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Brine That Bird

We pick up our turkey Tuesday from Owen's Poultry Farm in Needham (no website, but the phone is 781-444-1861). Wednesday morning the bird (which we traditionally name Owen for obvious reasons) goes into its salty bath to brine for the day. Brining turkey results in tasty, moist turkey (or chicken or pork or any very lean meat, for that matter) that's all but impossible to overcook. This year brining seems to have become the latest food trend, but it's actually a concept that's been around for thousands of years (ever hear of corned beef?), and I've been brining the bird since I first heard about it in Cooks Illustrated about five years ago. It's simple, and once you've done it, you'll never go back.

A good brine for a 12 hour or so soak is 1-1/2 cups kosher salt and 1/2 cup sugar to every gallon of water. Your standard 12-14 pound bird will rest comforably in two gallons of the stuff. Since I don't have a walk-in, I put the bird and the brine in a heavy-duty trash bag which I then place in a cooler packed with lots of ice. Some people add herbs or spices to the brine, but for a short brine time like this (as opposed to corned beef, which sits in it's spiced brine for days), I don't find that additions beyond salt and sugar add anything other than expense. After a 12 hour soak, I take the bird out of the brine and let it sit loosely covered in the refrigerator so that the skin has a chance to dry out a bit (a soggy skin going into the oven will be a soggy skin coming out of the oven, and I like my roast poultry to have a crispy skin).

Posted on Nov 22, 2002 @ 09:14 AM



A friend of mine introduced me to this site a while back, but as with most things in life, if it's not an emergency, I forget about it. I'm glad I found you again, though, and I will come often now.

BTW, I love your site (as if it isn't obvious), your recipes and the concept. Just thought I'd tell you. :)

Posted on Nov 30, 2002 @ 09:35 PM


In the latest Cook's someone wrote in complaining about the saltiness of their brine, and their response was "we tried one that was less salty, but it didn't work as well". Have you expermented with the quantity of salt?

I don't mind it when salt is a component flavor (e.g., it's supposed to stand out as one of the basic tastes), but I don't care for things that aren't supposed to be salty that end up that way.

Posted on Dec 05, 2002 @ 01:15 PM


It's a combination of both time and salt concentration. I've played around a bit with chicken breasts (wow, there's a one-liner waiting to happen, huh?) and you can get away with less salty brine (and a less salty end result), if you let the food brine longer in a less salty brine. My brine is less salty than Cook's for two reasons: 1) I too find Cook's brine results in meat that, well, tastes salty, and 2) You have a greater margin of error for brining time. Cook's brining time to the minute, you do end up with a way oversalted product.

All meat will get more "juicy" simply by leaving it in plain water long enough. Salt, for some reason, does increase the ability for proteins to hold water (What Einstein Told His Cook) so salt does accelerate the process. But, time heals all wounds, and you get an equally juicy piece of meat without as much saltiness by cutting back a bit on the salt and increasing the amount of time the meat spends in it's bath.

Posted on Dec 05, 2002 @ 08:28 PM

chad palmer:

Thanks for the info, but in southern Ilinois we call it a brime. Is that wrong?

Posted on Jan 21, 2003 @ 03:02 PM


Well, it's not the way I say it, so it must be wrong! No, seriously, I've never heard it called brime before. Googling on “Brime Food”, there appear to be a fair amount people who use the word instead of brine. And a lot of these folk appear to be either in the midwestern U.S. or Canada. So, you're not alone, but that doesn't mean you're not strange :)

Posted on Jan 21, 2003 @ 08:11 PM

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