Brining the Bird: It’s Almost Time!

Well, this is a funny picture from a few years back of actually burning a turkey! This year I plan on brining the turkey first before cooking, and I’m confident that it’s going to turn out just right. But even if I do mess up somehow on Thanksgiving Day, I can assure you that my guests probably won’t even notice, and I certainly will not point out my boo boos. :)

The last few years, being out of town, I opted for a quick easy method to cook the turkey, but this year since we are home, it’s time to brine the bird again! I’ve tried several recipes in the past and they are all excellent.

Brining is the method that really makes the bird so tender and flavorful, moist and tasty.

What does it mean to brine a turkey?
It’s a way to enhance the flavor of a roasted turkey; a solution of salt and sugar or honey and seasonings/spices that you immerse the turkey into at least over night before roasting.

What if you don’t have space in the refrigerator to store it ahead of time?
Brine the turkey in a 5 gallon bucket for 8-16 hours, or in a refrigerator or cool place. As I mentioned in “planning” a stress-free TG, think ahead to refrigerator space or get coolers down from the attic.

Do you stuff a turkey that has been brined?
The brined turkey all shed a good amount of liquid in the roasting process that oversoaks the stuffing. You also have to guesstimate the amount of salt that will be lost with the fluid, so the stuffing ends up either too salty or not salty enough. For me? I’m cooking the dressing on the side.

My friend, Jenny, is coming over and we’re going to brine the bird together.

Orange-Spiced Brined Turkey
8 cups apple cider
2/3 cup kosher salt
2/3 cup sugar
1 Tbs. black peppercorns, coarsely crushed
1 Tbs. whole allspice, coarsely crushed
8 (1/8″ thick) sliced, peeled fresh ginger
6 whole cloves
2 bay leaves
Fresh or frozen turkey (thawed)
3 oranges, quartered
6 cups ice

To prepare the brine, combine the first 8 ingredients in a large saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook 5 minutes or until sugar and salt dissolve. Cool completely.

Remove giblets and neck from the bird (reserve for gravy, if you plan to make it). Rinse turkey with cold water and pat dry. Trim excess fat.

Stuff body of cavity with orange quarters.

Place a turkey-sized oven bag inside a second bag to form a double thickness. Place bags in a large stockpot. Place turkey inside inner bag.

Add cider mixture and ice. Secure bag with several twist ties. Refrigerate for 12-24 hours, turning occasionally.

How do you cook the bird?
Choose your favorite roasting method, but first remove turkey from bags and discard brine, orange quarters, and bags.

So that’s the scoop on brining and flavor. I think you’ll be surprised how tender and tasty this bird is when you pull it from the oven and serve it to your guests.

I’d love to hear your favorite way of cooking “the bird” for Thanksgiving?

(Recipe adapted slightly from an older Cooking Light magazine. Picture above – me and Abby about 5 years ago being silly.)

18 comments on “Brining the Bird: It’s Almost Time!”

  1. We have used brine the past several years, and our turkey has turned out so moist and tender. We use the brine mix from Williams Sonoma. We have also deep fried turkey in the past as well. This works well when we have a larger group as we can fry two at the same time (two fryers) since our oven is a small wall/micro combo and a large turkey doesn’t fit well (picture burnt top!). We always use brining bags however to avoid a leaky mess. They have double seals to insure they don’t leak as you rotate the turkey for even coating.

  2. I need to try this! Especially the orange spice turkey. My mom makes the most wonderful turkey. Every time I try it – it just doesn’t seem to work (too dry). I’ve become a big fan of turkey breast in the crockpot.

  3. Good Morning Sandy! This picture is too cute. :) I’m thankful that my husband will handle the bird. Since we are hosting {for the 1st time} this year and not traveling…. I ordered our turkey from our local butcher who’s working with a local farm. It’s been interesting learning about how the farmer raises them {hormone free, free range, etc}. Because the turkey is going to be fresh, it will supposedly cook much quicker {my hubby and father~in~law are going to use the grill after brining it}.

  4. First of all I’m laughing as your first 3 comments are from Kim’s. LOL! You just draw us in my friend.
    I really want to try this brine recipe but it will have to wait. We are in the process of packing and moving and so I don’t get to host Thanksgiving this year. But I’m going to bookmark it so I don’t forget.

  5. I’ve heard of this before, but haven’t tried it. Won’t happen this year either, but I think it would be something I’d like to try in the future? Happy weekend, Sandy.

  6. ps ~i’ve added your button to my links of blogs i luv. happy friday!

  7. I am the Great Turkey Cooker in our family. As such I am just old fashioned, I place Sage leaves under the turkey skin, lather the bird up with lots of butter and olive oil, you know it makes your hands so smooth!! LOL and put it in the oven. Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

    Blessings to you and yours

    Curtis & Sherrie

  8. I oil down the Turkey and then let my convention oven take over….love your idea about the brine…perhaps I will do that on a year when I don’t have very many people over for Thanksgiving dinner…or try it out on us before I do my guest.
    Thanks, love you site.

  9. I love the picture of the two of you. When my girls were little, we scared them by telling them to touch the “red button”. When they did we yelled “gobble, gobble, gobble”. Boy did they jump, and then laugh!

    I have never brined a turkey. Maybe if I do a turkey for Christmas I’ll try it. It sounds so good!

  10. I love that picture and your shorter hair! Happy Thanksgiving!

  11. Believe it or not but the husbands of LoveFeast Table traditionally and officially are our turkey roasters!! Devon has done pomegranate glazes, Todd is a herb and butter baster. They usually converse over the phone and last year we think put some different types of adult beverage in either the gravy or the turkey bath or both!! What do we do? Pour a glass of wine, table-scape, and glow with pride. We married excellent cooks!! Kristin & Chris Ann

  12. Sandy, it sounds as if you do not peel the oranges but put them in the turkey, peel and all, correct? Just concerned about the bitterness of the peel. Happy TG to you and your wonderful family!

  13. Can I just say I’m praising God that I didn’t have to go to the market and order a turkey this time around in country!? We picked up our Butterballs today and I will have to cook one in my easy bake oven Wednesday and one Thursday morning- in roasting bags because I just don’t feel I can risk any experiments when I have 15-18 people showing for dinner! My dad smokes them and they are pretty tasty!

  14. This comment is a bit random but I was at our local library and what did I see?!? Your book prominently featured in the new book section! I was so surprised – I was thinking “there is my friend Sandy’s book!” So the folks in Delaware will soon learn all about the art of entertaining. :)

  15. That photo is amazing! Just came over from reading your bio. Your family is beautiful & your blog is such a happy place to visit. As far as cooking the turkey & brining it – I must get over my fear of doing so! xo

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