Why, why, why with the imminent influx of a horde of people to your house would you want to take the time, trouble and valuable refrigerator space to brine a turkey? It can get messy, then you have to clean up (and sanitize!), and who has time for that at Thanksgiving when you’re also juggling a family and a full-time job? Maybe you do, and maybe you wouldn’t have a turkey any other, but lucky for you, you’ve got a couple of other turkey options!
1. Brining is the process of basically marinating a turkey in salt water that will penetrate the tissues by breaking down proteins. Why do people do this? Because when you roast a turkey, moisture is inevitably lost, but if you brine a turkey, you’re starting the ball rolling (or roasting, as the case may be) with extra moisture, so in the end, you’ll get one moist and juicy bird. No more dry turkeys for you and yours! (Note: Skip the brining if you’re using a kosher or self-basting bird or it will be too salty.)
On to the brining process! There are lots of ways to brine your bird, but we’ll keep it simple. Take about a gallon of water (or broth) and add a cup of salt and a cup of sugar. From there, feel free to add any spices you might like. Some people add apple juice, whiskey, vinegars, etc., but feel free to do your own thing. After you’ve got your brine, add the bird! The rule of thumb is to brine a turkey an hour for every pound of bird you have. Containing it can be an issue, especially if you’re short on space, so some people suggest bringing in a big bucket. Good luck squeezing that in an average fridge, though. Others suggest using a big, black trash bag, but as those trash bags aren’t made to food-grade standards, we think an oven-roasting bag may be just what you need. Pack some ice in there with your bird, seal it up, and after you’ve thoroughly cleaned and sanitized a storage drawer in your refrigerator, tuck that turkey away until it’s brined! Check out some of these recipes for brining ideas!
2. Dry brining is another possibility. Avoid the mess, the stress and the possible cleanup of a botched bag, and keep your bird dry! Dry brining is basically seasoning your bird from the outside in. To dry brine your turkey, generously season the outside of the bird with kosher salt, pepper and any other seasonings that you like a few days before you plan to roast it. Put it in the fridge uncovered and pat it dry with a dry paper towel whenever you notice beads of moisture forming on the skin. Dry brining means you won’t be wrestling with your bird quite as long on Turkey Day (though feel free to add more seasoning to the outside just before roasting), and you’ll get a moist turkey (although maybe not quite as moist as a wet-brined bird) with a crispy, brown skin. Bonus: The seasonings will continue to flavor your turkey as you carve it. Need some dry-brine recipe help? Try this link!
3. Roast your turkey the old-fashioned way.