How to Brine Poultry and Meat
If moist, flavorful meat (like turkey, chicken and pork) is what you're after, salt-water brine is the answer!
In this excerpt from my weekely Chef in Your Pocket Facebook Q&A, Relish fan Linda Aldridge McMinn was at her "cardboard turkey" limit!
Q: What are some ways to flavor turkey meat? It is always so dry and tasteless.
A: Linda, I know exactly what you mean and I have a solution that works for turkey, chicken, or pork: brining. The meat or poultry will absorb the brine and lock it in, retaining extra moisture and flavoring the turkey from the inside out! Best of all, it's super simple to prepare.
My basic recipe for salt-water brine is 1 cup of Kosher salt and 1/4 cup brown sugar per gallon of water. In addition to the salt, you may add your favorite flavorings. Fresh herbs, citrus zest, spices, garlic, ginger, soy, Worcestershire and liquid smoke are just a few of the items you could add to your brine. I usually bring the brine to a boil with all of the flavorings, salt and sugar to be sure everything is dissolved and give the flavor-melding a little boost. Before you use it, be sure to cool it back down to room temp.
To use, simply submerge the turkey in the brine and refrigerate. The hardest part of this technique can be finding a suitable container to hold the turkey and brine in the fridge. For larger birds, plastic containers lined with garbage bags will work, as will clean, oversized buckets or unused lidded trash cans. Now, marinate. For a whole turkey, I let it brine overnight. For a small piece, like a bone-in breast, 4-6 hours will be plenty. Once it's been brined, be sure to rinse the turkey well under cold running water and pat dry before seasoning and cooking.
This technique should really help improve your results, and give you the flavor and moisture you're after. Thanks again for the great question.
—By Brian Morris, Chef in Your Pocket