THE ULTIMATE THANKSGIVING TURKEY
I feel as if I've been walking around in a fog, and, now, Thanksgiving is basically a week away! When did this happen? I always think that Thanksgiving is far enough away that I have plenty of time to plan and then all of a sudden, it's just here. This year, I definitely don't want to go the traditional route with a turkey. We did this amazing, marinated, dry-brined, spatchcocked turkey last year out on our grill to free up oven space. It was AMAZING - super moist and evenly cooked with crispy, crackling skin.
Turkey can be so hit or miss with the main complaint being that it's too dry. Brining is the best way to ensure that the turkey will stay moist and flavorful! The only decision left is a dry brine vs. a wet brine. Using a dry brine is basically pre-salting the turkey without any water. Some say that this is the better method (it definitely saves space in the fridge...), and while it doesn’t always guarantee as juicy a bird as a wet brine, it does offer a much crispier skin when cooked. The turkey sits in the fridge, uncovered, with the dry salt brine mix for up to 3 days prior to cooking. The salt mixture will draw out the moisture from the bird. The salt is then dissolved in this liquid and reabsorbed which helps to break down any tough proteins making it tender, juicy and flavorful.
With a wet brine, you add water to the equation and need a bag big enough to house the turkey and a pan (for a just in case the bag bursts scenario). This just means more room needed in the fridge that, quite frankly not a lot of us have around this time of year! The turkey then bathes in the brine for up to 3 days and (I think) creates a juicer outcome.
I’ve used both techniques in the past and honestly, I think the choice for brining depends on the cooking method. For a traditional roast turkey, I say go with the wet brine - for the longer cooking time, you need the brine to plump up the moisture content. For a spatchcocked turkey, though, that cooks in far less time, I think a dry brine is the best way to go - you get the moisture you need and perfectly crisped skin!
What I love about both brines is that you can add whatever spices you want to create a personalized mix. In the past, I have played around with allspice berries, juniper berries, fresh (or dry) herbs, garlic chipotle peppers (grinded), citrus zest (orange, lemon, lime, etc…), star anise, cardamom…..you get the idea. All you need to know is the ratio of salt to water for a wet brine (about 2- 2 1/2 cups salt to 1 gallon of water). For a dry brine, I use a 1/2 cup kosher salt with 2 tablespoons baking powder as a ratio and don't always use all of that salt, depending on the size of the turkey.
A few things: Always default to kosher salt here as this method needs the larger crystals to work; regular table salt is not ideal for this recipe. Also, this is only good for a non-kosher, non-treated, fresh turkey. If you aren't buying a fresh one, make sure you read the label to see if it's been pre-treated.
Finally, remember that there is no need to re-salt the turkey once you are ready to put it in the oven! Usually with the wet brine, I rinse the turkey in and out and pat dry before stuffing it and putting it in the oven. With the dry brine, I don’t rinse but only pat the skin dry before roasting.
Here are a few recipe ideas to get you started with your Thanksgiving Feast!