Monday, November 14, 2011

Martha Monday--Brine that turkey!

Years ago, before I ever decided to become my own version of Martha Stewart, I roasted a turkey or two or three.  Having had no previous experience (I'm not one of those people who spent her childhood in the kitchen with older, wiser relatives learning to cook and bake), I simply called my Dad for advice and he gave me the basics over the phone:  Take out the gravy packet, neck and giblets. Wash the turkey. Butter it up.  Cook it.  Armed with his words of encouragement, I made some decent turkeys.  Of course, I called my dad before I made each and every turkey and called him afterward to ask what to do with the carcass.  For the carcass:  Put it in a crock pot and make broth. Get all the meat off.  Throw the bones away.  Good times!

Then, I got married and wanted to host holiday dinners at my house and realized that in order for that to happen, it was time for me to figure this whole turkey thing out FOR REAL and stop calling my dad every time I was faced with a dead bird on my counter. I needed to be able to do this on my own, and I wanted to do it just like Martha Stewart.  So I read everything I could on her website about roasting a turkey, committed it to memory, made the turkey a few times and then mastered the process.  I can now make a delicious, moist, amazing Thanksgiving turkey in my sleep. 

The first step to making a great turkey according to Martha, and fiercely advocated by yours truly, is to brine the bird. You can find full instructions here, and these are the same instruction I learned from.  Of course, now I do mine a bit differently, but the process is essentially the same and produces a moist, tender turkey every time. 

Start with an oven bag, but any large, clean, thick plastic bag will do (read: plastic garbage bag).

Turkeys should be brined for at least 24 hours, and it will need to be in a cool space during that time. I like to keep mine in the fridge, so I just throw the whole thing in the vegetable drawer.  In the oven bag, of course.

Clear out the vegetable drawer, open the oven bag, put in the cleaned turkey, and pour your brine over the turkey.  Secure the bag, making sure that the turkey is completely covered by the brining solution. If your turkey isn't covered, you'll need to turn it midway through the brining process.

Stick the whole thing in the fridge for 24-36 hours and let the magic happen.

Take the bird out an hour before you begin roasting it and rinse it off.  Now, you're ready to season the bird.  While it may seem complicated, brining a turkey is actually quite easy and the time spent on the bird is minimal.  By far, the longest part of the process is just allowing the bird to sit in the brine in the fridge/cooler.

If you do only one thing of Martha's for your Thanksgiving meal, then brining the turkey has to be it. I'm convinced that this, not the type of turkey, not the seasoning, not anything else, is the secret to a perfect Thanksgiving turkey. Try it yourself and see! 

Tomorrow, I'll share my take on Martha's Roast Turkey with Herb Butter.  Paired with a well-brined turkey, it is absolute holiday meal heaven. 


hitenney said...

Can a frozen turkey be brined? Fresh ones are very, very expensive in Hawaii!


Amanda Grant said...

Hi, Tenney! Absolutely--frozen turkeys can be used. I've never ordered a fresh turkey, all of mine have always been frozen. Be sure to defrost it before you start the brining process, but otherwise all the steps are the same. Good luck! And happy Thanksgiving!