Tuesday, November 21, 2006

To Brine or not to Brine

To brine or not to brine, that is a common question this time of year. If you like your turkey flavorful, juicy and tender then you should spend the extra prep time brining your turkey. If you are more the gambling type and hope your turkey isn’t bland and dry when you take it out of the oven, then don’t waste your time brining.

At its most basic level, brine is just a solution of salt and water. However we that are serious about tasty turkey use more than simple salt water brine for improving our turkeys. We add things like peppercorns, cloves, ginger and honey. In Thanksgivings past, I have used Wolfgang Puck’s brined roast turkey recipe with great success. I can honestly say that the turkey resulting from this recipe is second to none. Well, maybe not, but it’s damn good.

Remember to ALWAYS let your turkey rest, tented with foil, for at least 15-20 minutes before taking a knife to it. The dry heat of the oven draws the juices of the meat to the outer surface of the bird; the resting period allows those juices to redistribute evenly throughout the meat, resulting in very juicy turkey meat.

Remember also that the turkey will continue to cook another 10 degrees or so once it’s out of the oven. Check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer when you get close to your calculated finish time and take the turkey out of the oven 10 degrees before you think it’s done. And please, let it rest, your guests will thank you!

As for stuffing the bird, I believe cooking it unstuffed will produce a much better turkey. The cooking time and the chance of drying out the breast meat, which cooks faster than the dark meat of the legs and thighs, will be much less when the bird is cooked unstuffed.

Finally, cooking for your friends and family this time of year should be a pleasure. A delicious Thanksgiving meal can easily be prepared with proper planning. The timing is essential when coordinating a big meal like this, but proper planning lends itself to precise timing. Relax and have fun!

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