What is Turkey Brining? And Should You Do It?

When it comes to preparing Thanksgiving turkeys, there are two camps: the briners and the anti-briners. Which one are you?

What is brining anyway? Simply submerging meat in a solution of salt and water for many hours before cooking. This enhances the meat’s ability to retain moisture and tenderness while seasoning it. Of course, when you start with a D’Artagnan turkey, there’s less need to improve the simple and delicious nature of the bird. Read on to decide if brining is right for you.

Brining is relatively easy, inexpensive and produces great results. Lean, mildly flavored meats that are usually cooked to a high internal temperature are great candidates for brining, such as turkeychickencaponpoussinveal and pork. Brined meat is wonderfully juicy and full of flavor – all the way to the bone. For small birds like poussin,  or cuts of pork, brining is easy.

 This is step one of our simple grilled poussin recipe.

But when it comes to the turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, the brining question becomes crucial. Because of how large turkeys are, the brining vessel needs to be huge. Some people use coolers and fill their brining solution with ice cubes to maintain temperature for the 12 hours or more of brine time. There are also large brining bags designed to hold an entire turkey.

Turkey Brining in CoolerAndrew Malone Flickr
Turkey in an ice bath inside a cooler. Photo: Andrew Malone, Flickr
With all the details of a grand holiday meal to attend to, dealing with a cooler full of turkey water and ice cubes is not our idea of a good time.

Dry-Brining is Better

We like the dry brine for several reasons. Dry brining entails rubbing the turkey with salt, sugar and spices of your choice, and leaving it uncovered in the refrigerator for a day, or up to three days, before roasting.

These are a few of the reasons we prefer the dry brine:

It’s Far Easier

 No coolers, bathtubs filled with ice, or buckets lined with plastic bags. As long as you can clear space in the fridge for the turkey, and have a pan to put the turkey in, you are ready to dry brine.

No Messy Tubs of Water

 The logistics of soaking a 16-20 lb turkey are somewhat daunting to the average cook. And with everything else that you need to do for Thanksgiving, do you really want to fuss with a heavy tub of brine solution that may or may not fit in the refrigerator?

Dry Skin = Crispy Skin

We know the benefits of air-chilled poultry – first among them is perfectly crispy skin when roasted. If you bloat your turkey with water and salt, you are making that desirable outcome less likely. In fact, many recommend drying all poultry (with or without brine spices) in the fridge before roasting, to achieve the golden-brown crispy skin that we all love.

Dry Brined Turkey Joy Flickr.jpg
Dry brining a turkey. Photo: Joy, Flickr

Dry-Brining Tips:

  • Make sure the turkey is fully thawed before dry brining.
  • Separate the skin from the meat and rub some brine in there, too. We always recommend placing truffle butter under the skin before roasting, so you’ll be taking the first step by loosening the skin at this point.
  • Plan for 3 days of dry-brine time for optimal results. Let that salt really penetrate into the meat. If your turkey is sharing shelf space with other items, loosely cover the bird with plastic wrap, but be sure it gets at least 12 hours uncovered before roasting.

Plan the perfect Thanksgiving dinner with one of our heritage, organic, or wild turkeys. Order today and choose a delivery date close to Thanksgiving.

Where do you stand on the brining issue? Have you ever brined your turkey? Did it make a difference in the flavor? Tell us about it in the comments.

Featured photo: Scott Feldstein, Flickr

Since 1985, D’Artagnan has been at the forefront of the farm-to-table movement, producing superior tasting products by partnering with small ranches and farms. We are committed to free-range, natural production, sustainable and humane farming practices and no use of antibiotics or hormones. That’s why D’Artagnan products have been revered by America’s most renowned chefs for over 30 years. We offer the same high-quality products to home cooks at dartagnan.com, along with recipes and guides to help you live the tasty life.

Are you a business looking to serve or sell D’Artagnan? We invite both chefs and food retailers to reach out and become D’Artagnan customers.

Connect with us on social media to share your cooking adventures. Tag @dartagnanfoods on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.