Brining is one of the secrets behind a juicy and tender turkey that does not feel like overcooked. One of the most common complaints about turkey dishes is that the meat is dry and flavorless. Whether it be smoking, grilling, frying or roasting, poultry has a tendency to get dry and feel like over cooked. This problem can be overcome with brining, a procedure that is said to be very much effective in making turkey dishes juicy and flavorful.

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What is Brining
Brining is done to ensure that the meat remains tender and juicy, even after cooking. The meat is soaked in brine solution, for some time, prior to cooking. The salinity inside the cells of the meat increases, as the salt in the brine diffuses into them. This makes the cells absorb water from the brine solution. The salt inside the cells denatures the protein in the meat and these proteins stick together to trap water molecules. The cells retain these water molecules, throughout the cooking, so that the meat remains tender and soft. Apart from retaining moisture, brining also helps in adding flavor to the meat. So, the brine solution is prepared with salt and other ingredients as per your choice. This is a procedure that requires some preparation that has to be planned before a day.

Best Way to Brine a Turkey
So, brining is done to make poultry moist and juicier, even after cooking. It is like marination, wherein the bird is kept immersed in brine solution for a certain period of time, before cooking. One of the important points to be noted is that you have to get a natural turkey, if you plan to brine it. It is better to go for a twelve to twenty pound turkey. Those basted and marinated versions, including the koshered ones, do not require brining. So, make sure that the bird you buy is devoid of any preservatives and food additives like salt and other things. Frozen ones must be thawed before brining. Once you know how to thaw a turkey and do it properly, remove any trusses and clean the bird. Remove the excess fat, skin, giblets, neck and tail. Clean both the inner and outer surfaces. Your bird is ready for brining.

Preparing Brine
Basically, brine is salt solution, i.e., water mixed with salt. But other additives like herbs, spices and fruits are also used in the brine, so as to flavor the meat. Apart from the basic ingredients, choice of additives is individual preference only. In order to prepare brine solution, you have to use kosher salt or table salt without iodine. One cup of each of table salt will be sufficient for every gallon of water. If you are using kosher salt, you may use little more than a cup. If the granules are much larger, even 1? to 2 cups of kosher salt may be required. If you can afford sea salt, it can also be used. Additives like brown sugar, honey, apple juice, apple cider vinegar, beer, wine, orange juice and tea, can be used as per personal choice.

In order to brine a turkey, you need a container that can accommodate the whole turkey. The container must fit into your refrigerator or picnic cooler. You have to take enough water to immerse the bird. Place the turkey with its neck side down, in the container and add enough water to immerse it. You require that much amount of cold water, along with a cup of boiling water. For every gallon of cold water, you need ? cup of kosher salt (per gallon of cold water), ? cup of granulated sugar and a tablespoon of black pepper. All you have to do is to dissolve the salt and sugar in boiling water and mix it with the cold water. Add the black pepper and other foodchem additives and chill the brine solution in the refrigerator, before placing the turkey in it.

How Long to Brine a Turkey
Once the brine solution is chilled, immerse the turkey into it and refrigerate it. You may also use turkey brining bags for this purpose. Brining time for a whole turkey can be around one to two days. Some people brine turkey overnight only. If you are a beginner, it will be better to start from the lower range of brining time. If you are brining a turkey breast, then five to eights hours will be sufficient. In general, brining turkey must be done at a temperature that is below 40° F. You may also use a picnic cooler for this purpose. In that case, you may either put ice in zip-lock bags and put those bags in the brine solution or keep those bags around the container with brined turkey.

Once done, remove the turkey from the brine and rinse it well, before using it for preparing turkey recipes. You don't have to use salt while preparing recipes, with brined turkey. For roasting, allow the brined turkey to reach room temperature, before roasting. As brined turkey cooks faster, check the temperature in between, with a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part. So, this time, you may try brining turkey before roasting and taste the difference.