This is sort of a repost from an article featured here back in 2012 that revealed the outstanding benefits of brining a turkey. It turns out so tasty, succulent, tender ‘n juicy… da’ kine unrealz ‘kine! For those of you who have never bothered with doing this, I can’t say how much better your bird will turn out by following this such simple first step. Probably the only difficult thing you’ll encounter is finding a pot or bucket clean enough and/or large (but not too large) enough to fit the turkey, as well as making the extra space needed in your refrigerator for it. I’ve seen some folks do it in a Zip-Loc® roasting bag, or even a clean new trash bag if you can’t find a (clean) pot or bucket for it. Then of course there’s brining bags you can buy.
Speaking of time, that’s also the reason I’m featuring this again, as you still have time either tonight or tomorrow to brine your turkey. So if you’re going to be cooking one (or more) yourself this Thursday, get crackin’ ASAP and start doing it!
While our ohana alternates year to year between ready-to-heat ‘n eat store-bought Turkey-to-Go and cooking at home, this year I decided to be the Thanksgiving Day cook, or ehem, shall I call myself “Chef” once again.
This time my turkey brine is made of 3/4 cup of Hawaiian salt, 3/4 cup of light brown cane sugar, and interestingly, 1 whole 12 oz. bottle of Original Molokai Roadside Stake Marinade. If not for the somewhat salty store-bought liquid marinade, I would have used an entire cup of salt. That marinade is made of Tangerine juice concentrate, Shoyu, wine, garlic and Hawaiian Chili peppers. A product I don’t think is available anymore.
The salt, sugar and store-bought meat marinade were heated up in a pot with about a quart of water to dissolve and combine it. I then cooled it in the refrigerator. Next step, I placed my almost completely thawed out 12 lb. Norbest turkey in a 3 gallon (not 5 gallon) bucket, poured in the concentrated chilled brine solution, then topped it with approximately 1½ gallons of cold water. The force of the plain water being poured into the bucket adequately mixed with the concentrated quart of brine solution at the bottom, however I did stir it around a bit for good measure.
So above is our 12 lb. Norbest Turkey, thawed out, submerged and and chillin’ in the bucket of brine, ready to hit the refrigerator on the bottom shelf. Note, I had to move one of the shelves above up a few notches to make room in the fridge for the height of the bucket.
And there it is, in the brine in the fridge where I made space, in there right now as I’m writing this. I’m really curious how that Molokai Roadside Steak Marinade is going to influence the flavor of this turkey. Upon tasting it right after heating the mixture more concentrated in the pot, I’m VERY optimistic this is so gonna’ ROCK!
The reason I decided to try using this marinade is not only because I had it sitting in my pantry for honestly way too long now (like years), but I read a couple brine recipes online that incorporated Orange juice and the rind. So I looked a the ingredients of the Molokai Roadside Steak Marinade, where its dominant ingredient was Tangerine juice concentrate and thought, “Sounds like a plan!”. That, and the second dominant ingredient being shoyu should be AWESOME for enhancing this turkey brine!
When I tasted the concentrated brine in the pot right after heating it, it has just right balance of saltiness, with a very slight “heat” from the chili peppers in the marinade, and just a tad of sweetness. That shoyu in the marinade also brought “umami” in the brine, and surely will do that to the turkey itself! And of course there’s that Tangerine juice in the marinade that added this subtle citrus accent to the flavor profile, so I’m most excited about that part!
A final note on the marinade element, is that’s my third “aromatic” part of the otherwise basic salt and sugar brine equation; something you don’t really need, but most brine recipes will suggest. Aromatics in brine recipes are usually seasoning and herbs such as bay leaf, peppercorn, sage, rosemary and/or thyme, to name a few. I’m going with Tangerine Juice, Shoyu, Wine, garlic and Hawaiian Chili Peppahz, baby!
And not to worry if you think the concentrated brine thinned down with over a gallon of water is going to lose its effectiveness, because it doesn’t. Believe me, I’ve done this for several years now, and every time it turns out AWESOME!
From my 2012 Turkey, a Butterball soaking in brine solution 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
What happens when you brine a turkey?
When the turkey is brined, what happens is the salt solution unwinds the meat proteins to form a hollow tube. The water-based salt and sugar brine solution then travels into the protein, becoming trapped inside during the roasting process. The results being flavor-packed, super tender ‘n juicy turkey meat, arriving at the table practically with a SATISFACTION GUARANTEED seal of approval stamped on each slice.
While you’ll find a gazillion recipes online for turkey brine, the basics of it are again a simple combination of salt, sugar and your choice of aromatics (the latter two optional) in a water solution, to which you soak your bird for 30 seconds, to several hours, to overnight, to 10 years, depending on who’s teaching you how to do it. lol
No, but seriously, regarding how long to brine, in my experience, overnight and up to 24 hours is perfect, as in one of my attempts letting it brine 48 hours, while it turned out awesome, it was a little TOO awesome, depending what your idea of “turkey awesomeness” is. I mean, it was so soft, tender and juicy, the meat was almost like Pâté in some parts. I mean where I could practically spread the center part of the breast on a piece of toast like butter. Like BUTTAH’! While some in our ohana liked that almost buttery texture, others preferred a bit more “chew” to it.
One other note to make, is the Norbest Turkey I’m brining this year, as all the ones I’ve done in the past, is the frozen type with “up to 9.5% Turkey Broth and seasonings” injected into it. Ideally you’d want a fresh (never frozen), unprocessed turkey for brining, which here in Hawaii are very rare to find in the stores (I don’t ever recall seeing it). While some will say not to brine the common frozen and injected turkeys because it’s already seasoned and will turn out too salty if you brine it, don’t believe that. As long as you add enough water to the brine in the bucket, it won’t.
Also again, don’t brine it too long for the reason mentioned in the previous paragraph. While 24 is perfect and 48 too long, I’m going to let the turkey brine for about 30 hours this year and see how that turns out. After removing it from the brine, I’ll rinse it thoroughly to remove excess salt.
For good measure, to give the turkey a nice golden brown finish to the skin, I rub it with cooking oil just before popping it in the oven. I’m estimating about 2 hours roasting time in my new convection oven for this 12 lb. turkey. I’ll use a meat thermometer to get that magical 165ºF internal temperature to make sure I get it right.
That said, from one our Thanksgiving day feast in the past, here’s 14.6 oz. Turkey I brined for 24 hours, done roasting…
And here’s a Butterball turkey I brined for 48 hours done, all carved-up (no bones) and ready to dig in…
Brined Butterball turkey breast with an almost Pâté-like center…
You can visibly see how soft and juicy this breast meat is. Unrealz cuz!
Above you can visibly see the difference between the turkey breast that was brined to one that wasn’t.
Brined ‘n Roasted Butterball Turkey, Stuffing, Keanu’s Ham with a Li Hing Pineapple Glaze, Cranberry Relish, Mash Purtaters, Baked Marshmallow Yams, Mom’s “Kitchen Sink” Potato Salad, Keanu’s “Fully Loaded” Baked Potato Salad, Dinner Roll (carbo load!) and the All-American classic Green Bean Casserole with French Fried Onions. “Kanak Attack” soon to follow.
Speaking of side dishes, this year I plan on making Caramelized Brussel Sprouts with Yams, Pineapple, Cranberries and Macadamia Nuts, a recipe I found at Foodland.com. That’s gonna’ so rock with the Turkey!
Once again, if you plan on roasting a turkey this Thursday, whether it’s fresh or frozen with a factory solution, BRINE IT! It’s such an easy step to do, and I can almost guarantee, as long as you don’t BURN IT, you and your ohana will be very pleased with the results!
P.S. Don’t forget, after turkey, there’s Jook!…
Turkey Jook garnished with Chinese Parsley