I have always been a non-briner, after all, my mother never brined her turkey, and isn’t Thanksgiving all about traditions? After doing research for this blog post, I may have to re-think this tradition.
Brining your turkey is a method of submerging your turkey in a salt water solution for a couple of days prior to roasting it. There are all kinds of websites that break down all of the science of brining and what it does to the meat proteins. The best information I have found explains that the salt solution helps the turkey retain moisture while cooking. Part of the way this works is through osmosis, the movement of water across a semi-permeable membrane. Cell walls are designed to allow water and small molecules to move in and out of them freely, while preventing larger molecules from entering or leaving. If you choose to brine your turkey, a solution of 3 to 6 % salt is recommended.
Although I find many people who rave about how moist their brined turkeys are, I have never brined my turkey and have always gotten rave reviews for my moist turkeys. I also have relatives who have blood pressure issues, which makes me wary of brining my turkey.
I think the more important aspect of roasting your Thanksgiving turkey is not to overcook it. The standard accepted temperature for a cooked turkey is 165 F (74 C). To ensure the juiciness of your turkey, I recommend cooking it to 150 F (65 C), removing it from the oven and letting it finish cooking before carving.
Important things to remember regarding brining:
1. Check to see if your turkey has been pre-brined.
2. Don’t brine a kosher turkey, it has already been salted.
3. Be careful of what salt you are using, there is a difference in the “saltiness” of different salts, table salt, kosher salt, sea salt, etc.