Over the years, our test kitchen editors have created dozens and dozens of delicious turkey recipes, some of which call for brining, and some of which do not. Which begs the question: Is brining really necessary for a moist and delicious bird?
We asked Lucinda Scala Quinn, Living’s Executive Editorial Director of Food and host of Mad Hungry, and Sarah Carey, Everyday Food’s Editor in Chief, to confess their true feelings about brining. Both agreed that the technique is a foolproof option for beginners, but that there’s more than one way to turn out an incredible bird.
Lucinda says: Brining is a great safety net.
“I recommend different things for different times and different cooks. I am not firm about one way because if you are a less experienced cook, brining leaves room for some margin of error, keeping the bird moist if you’re shy about cooking accuracy. That’s why the turkey recipe in my “Mad Hungry” book calls for brining.
“My column in November’s issue explains how I actually do it on Thanksgiving but I’ve done it so much that I have the process down. Nothing more than salt and pepper and olive oil and a lot of TLC and patience. [Sarah’s favorite method] of early salting/reverse osmosis is cool but, truth is, I never get my act together ‘til the last minute.”
Sarah says: I skip it for a salt rub.
“To be honest, my mom makes the turkey every Thanksgiving … What can I say? I’m a pie lady myself! But if I were going to do anything other than what my mom always does (basting with orange juice concentrate and butter), I’d skip the traditional wet brining and do a ‘dry brine’ instead. Not because the results of a wet brine aren’t delicious (they are!) but because brining is so messy and takes up way too much room in my kitchen.
“The Thanksgiving turkey recipe we developed for Everyday Food this year calls for an overnight salt rub, which is my favorite method. Some people call it ‘dry brining’ but, because the liquid isn’t reabsorbed via osmosis, it’s not technically brining at all. (Isn’t science fun?) But the technique adds such great flavor — especially when you add herbs and citrus zest to the salt rub, like we did — and results in a nice, crisp skin. This rub also works as a last minute thing too, so if you forget to rub the night before, don’t worry, there is still time. Throw it on right before you roast and it will still add lots of flavor. Who doesn’t want that?”
Where do you stand on brining? Do you swear by it or skip it?