What is brining, and what ingredients are in a brine?
Brining is a method of soaking meat in a water-based salt mixture before cooking to lock in moisture. Brines are typically a blend of salt and other ingredients for infusing flavor - this can be anything from sugar, herbs, spices and pepper to dried fruits - into your meat.
Why should I brine my turkey?
Brining increases meats' water-capacity substantially, making brined meat incredibly moist. An additional advantage for busy Thanksgiving cooks in particular is that brining eliminates the need for basting, allowing them to give attention to other parts of the traditional feast. If you're using a store-bought turkey, just make sure the bird is not pre-brined or self-basting, as salty stock is already added to these types of turkey meat which will result in the bird being overly salty.
How does brining make meat more flavorful, and what is the chemical process that causes this to happen?
The salt in a brine interacts with the muscle proteins in the meat to actually dissolve part of the muscle filaments, which increases the water-holding capacity of the muscle protein cells. The cells retain this extra water throughout cooking, therefore reducing water loss. Brining works on any poultry, and is also good on pork.
How do I prepare the brining mixture? How do I brine?
For turkeys up to 18 pounds, follow recipe below (for larger turkeys double the recipe):
- Combine entire 11 oz jar (2 cups) with one gallon of boiling water.
- Add the Turkey Brine mixture to the water and bring to a boil – or just heat until the salt dissolves.
- Cool the mixture thoroughly and refrigerate until chilled. This step is crucial because if you add the turkey to the brine while hot, the turkey may begin to cook.
- Place thawed turkey, chilled brine and an additional gallon of water into a large container or bag so that the turkey is completely submerged.
- Keep refrigerated or on ice in a large cooler for 12-24 hours.
- Rinse turkey with cold water, pat dry and cook as desired.
Note: If you're using a store-bought turkey, just make sure the bird is not pre-brined or self-basting, as salty stock is already added to these types of meats and the end result will be overly salty.
Additional Turkey Brining Information:
Do I need to use a certain kind of turkey to brine? What kind of turkey is best?
Brining works well on both farm-fresh and store-bought turkeys. Make sure to fully de-feather and clean any bird before brining. You can also use a frozen turkey, but be sure to defrost entirely before brining for best results. We recommend using a turkey that has not been pre-brined or enhanced with salt and/or flavor solutions. Although it is not preferred, you can brine a turkey that has been injected with solution, but it should not be left in the brine for more than 12 hours. Brining an injected turkey may result in a saltier flavor than a non-injected turkey.
Are there any size restrictions on a turkey you can brine?
No. You can brine any size turkey. Just follow the appropriate directions for different proportions outlined on our jar — for turkeys 18 lbs. and under, you'll need about 2 cups of Turkey Brine (1 11oz jar). For larger birds you'll need about 3 to 4 cups of mixture.
Can I brine a turkey breast?
Yes. Make half of the Turkey Brine recipe found on the jar or online for turkeys 18 pounds and under and refrigerate breast for 6-12 hours. Rinse; pat dry and cook as desired.
How far in advance should I brine my turkey? And for how long?
You should prepare the brine the day/night before you plan to serve your turkey so that the brine ingredients can fully infuse the meat with flavor - this process takes about 12 - 24 hours. However, active time to prepare the brine is only about 20 minutes on the first day, and on the second day you'll need only the time it takes to thoroughly rinse and roast the turkey.
Do I need a special container to brine?
Brining is incredibly easy because you don't need any particular supplies. Just find something big enough to hold your turkey and the brine - a (clean!) pail or bucket, an ice chest or picnic cooler, or even a sturdy garbage bag will do just fine.
Where do I store a turkey that's being brined?
Pour the (cooled) brine over the turkey and store refrigerated or on ice overnight, making sure the temperature does not exceed 40°F. One great solution is to place your turkey and brine in a clean, sturdy bag, then in an ice chest or picnic cooler with ice, which will keep its temperature even. Just be sure to keep it at refrigerated temperatures.
When I prepare the turkey to be cooked, do I wash off the brine, or cook it as is?
Rinse the turkey thoroughly inside and out with cold water and then pat it dry before roasting. The moisture will already be soaked into the meat, so you don't have to worry that it stays wet on the skin.
Can I stuff a bird that's been brined?
Yes, you may stuff a bird that's been brined. After the brine is rinsed off the bird, stuff then cook until done. The brown sugar and dried fruit in our brine will perfectly complement a sweet stuffing with cinnamon, apples, apricots and chopped nuts, like our New England Apple Nut Stuffing, which is actually prepared separately for an even simpler option.
I plan to deep fry my turkey. Can I brine it before hand?
Yes. You can prepare a brined turkey by any cooking method you choose. Be sure to carefully follow all the safety precautions for deep frying a turkey.
What ingredients are in The Spice Hunter's brine?
The Spice Hunter's brine is comprised of sea salt, brown sugar, cranberries, apples, garlic, orange peel, juniper berries, Malabar black peppercorns, thyme, rosemary and sage. It has a great balance of fruit and herb flavors to complement the salt in the brine. We source our ingredients from the best growing regions worldwide, so the flavors are sure to be strong and fresh.
Won't all that salt make my turkey too salty?
No. Because the salt is dissolved with the purpose of helping the turkey absorb water, the bird retains more moisture than it does salty taste. Additionally, any extra brine is rinsed off the turkey before it is roasted. The brown sugar, dried fruits and savory herbs and spices in the blend also help to enhance remaining "salty" flavors.
What are some alternative uses for The Spice Hunter's Turkey Brine?
Brining works well with any poultry as well as pork, so don't limit yourself to turkey alone. Try the brine on whole chicken or pork roast for a crowd-pleasing main course. To brine up to 9 lbs. of pork or poultry, make half the Turkey Brine recipe for turkeys 18 pounds and under found on the jar. Refrigerate while brining the meat according to the following times:
- Whole chicken: 6-12 hours
- Chicken pieces and pork roast: 4-8 hours
- Pork chops: 2-4 hours
Can I brine a turducken?
We must admit that we have not tested our brine on a turducken. The technique of brining should work just fine, but we can't tell you exactly how long you should leave it in the brine.
Can I use the brine on small birds like capons, Cornish game hens or guinea hens?
Yes, just be sure to adjust the proportions accordingly. To brine up to 9 pounds of any whole small poultry, use half of our 11 oz. jar and follow the Turkey brine recipe, then brine for 4-8 hours.
Is The Spice Hunter's Turkey Brine kosher?
Yes, The Spice Hunter's Turkey Brine is certified Kosher by the Orthodox Union (OU) and carries the kosher symbol on the label.
When does The Spice Hunter's Turkey Brine expire?
The Spice Hunter's Turkey Brine will retain its full flavor for up to 36 months after purchase.
I bought a jar of Turkey Brine last year, can I still use it?
Yes. The Spice Hunter's Turkey Brine will retain its full flavor for up to 36 months after purchase.
I didn't use all of my brine. Can I save the rest for next Thanksgiving?
Absolutely. The Spice Hunter's Turkey Brine will retain its full flavor for up to 36 months after purchase. Keep in mind you can also use this same brine to make moist and delicious pork and poultry anytime throughout the year.
Can the ingredients in a brine be changed without destroying the effect?
The salt is the key to expanding meats' water-holding capacity, which is how the brine keeps meat moist throughout cooking. Therefore, any brine must contain a heavy salt base. The other ingredients can be selected based on flavor preference, but The Spice Hunter recommends fruits, spices and sugars to counteract the saltiness of a brine base.
Can't I just make a brine myself?
Yes, you can make your own brine. The salt is the key to expanding meats' water-holding capacity, which is how the brine keeps meat moist throughout cooking. Therefore, any brine must contain a heavy salt base. The other ingredients can be selected based on flavor preference, but The Spice Hunter recommends using fruits, herbs and spices with a little sugar to counteract the saltiness of a brine base. Because you'll want to include several different ingredients, it is likely more cost-effective to select our gourmet brine blend which is comprised of sea salt, brown sugar, cranberries, apples, garlic, orange peel, juniper berries, Malabar black peppercorns, thyme, rosemary and sage. It has a great balance of fruit and herb flavors to complement the salt in the brine. We source our ingredients from the best growing regions worldwide, so the flavors are sure to be strong and fresh.
I disagree. This wasn't the moistest turkey I've ever tasted. Can I get my money back?
We are sorry to hear that you were not satisfied with your brined turkey, and we would be happy to send you a coupon for a free jar of any of our spices.
I left my turkey in the brine for more than 24 hours. Is it ruined?
While the bird will be safe to eat, we cannot guarantee that your turkey will not taste too salty. If it was just a little longer than 24 hours, it will probably taste fine. Rinsing the brine off the bird for an extended time with cold water may also help.
I poured hot brine liquid over my raw turkey. Should I be worried?
Unfortunately, the hot brine can begin to cook your turkey, which can make it susceptible to growing bacteria. In this case, we can not guarantee the safety of your turkey and therefore we recommend that you start over again so as not to risk contamination.
My turkey is still frozen - can I brine it while it thaws in the refrigerator? Will it still work?
No. You will want to completely thaw your turkey before brining to make sure the proteins in the meat are able to fully absorb the brine.
I forgot to rinse off the brine before I baked my turkey. Is my bird going to be a salt lick?
Your turkey will probably be salty, slightly or moderately depending on how long it was in the brine. The majority of the salt will be in the juices that cook out, so if you're planning to use the juices to make gravy be sure to taste and dilute accordingly.
I didn't brine for the full time listed. Will my turkey still be flavorful and moist?
Your turkey will have some additional flavor and moisture; how much depends on the length of time it was in the brine. Although less brining time will not negatively affect your turkey, it will not have the full flavor and moisture as one brined for our recommended time of 12-24 hours.
I didn't add the second gallon of water when I placed the turkey in the chilled brine. What will this do to my turkey?
While the bird will be safe to eat, we cannot guarantee that your turkey will not taste too salty. The brine is very concentrated when all the water called for in the recipe is not used. If only a short time has passed, the best bet to salvage your turkey is to add the remaining water as soon as you remember. If it has already been more than a short time, your turkey may be salty. You can remove your turkey from the concentrated brine, rinse well and keep refrigerated until ready to cook.
I forgot to refrigerate my turkey while brining. Can I still cook it?
Unfortunately your turkey is unsafe to cook and eat. Meats need to be kept under 40°F at all times, even when brining.
I cannot fit my brining turkey into the refrigerator. What can I do?
Place your brining container (bag, bucket, pail) in a large ice chest or other large container. Pour ice around brining container and make sure the turkey stays under 40°F. Replace ice as needed to keep cold. Place the large container in a cool, dark place in your home (such as your basement or garage) to keep the ice frozen longer.