My husband Steve makes an amazing turkey. Juicy, flavorful, beautiful, and with drippings that make the perfect gravy.
The secret is in the brine.
brine [noun]: water saturated or strongly impregnated with salt
Brining turkey can be as simple or complex as you wish it to be. When we first began brining turkey, we used a somewhat involved recipe from Alton Brown’s Good Eats. Over time, we realized that our results are just as wonderful with a far simpler version. Sorry, Mr. Brown–you’re smart, I’m simple, so I win. Somehow that made sense before I typed it.
Ingredients and supplies for brining turkey
- 5-gallon bucket or other large container with a lid (available at Wal-Mart for $3)
- 1 gallon vegetable stock (optional)*
- water to cover
- 1 cup coarse kosher salt
- 1/2 cup brown sugar (optional)
At the very least, you need ice water, salt, a container, and a bird.
Directions for brining turkey
- Combine the salt and sugar in the veggie stock and heat on the stove until everything is dissolved. Cool and chill.
- Place the turkey in the turkey tub…the bucket.
- Add the stock and then if necessary, add cold water until it covers the turkey. Place the lid on the turkey tub.
- If you do not have a snow bank to keep the tub in, make room in the refrigerator. We never have that much room in the frig, so we add ice throughout the day and keep it in the coolest place possible.
- Brine for a minimum of six hours. We like to brine for two days. Whatever amount of time you can devote to brining will help your turkey “retain water” and make it juicier.
- Remove the turkey from the brine, rinse, and roast as usual.
* To make your own veggie stock for brining, bring a stockpot of water and veggies to a boil. Use either ends and leftovers you’ve frozen over time, or fresh veggies. I like carrots, celery, and onion, but use whatever you have on hand. Simmer for several hours (or as much time as you have). Strain. Lately, I’ve been making my stocks in my Instant Pot (affiliate link) in half the time. Give me a woo and a hoo!
A note on veggie stock:
If you have guests with food issues, such as allergies, sensitivities, Celiac, or Crohn’s, please don’t use store-bought veggie stock. Many of them have ingredients in them that will make the turkey unsafe for your guest. Just use ice water or go through the ridiculously simple process of making your own stock.
A note on making gravy from the drippings:
I recently read that you may not want to brine your bird, because, while it will make the turkey more flavorful and juicy, you will have to pay attention to how much salt you put in the gravy or it may be too salty. Ahem. DUH!
If you brine your turkey and make gravy from the pan drippings, do not add salt to your gravy without first tasting it. Rinsing the bird before roasting helps reduce the salt in the drippings.
A note on other birds:
I use a simple brine on my roasted chickens as well, containing only water and salt. My family can always tell when I skip that step.
Enjoy your juicy turkey, and have a blessed Thanksgiving, remembering to Whom we owe our thanks.