Before I married my lovey, I lived next door to my pastor and his wife and 10 children (yes, ten children and the quietest and most organized home I've ever visited). Very soon after I moved in next door, they invited my children and I to their holiday meals, and it became an annual tradition for almost 10 years. I'd bring a few favorite side dishes, wine, and a dessert, and they'd cook everything else. A wonderful time was had by all!
But then I married my African cowboy and we moved to the ranch. I was a little out of practice on how to put together a family holiday meal and that became painfully obvious at our first Thanksgiving meal preparation at the ranch. I woke up Tuesday morning of the week of Thanksgiving facing the reality that I had a frozen turkey and it had to be cooked and ready by Thursday noon!
In a panicked frenzy, Google came to the rescue and Alton Brown had a two for one solution to my problem. Brine the frozen turkey! You defrost and brine at the same time.
Before I explain Alton's process (which I've used ever since), why should you brine your turkey? According to experts, when a turkey is heated, the moisture in its meat is 'flexed' out. Just like squeezing a tube of toothpaste, this causes the juices to be forced out of the bird and you can end up with dry, stringy meat. The salt in the brine will dissolve the proteins responsible for this flexing. Brining helps make a turkey super juicy and extra flavorful.
So back to Alton's two for one process of defrosting and brining at the same time.
- Remove the packaging from the frozen turkey.
- Retrieve a 5 gallon bucket or small cooler or commercial food bin and make sure it's clean.
- Place frozen turkey in your container and completely submerge in your brine of choice (see below for my favorite brine recipe)
- Insert a probe thermometer with an alarm set to go off if the temperature of the brine solution rises above 40 degrees F.
- Cover with lid or towel and place it pantry, closet...wherever its safe from children and/or critters.
- Depending on the size of the turkey, it'll take at least 12 hours to get it ready for roasting. I've had it take almost 24 hours. Check the turkey for complete thaw.
If you're more organized than I am, and have less projects and events that distract you from preparing ahead of time, and you have your turkey thawed,
- Place your thawed turkey into the brine (see below for my favorite recipe) in a stockpot, clean 5 gallon bucket or food bin and place in the fridge.
- Allow turkey to brine for 18-24 hours before roasting.
If your turkey is already thawed, you can also do a dry brine by rubbing salt all over the turkey the night before you roast it.
Once the brine is complete, you're ready to roast your turkey into deliciousness!
Click here to print recipe
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