I was immediately fascinated and had to try it that year. It was the best most magically wonderful turkey I'd ever made. Juicy, flavorful, practically falling off the bone and melting right into your mouth. Every year since I have made sure my turkey is in the brine before it's roasted. This has become a tradition now and my brine has evolved over the years because I've done lots of reading of different recipes and techniques. I'm not actually going to share all of my brine ingredients with you because then my turkey isn't as special if you use them too. ;) However below I'll post some brine recipes for you to check out and try or build your own recipe off of.
You may be thinking... "what does brine the turkey even mean?? This is madness, a turkey that melts in my mouth and has flavor, I do not understand."
Trust me... It's easy!!! And more importantly, worth it! Basically you are soaking your uncooked turkey for 12 hours in a solution of salt, sugar, spices, herbs and other aromatics. Be warned too much salt or letting your turkey sit in the brine too long can cause a tough not so great turkey. So when you are looking at recipes do not think, well the more salt I add the better or the longer its in the better it will be. This is the kind of thinking that will result in people wanting to slap you as they try chewing on their Thanksgiving turkey jerky you've fed them.
Tonight kicks off the beginning of my brine process. First I've brought to a boil fresh cold tap water with my special blend of spices... oh yeah... that's my brew. I will be letting this cool completely and then putting it in the refrigerator so that it can become very cold over night.
This 4 gallon bucket is my brine bucket. It's never used for household cleaning chores. I like the square shape of it because the awkward shape of the turkey slides right into it for full submersion. Your turkey being fully submersed is a must for even brining. If you cannot find a bucket big enough use an ice chest but make sure to bleach and wash it well before and after the brine process, and you will be adding a bag of ice to your brine. However as long as you are not buying giant turkeys a bucket should suffice.
Tomorrow what is going to happen is the 13 pound turkey pictured above will be coming out of that wrapper, giblets removed, and turkey thoroughly washed. Then it will be placed in the brine solution that I boiled and let cool tonight and my herbs and other aromatics will be added. Finally I will be putting a heavy plate on top to keep the turkey weighed down and fully submersed and refrigerating it.
When you take the turkey out of the brine make sure to properly discard of the liquid as well as all spices, herbs, etc that were used. Do not use any of it to cook with! Use fresh herbs, spices, etc when cooking.
I will be putting the turkey in the brine about 13 hours before I plan to have it in the oven to start cooking. It will only be in the brine for about 12 hours, and the other hour is to let it come to about room temperature for extra juicy goodness, and that is a great time rub some oil of your choice into the skin. As well to chop any onions, herbs, apples, citrus, etc that you plan to season the turkey with while cooking.
This is a wonderful fresh herb roasted turkey from a couple of years back. Even with a horrible oven that was on it's last leg and did not heat properly I was still able to produce a nicely browned turkey with a crispy flavorful skin and juicy wonderfully flavored meat.
Warning!! If you cook a fantastic brined turkey for your friends and family you may forever be dubbed the official Thanksgiving turkey baker and be requested upon to bring it year after year.
Seriously watch this video it's pretty great and gives you some really good tips on not only turkey brine, but turkey in general!
Some Turkey Brine Recipes
Martha Stewart's How To Brine A Turkey
Martha actually has several brine recipes on her site.
Alton Brown's Good Eats Turkey Brine
Food Network's Collection Of Brine Recipes (26)
Sheri's AllRecipes.com Turkey Brine
There are countless recipes out there! Just do a basic internet search keyword "Turkey brine recipe"
Have fun with it and use ingredients you love and you will have an awesomely seasoned turkey!
Now that you know what's what, get your brine going!