Hopefully by now your tryptophan-induced coma has long worn off, you still have credit on your Master Card post-Black Friday, and you’re already planning the festivities for Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
I know, I know. Now that Thanksgiving is all pau, you don’t even wanna’ THINK about turkey, let alone deal with all the leftovers taking up precious space in your ‘fridge.
But before we bid farewell to our gobble-gobbled feathered friend “Barney Butterball”, there’s something I’d like to share with ya’ all about this past Thursday’s Thanksgiving Day feast.
Namely brining a turkey. While I’m not considered (yet) to be a veteran domestic cook, I do have a few turkey roasts under my belt of experience. The last 2 of which I had brined due to lessons of enouragement from various cooking shows on the Food Network. Both times realizing how much better a brined turkey comes out, being much more flavorful and moist. Much, MUCH more.
So this past TG day my sister and I decided to do a little test comparison. Since we had two 16 lb. frozen Butterball turkeys to roast, she roasted one at her place that was unbrined, and I roasted a brined one at mom’s place.
One key point that must be noted is that these two frozen Butterball brand Premium Young Turkeys are, according to the label, treated with a 7% solution which includes water, salt, modified food starch, sodium phosphates, natural flavorings. After reading through a few online discussion boards on the subject, many folks discourage brining a turkey that’s treated with such a solution, mainly over concern that the results will be a bird that’s too salty and/or the brine a redundant method, thinking this salt-based solution already does the job. On the other hand, most do swear by brining, but only for a turkey that’s fresh (not frozen) and unprocessed (no solution).
Yet all opinions sounded like they were based on speculation and not tried-and-true results.
Putting our Myth Buster hats on, I set off to brine my test subject, which I’ll name “Butterball B”, while my sister roasted the other one straight outta’ the shrinkwrapped package.
Here goes test subject B in the soak…
The brine solution I used here is made-up of 1 cup Hawaiian Salt, 1/2 cup brown cane sugar, 4 bay leaves and 1/8 of a cup of black peppercorns in approximately (more likely a little more than) 1 gallon of filtered tap water. I used about 1 cup of hot tap water to initially dissolve the salt and sugar before adding it to the pot. The pot itself is a huge stock pot large enough (obviously) to accommodate the 16 lb. turkey. I’ve heard other folks use coolers, which would work too. I put the turkey in the soak while it was still frozen, allowing it to thaw and brine at the same time.
The turkey was kept soaking in the brine for 2 days prior to the Thanksgiving Day roast.
To roast it, I dried it thoroughly with a few paper towels, stuffed it with precooked Stovetop Stuffing, rubbed it all over with extra virgin olive oil and seasoned it with just fresh cracked black pepper. I popped it in a preheated 375º convection oven on a roasting pan with a rack. Thanks to that oven having a convection feature, the cooking time was cut almost in half. According to Butterball’s instructions, the turkey’s done when the meat thermometer probe reaches 180ºF at the base of the thigh, which is how is how I gauged it. It reached that in a little over 2 hours. Nice! Saves energy too.
The set oven temperature is supposed to be 325ºF, but I always start my roasts off with a higher temperature to “blast” it and give the outside a nice golden crust. Only thing, on this day, I had gotten side-tracked by some family activities outside, and by the time I got back (within minutes) to reduce the temperature to 325º, the breasts on top got a little scorched. But ah, minahz, small kine papa’a action, but no biggie. She go. I covered the top with foil and continued the roast at 325ºF until done.
Here it is pau roasting…
Here’s a backside view of an entire cut section of one of the breasts from that brined Butterball…
Looks moist ‘n tender to me!
Here’s entire “Butterball B” completely carved…
Look at the moisture just glistening off of it. Some of those pieces look pink and undercooked, but trust me, they weren’t. They were perfectly cooked through, far from even near “Turkey Jerky” dog treat status. Almost duck-like.
Here’s the unbrined Butterball my sister roasted…
Let’s take a look once again at “Butterball A”, the unbrined turkey and “Butterball B”, the brined bird..
I don’t even need to tell you which one is which, as you can visually tell the difference. What you can’t do visually is TASTE the difference, which is where I come in to say the brined turkey beat the unbrined turkey by a KNOCKOUT. Everyone who tried it at our Thanksgiving feast agreed to that. While the unbrined turkey was still good, you just can’t beat the flavor and moist, tender texture of the brined version. Like “buttah”. Really, like “turkey butter” is the best way to describe it. Pâté comes to mind. To be honest, it might a little too tender to some. Salt-wise, it was prominent, but tolerable. On the plus side, that really punched out the turkey’s flavor, making it scream “I’m turkey!”, yet when I brine my next turkey, I’ll probably scale back the time and/or salt solution. I’d brine it for just one day, not two. That will probably come out just right as far as salt and tenderness.
Well there you have it. Brine your bird, whether it’s frozen or fresh, solution-treated or not. I can almost guarantee (almost) you won’t cook a turkey ever again without doing so. The “screaming I’m turkey!” flavor and melt-in-your-mouth texture is absolutely fantastic.
Now, you can’t have turkey without all the other fixinz, so let’s take a look what else is on the table!…
Li Hing Mui Cranberry Relish
Most households in Hawaii gotta’ have rice, including on ‘Thanksgiving Day…
Oh yeah. Just gravy on that and I’m good!
Speaking of gravy, we had two full pots of the stuff…
A good gravy can cure even the driest of turkeys, and our gravy was great. Actually, my favorite dish is the stuffing with choke gravy on it. Love that!
The American classic…
Green Bean Casserole with Fried Onion Topping
Since you can’t see underneath, here it is on a plate…
Green Bean Casserole
This is really an easy recipe, made primarily with Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup.
Mom’s “Everything, including the kitchen sink” potato salad
Keanu’s Spiced Pumpkin Pie Crunch
A few plates that I made for myself and ate them all within 15 minutes…
Whoah. After eating those 4 plates, I was full, full full. Nah, juss’ kidding. No way I could eat all that! I can barely get through one, especially when I’m one of the cooks. I’m the type that barely eat after I cook due to tasting the food doing that job. How about you?
While waiting for the feast to commence, besides watching football, going over the Black Friday ads are a requirement…
Looks like the hot trends this holiday season are flat panel HDTVs, digital cameras, affordable Blue Ray disch players and GPS devices. Anything electronic is always hot as far as I’m concerned. Shoot, give me a diode, resistor and capacitor for Christmas and I’d be happy. lol
Anyway, once again, I highly recommend brining your turkey the next time you do one. It makes a world of a difference.
Oh, and remember, after turkey there’s Jook!…
Turkey Jook garnished with Chinese Parsley