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  • Writer's pictureRock Rousseau

HOW TO Brine Chicken and Turkey

Many people brine their Thanksgiving turkey to make it plump and juicy. The same goes for your chicken! Brining has an amazing effect on turkey and chicken, making it more tender and flavorful. If you’re wondering how brining works, the key ingredient is salt. Salt helps meat retain moisture by breaking down proteins in the meat. When those proteins break down, the meat won’t contract while cooking. Therefore, less water is lost, leaving a more juicy bird. Plus, the salt thoroughly seasons the meat and adds flavor. Adding some sugar, honey or molasses will add flavor and help brown the skin.

There are two ways to brine: wet or dry:

Wet brines take a bit longer, but will add moisture and a lot of flavor.

Dry brines result in richly flavored meat due to only retaining its own natural juices, which means the flavor is more intense. You are basically creating a rub, but adding a more generous amount of salt to help retain the meat's moisture. This method is faster and the skin will be crisper. Both are delicious, so it simply depends on time and preference.

Time is important when brining, the longer the brine the better the taste. Dry brines can be left on for just a short time if cooking small cuts of meat or you if are in a hurry, but for a dry brine to really work its magic, leave it on for 12 to 24 hours or up to 3 days. Wet brines can be left for 2 hours up to 12 hours.

To Wet Brine a Chicken or Turkey:

Items you will need:

  • 2 gallon ziplock bag

  • Large baking pan

  • Large mixing bowl

  • Mixing spoon

  • 1 gallon lukewarm water

  • 1 1/4 cup of kosher salt

  • 1/2 cup sugar (you can also use honey or molasses)

  • 1/4 cup olive oil

  • Optional: Add fresh herbs, lemon or orange slices.

1. Fill a large mixing bowl with lukewarm (not hot) water.

2. Pour salt, sugar, and olive oil into the warm water. Stir until the sugar and salt have dissolved.

3. Refrigerate brine for 10-15 minutes so that the mixture can cool. Do not try to submerge raw chicken into hot or warm water as it will raise the temperature of the meat and could cause bad bacteria.

4. Add chicken or turkey breasts to a ziplock bag. Pour the cool brine mixture into the bag and immerse the meat.

5. Securely close the bag, place in a large baking pan, and refrigerate:

  • 2 hours for skinless breasts

  • 4 hours for bone-in pieces

  • Overnight for whole chicken or turkey

6. Remove meat from the bag and dispose the leftover brine mixture. Do not reuse or save brine mixture.

7. Rinse meat with cold water, not warm. Pat dry with paper towels and prepare for baking.

To Dry Brine a Chicken or Turkey:

Items you will need:

  • 2 gallon ziplock bag

  • Large baking pan

  • Mixing spoon

  • 1/2 cup of kosher salt

  • 1/4 cup sugar (you can also use honey or molasses)

  • 2 TBSN baking powder

  • Herbs and spices, like garlic powder, rosemary, oregano, chili powder, or paprika

1. Mix salt, sugar, baking powder and a few TBSNS of herbs in a mixing bowl.

2. Generously sprinkle and rub the brine mixture over the entire bird, into the skin-- until the outside of the bird is completely covered.

  • Depending on the size of your bird, you may not need to use all of the mix; too much and it may end up over salted, so don’t cake it on as you would with a traditional dry rub.

  • For extra crispy skin, add a little baking soda to dry brines. The baking soda breaks down proteins and mixes with the natural juices to form tiny bubbles, which are key to the crispy skin texture.

3. Add meat to ziplock bag and securely seal it, removing as much air as possible. Refrigerate for 12 hours- up to 3 days. Place bag in a safe place in the refrigerator.

4. When ready, rinse off the brine with cold water. Pat the meat dry using paper towels, and cook.

  • Make sure the skin is very dry before cooking so that it will get nice and crispy.

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