No Thanksgiving host wants to serve a dry turkey — after all, the bird is the shining star of any Thanksgiving feast. But if your turkey never seems to retain moisture, there is one technique that trumps the rest: brining.
Whether you choose to oven-roast, air-fry or deep-fry your turkey this year, the one step you should start with is to brine the bird.
If you’re not familiar with this method, it’s quite easy and can be done overnight. Brine essentially is another word for salt water. It’s a highly concentrated water solution that can occur naturally in seawater. But for our purposes, you’ll be making your own.
Once you’ve chosen your turkey, you’ll need to start the brining process 12 to 24 hours before you want to serve the protein. What this does is guarantee that your bird soaks up the solution, which yields a melt-in-your-mouth turkey.
The key ingredients for the brine are salt and water, but feel free to get creative by adding in other common pantry seasonings like thyme and rosemary. Or you can follow the recipe below, which uses bay leaves, garlic, brown sugar and syrup in addition to the salt and water.
Once the brine has done its work, be sure to rinse the turkey with cold water and pat it dry. Preheat the oven, toss your turkey in and get ready to whip up some of our 101 best Thanksgiving recipes of all time.
6 large bay leaves
3 whole heads garlic, cloves separated, bruised
3 quarts of water
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups each of coarsely chopped unpeeled ginger root, soy sauce
1 cup maple syrup
3/4 cups coarse salt
2 teaspoons dried red pepper flakes
1 fresh turkey, 12-14 pounds
Combine all the ingredients, except the turkey, in a large enamel or stainless steel stockpot large enough to hold the brine and the turkey.
Heat to a simmer over high heat; remove from heat.
Let cool completely.
Remove the neck and giblets from the turkey (save for stock).
Place the turkey in the cooled brine, making sure there is enough brine to cover the bird.
Add water to cover, if needed.
Refrigerate 12 hours, turning the bird in the brine twice a day.
Drain off brine.
Rinse turkey; roast according to your favorite recipe.
This recipe is by Bill Daley and was originally published in the Chicago Tribune.