A saltwater soak is all the rage for the Thanksgiving turkey.
From my personal experience, brining does make a difference in flavor and succulence. It may not be the only way, but it is a very good way.
Last year, I tried a brining kit from Fire & Flavor, a company out of Athens, Ga. The kit contains a premixed blend of salt and herbs and includes a large brining bag.
Using about a 12-pound turkey, I followed instructions for the brining and then cooked it on my Weber grill, using indirect heat (coals to opposite sides or one side), a drip pan and a few soaked wood chips for a bit of smokiness. For that size turkey, unstuffed, it took 2 1/2 to 3 hours. (The internal temperature should reach 165 degrees in the thickest part of the inner thigh, avoiding bone.)
The bird turned out beautifully and was a knockout -- the family picked the bones clean. I picked up another brining kit at Earth Fare this year and plan on doing it again.
Note: If you plan to brine, don't buy a self-basting or kosher turkey.
You can make your own brining solution: Basically, it's 2 cups of table salt dissolved in 2 gallons of water. You can add brown sugar, and herbs such as 6-8 bay leaves, 1/2 cup dried rosemary leaves, 3 cloves peeled garlic, 2 teaspoons peppercorns and 1/2 cup dried thyme leaves.
The turkey should be thawed, rinsed and cleaned of any parts inside. Submerge it in the brining solution in a bag, a large pot or other clean container. Brine in the refrigerator or an ice-chilled cooler for 6-8 hours, keeping the temperature below 40 degrees.
Remove, rinse again and pat dry before cooking.
But the National Turkey Federation advises that if the turkey is to be cooked at high temperatures (450-500 degrees), in the oven or on a grill, it's best to cut the salt by half and use only a little sugar in the brine to prevent the turkey from browning too quickly. (We didn't last year and had no problem.)
At any rate, just when I thought I had settled on the perfect turkey ... here comes another brining technique that's making a buzz out West.
"You just salt the turkey a few days in advance, give it a brisk massage every so often to redistribute the salt, and then roast it," he writes.
Russ Parsons of The Los Angeles Times reports on dry-brining, which he says couldn't be easier and produces a "phenomenal" bird.Teresa Taylor is the food editor. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 937-4886.