My job every year is to make the best turkey possible and every year it’s just “Ok.”I’m never happy with my results although no one really complains about it. The flavor is always good but it’s always just a little too dry. No one likes dry turkey. Not having anyone to ever teach me how to make a great turkey for Thanksgiving, and only getting one shot a year to do it, it’s something I’ve been struggling with. I’ve tried a ton of different marinades and recipes but nothing ever helped the turkey be less dry. Until this year. This year I tried using a brine on the turkey breast that we were eating and it was AMAZING.
What the heck took me so long to try a brine?! I always heard about it but no one ever told me it was going to change the game. Not really sure what a brine was, I took to google on Wednesday night to see if I could find a simple brine using the random ingredients in my house. Of course I hadn’t done any planning ahead of time and I sure wasn’t going to go to the store on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Luckily most of the brine recipes are pretty simple, you need a lot of salt, a mild amount of sugar and some random spices. Check, check & CHECK. I threw all that in a pot and followed the instructions (get them below). Then I put my turkey in the fridge to brine overnight.
The next day the Turkey looked like it had been sitting in water all night so I patted it dry and hit it with some basic spices and threw it in the oven for an hour(ish). After it reached 165 degrees I pulled it out and covered it with tin foil while I took a shower. I was cutting it up so that I could take it to the hospital where Kristen is staying until baby Lilly is born. After the shower I came downstairs and started carving away. Like it always does, the turkey looked juicy but was it actually? Yes. Oh YES IT WAS! It was packed full of flavor from the spices in the brine and packed full of juiciness. SUCCESS! I finally did it! But would it stay that way after cutting it and driving 20 miles to the hospital? Spoiler alert: It totally did. It was easily the best turkey I have ever made and it’s all because of the brine.
According to google, the reason a brine makes your turkey so juicy is that it breaks down the muscle fibers that normally absorb all the juice when you cook it. So if those fibers aren’t there to suck up all the juice then the juice stays in the bird. BAM! Juicy turkey for Thanksgiving. I’m going to make another turkey this year for Christmas just because this one turned out so well, we usually don’t. So if you want to know what I used for my turkey breast I left my recipe below. If you have always had trouble with dry turkey TRUST ME this will save the day and you will be the envy of all your friends.
Nick’s Brine Recipe (half from google and half from what was available in my cupboard)
This is for the 6lb turkey breast that I cooked. The values are probably going to change for a bigger turkey but I don’t do math so you’re on your own.
- Get the biggest pot you have in your cupboard and hope your turkey fits.
- If it does, put the turkey in the pot (still in the bag it came in, don’t open it yet!!) and put water in it until the turkey is covered completely. (Yes, leave the turkey in there for this step because it will let you know how much water you need.)
- Take the turkey out of the pot and put it back in the fridge. (probably want to dry it off first)
- Add a cup of iodized salt to the water.
- Add a 1/4 of brown sugar (I dont know why I had this in my cupboard but it was what the website said so I lucked out)
- Add your favorite spices! I put in some pepper, red repper flakes, thyme (not fresh), rosemary (not fresh) and garlic powder. (Told you I didn’t go shopping, I imagine it’s much better with fresh spices)
- Bring it all to a boil.
- Let it cool to room temperature, then throw in a tray of ice cubes to get it a little cold.
- Add the turkey. (it’s probably going to float so I put a small plate on top of it to hold it down)
- Cover with tin foil and put it in the fridge. The minimum time for a brine is 12 hours but I think you can go up to 24 if you want. I did 12 and it worked perfectly.
- Take it out in the morning and pat it dry with some paper towels while making a mess all over your kitchen counter. Try not to touch everything in the kitchen as you wash your hands afterwards. Also preheat the oven to 450.
- Throw some spice on it. I covered it in some fancy olive oil that I bought in Napa, then threw some pepper, rosemary and garlic powder on it. Again, try not to touch everything as you wash your hands.
- Put it in the over and lower the temp immediately to 350, then bake for about an hour. Then check the temp at the thickest part of the breast meat to make sure it’s at 165F before pulling it out. If it isn’t, then check on it every 10 minutes. Once it hits 165F take it out and put it on the counter in everyone’s way.
- Go take a shower for about 20-25 minutes.
- Cut it up and listen to everyone tell you how this is the best turkey they have ever eaten.
- Pat yourself on the back.
- Send me a secret letter in the mail thanking me for saving your dinner party. (201 3rd St, San Francisco CA 94103)