Sunday, November 18, 2007

Brining the turkey

Ok, there has to be people out there that cook and can answer this one....

Chris and I are not making Thanksgiving this year, as we're going to my in-laws. That said, we've earned enough credit at the supermarket to get a free turkey, and we've got the freezer room to cook it later in the year. We'd like to try brining the turkey.

Now here's the catch: my entire life, we've always bought kosher turkeys, despite the feathers being a pain to remove.

Kosher turkeys, mind you, have already been liberally salted, inside and out, for one hour, before being rinsed off with cool water. This is part of the koshering process and draws the excess blood out of the bird. Many, many people out there say that "Oh no, you can't brine a kosher turkey because you've already put salt in it!!!!! The world will end!!!!!!!!!!!!!!". I'm increasingly skeptical of this.

So yes, you've salted the turkey for one hour only. It is only mildly salty, as far as the meat goes. My traditional turkey recipe involves putting salt on it anyway, when I brush it with oil and other spices. So why in the world can't I brine a kosher turkey, if I cut down on the salt I'm using in the brine and up the flavors (I'm thinking maple syrup, at the moment)?

Thoughts, commments, anyone done this before? We have to retrieve our free turkey from the supermarket before Thursday, and I'd really like to avoid buying a non-kosher bird because it's been my experience that they just don't taste good.


lucy pick said...

Those people are right. Okay, the world won't end. But don't brine it. Enough salt already

There is nothing that says you can't marinate it though. Just don't add more salt. To me, maple syrup sounds like a disgusting idea. But you could brush a little maple syrup on the skin in the last half hour of cooking to glaze it.

Jenny Rappaport said...

The maple syrup is what came to mind because I remember there was a Cooking Light recipe that used it in a brine, published a couple of years ago.

Gillian said...

I don't know turkeys that well (being Australian - they're only easily available here round Christmas and I have never understood cooking a 3 kg bird when it's 35-40 degrees C) but I do know that I moved from a very kosher household to one with a philosophy of just not bothering too much. All the ways I cook poultry translated perfectly. Maybe diminish the salt a bit to allow for the salt already in the bird but that's the only change I'd make. (the same doesn't apply to red meat, BTW)

Anonymous said...

From Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass comes this recipe:
Mix up a few tablespoons of dry spices, such as sage, rosemary, thyme, black pepper in 2-3 quarts of apple juice or cider. Add a cup of kosher salt and stir. Do not heat the brine.

Put the defrosted turkey in a plastic bag, breast side down, and cover with brine. Put the bagged turkey in a cooler filled with ice and soak for 24 hr.

Rinse well, pat dry, season but go easy on the salt. Roast as usual.

Ed said...

My wife (who thanks you very much for the tip about Nigella's book signing) says that she would consider a kosher turkey pretty much pre-brined. So she didn't think it would be useful to try and brine one. She mentioned perhaps a rub, or making a maple butter and putting that under the skin.

I wonder if Alton Brown would have something to say in regards to this, or the Butterball Turkey hotline.

Anonymous said...

I tried brine the first time last year. Rubbed the turkey inside and out with kosher salt, soaked the bird overnight in white wine (in the refrigerator, cooked it the next day with thyme. --I'm guessing if my bird could soak overnight in salt, yours should be okay too.

Best turkey ever. I'm doing it again this year.

Demon Hunter said...

Have you ever tried fried of grilled turkey? I prefer those to baked turkey any day. You should try it. The flavors are better and the meat is soooo much more tender...

Anonymous said...

You can brine a turkey that's already been salted or brined. I've done it. If you use water that isn't too salty (that is, less salty than the kosher bird) you would actually reduce the amount of salt in it, while also adding the other flavors.

I say give it a whirl and let us know how it comes out.

The Tour Manager said...

Brine the kosher turkey.

The salt from the koshering process is mostly rinsed off and also
is rubbed on the turkey in its solid form. The salt will sit on the surface and will actually
cause water to leave the cells of the turkey meat -- that's what
salt curing does when the salt
is left on in large quantity for
longer durations.

Brining uses a salty (and flavored solution) to cause reverse osmosis
where the cells in the turkey try to equalize the salt level in the
LIQUIDS on either side of the cell membrane and actually pull the
salt and flavoring agents inside the cells thereby actually increasing the moisture content of the meat and imparting the flavor
to the meat.

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, I think tour manager is right. I watched or read something saying that brining involving less than about 6 hours only pulls OUT the moisture, while longer soaking engages the reverse osmosis process. Also for what it's worth, Emeril the other day said use 1/2 c of kosher salt and 1/2 c of brown sugar (you could use maple syrup) to a gallon of water. This is not that salty, and much less salty than other brines I've seen.

Let use know how it goes, and thanks for the blog!

Ryan Field said...

I think I'd leave a Kosher turkey alone and just roast it.

--E said...

I'm planning to brine overnight tonight, with Emeril's recipe, copied right off the site. I see no reason not to do this with a kosher bird.

Brine isn't all about the salt--it has sugar, too!