November 1, 2018
by Josh Swanson
Senior Regional Culinary Specialist, Sagora Senior Living
The temperatures are getting cooler outside, and the leaves are starting to change, which means Thanksgiving is right around the corner. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays as it’s a great day to surround ourselves with family and friends, watch a little football, and definitely eat really well. The main dish in most homes is the all mighty turkey. Whether you fry, smoke, grill or roast this gobbler, it certainly plays center stage at our tables.
Some people refuse to host Thanksgiving because they don’t want to take on cooking the turkey. Understandably, there is a lot of pressure to make it right—juicy with a lot of flavor. While it’s true, a dry bird is not very tasty, there are steps you can take to prevent it. Below are a few tips to almost guarantee a flavorful, moist and beautiful bird.
Brine your Turkey! What is a brine you ask? A brine is a way to add flavor and moisture to the turkey by soaking it in a salt water mixture before cooking. When you cook a turkey or any whole muscle meat, moisture loss will occur. In fact, you are looking at about 25-35 percent moisture loss during the cooking process. If you brine your bird before you cook it, you are looking at moisture loss of around 15 percent. Simple math says this makes your turkey juicier. The salt acts as a tenderizer for the turkey to absorb more moisture.
You might be saying to yourself, didn’t he say it was going to add more flavor as well as moisture? Patience grasshopper, I was getting to that. We are not brining our turkey in just salty water. This is our opportunity to start building layers of flavor before we start cooking. This will come in the form of garlic, aromatics and fresh herbs.
Below is the brine recipe I use, but feel free to change it up any way you like.
2 gallons of ice water
2 cups of kosher salt
2 cups of brown sugar
5-6 large garlic cloves (crushed)
4-5 sprigs of rosemary (leaves removed)
4-5 sprigs of thyme (leaves removed)
4-5 sage leaves (chopped)
4-5 bay leaves
1 Tablespoon of whole black peppercorns
1 Tablespoon of allspice berries
Combine all the ingredients into a container and stir until all the sugar and salt has been dissolved. If you have a container that can fit the brine and turkey at the same time, do so, cover it and put it into your refrigerator. If not, I have a pro tip for you. Get a heavy-duty trash liner and place your turkey at the bottom. Pour in the brine and cinch off the top making sure to get all the air out of the bag. Tie it up tight and place it into a large cooler with lots of ice covering the bag top, sides, and bottom. You will want to brine your turkey for 12-36 hours, so plan ahead.
There you have it, the perfect Thanksgiving turkey that makes everyone envious.