pommade consistency.

Rub the compound butter all over the room temperature turkey prior to cooking. Toss a few chopped vegetables and the organs on the bottom of your roasting pan, add the roasting rack, place the buttered turkey on the rack. Bake low and slow at 265 F for 2-4 hours depending on the size. Baste with the drippings every 30-40 minutes during cooking.

When internal temp. of leg reaches about 145 F, remove from oven, and rest for 1 hour with a tented foil cover. Then post-sear for 10-15 minutes at 500 F to create a crispy skin. No more resting is required since the juices already had an hour to assimilate. -- The carryover cooking via the rest, plus the hot post-sear will give you a fully cooked leg, and breast meat that is not also insanely dry (partly from the brine, mostly from not severely overcooking it past 160 F).

Use the brown bits on the bottom of your roasting pan to make a gravy with some flour and stock.

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