Tuesday, November 20, 2012

To Brine or Not to Brine?

turkey in brine

Over the years, our test kitchen editors have created dozens and dozens of delicious turkey recipes, some of which call for brining, and some of which do not. Which begs the question: Is brining really necessary for a moist and delicious bird?

We asked Lucinda Scala Quinn, Livings Executive Editorial Director of Food and host ofMad Hungry, and Sarah Carey, Everyday Foods Editor in Chief, to confess their true feelings about brining. Both agreed that the technique is a foolproof option for beginners, but that theres more than one way to turn out an incredible bird.

Lucinda says: Brining is a great safety net.

I recommend different things for different times and different cooks. I am not firm about one way because if you are a less experienced cook, brining leaves room for some margin of error, keeping the bird moist if youre shy about cooking accuracy. Thats why the turkey recipein my Mad Hungry bookcalls for brining.

My columnin Novembers issue explains how I actually do it on Thanksgiving but Ive done it so much that I have the process down. Nothing more than salt and pepper and olive oil and a lot of TLC and patience. [Sarahs favorite method] of early salting/reverse osmosis is cool but, truth is, I never get my act together til the last minute.

Sarah says: I skip it for a salt rub.

Sarah's Citrus-Salt Rubbed Turkey

Sarah's Citrus-Salt Rubbed Turkey

To be honest, my mom makes the turkey every Thanksgiving What can I say? Im a pie lady myself! But if I were going to do anything other than what my mom always does (basting with orange juice concentrate and butter), Id skip the traditional wet brining and do a dry brine instead. Not because the results of a wet brine arent delicious (they are!) but because brining is so messy and takes up way too much room in my kitchen.

The Thanksgiving turkey recipe we developed for Everyday Food this year calls for an overnight salt rub, which is my favorite method. Some people call it dry brining but, because the liquid isnt reabsorbed via osmosis, its not technically brining at all. (Isnt science fun?) But the technique adds such great flavor especially when you add herbs and citrus zest to the salt rub, like we did and results in a nice, crisp skin. This rub also works as a last minute thing too, so if you forget to rub the night before, dont worry, there is still time. Throw it on right before you roast and it will still add lots of flavor. Who doesnt want that?

Where do you stand on brining? Do you swear by it or skip it?

For more inspiration, get Lucindas Slow-Grilled Turkeyrecipeand SarahsCitrus-Rubbed Turkey with Cider Gravyrecipe.

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