Recipes for wet, dry turkey brines just in time for Thanksgiving Dinner

There's a reason we tackle this subject today. If you plan to brine your Thanksgiving turkey, depending on the method you use, you may have to start as early as three days in advance. But don't worry; if you're late to the brining party, there are recipes you can use right up to Thursday to produce a great tasting turkey.

"To brine or not to brine." That is THE question for many putting together the holiday meal. While you can get a flavorful, moist turkey without brining, putting the bird in a flavor bath will help improve the odds of Thanksgiving success.

Let's take a look at the methods. There are two types of brining: wet and dry. Wet brining involves liquids, aromatics, herbs, and other ingredients. Dry brining involves no liquids. The one thing both have in common is salt. Salt is what triggers the reaction that imparts flavor to the turkey, as well as moistness. The method you use is a matter of personal taste and preference.

DRY BRINES

Let's take a look at basic dry brines, first. They're easy to execute, though you may need longer to make them work their best. You can use them on frozen or thawed turkeys.

Just about the easiest dry brine to pull off is to simply use salt. That's it. You need to do it at least two days in advance, though three days is best. You'll want to use a tablespoon of kosher, coarse, or sea salt for every five pounds of turkey. So, if you have a 15-pound bird, you'll use three tablespoons of salt. Rub it around the bird. Put the turkey in a plastic bag, seal it, and refrigerate. After a day you'll see some liquid in the bag. Don't worry, that's the salt working. Just gently massage the turkey through the bag and put it back in the refrigerator. After another day, much of the liquid will be reabsorbed, and along with it, flavor.

At that point, roast the turkey at 450 degrees for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325 degrees, and let it finish. This method will work well with any of the dry brines we're about to look at. Just remember, there's no need to add extra salt if you use another recipe for roasting. One of the other advantages of dry brining is that it pulls proteins close to the surface. That helps your turkey brown wonderfully.

Of course, there are more flavors you can add to your dry brine.  Here are a few dry brine recipes that you might want to try:

-- Herbed Dry Brine

Coarse salt, a tablespoon per every five pounds of weight of the turkey

¼ cup poultry seasoning

Combine salt with poultry seasoning. Rub it into the turkey. Put it in a plastic bag, seal it, and refrigerate for at least a day.  Roast your turkey in the method of your choosing.

-- Rosemary Lemon Dry Brine

Coarse salt, a tablespoon per every five pounds of weight of the turkey

3 twigs fresh rosemary, leaves stripped and crushed

The zest of 3 lemons

1 teaspoon black pepper

Mix ingredients together. Rub it into the turkey. Put it in a plastic bag, seal it, and refrigerate for at least a day. Roast your turkey in the method of your choosing.

-- Orange Dry Brine 

Coarse salt, a tablespoon per every five pounds of weight of the turkey

The zest of 3 oranges

½ cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon cinnamon

Mix ingredients together. Rub it into the turkey. Put it in a plastic bag, seal it, and refrigerate for at least a day. Roast your turkey in the method of your choosing.

-- Dry Brine with Fresh Herbs

Coarse salt, a tablespoon per every five pounds of weight of the turkey

3 tablespoons each fresh thyme, rosemary, sage, and parsley

3 bay leaves

1 teaspoon black pepper

Gently crumble bay leaves into a bowl. Add the fresh herbs and gently crush them with your fingers to release the essential oils. You may also use a mortar and pestle to do this. Add the salt and pepper and combine well. Rub it into the turkey. Put it in a plastic bag, seal it, and refrigerate for at least a day. Roast your turkey in the method of your choosing.

WET BRINES

Now, let's take a look at some wet brines. They're a little more complex, but the flavor and moistness they deliver are worth the effort. You'll need a large bucket or other container that can hold at least 10 gallons. You'll also need room in your refrigerator or a cool area to store your bird while it brines. You can start the wet brining process while a turkey is still frozen, but it works well on a thawed bird, too.

The most basic brine involves just salt, water, and sugar. Simply combine 3 gallons of cold water with two cups of kosher or coarse salt, and two cups of granulated sugar. Put your turkey in the bucket or container; pour the brine over it making sure it's submerged. Cover it. Let it brine for at least a day. Remove the turkey from the brine at least six hours before cooking. Rinse the turkey. Discard the brine. Let the turkey dry, then roast it at 450 degrees for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325 degrees and let it roast through.

While that basic brine will work just fine, there are more ways to get extra flavor into your turkey. Let's look

at a few:

Savory Brine

2 gallons cold water

1 gallon vegetable broth

1 gallon chicken or turkey broth

1 cup kosher or coarse salt

1 onion, halved

1 apple, halved

1 cup fresh rosemary

1 cup fresh thyme

1 cup fresh sage

1 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon allspice berries, cracked

1 tablespoon cloves

1/4 cup cinnamon

Combine the broths with the salt, one onion half, one apple half, the herbs, and the spices in a large soup or stock pot. Heat to a boil then allow to cool for 15 minutes. Add the cold water to the cooked brine mixture. Place your turkey in the bucket or container. Pour the water/brine mixture over the bird until it's submerged. Cover, refrigerate or store in a cool place. Allow the turkey to brine at least a day. Remove from the brine six hours before cooking. Rinse the turkey and allow to dry. Discard the brine. Stuff the turkey with the remaining onion and apples halves. Roast at 450 degrees for 30 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and allow to cook through.

-- Cider Brine

1 gallon cold water

2 gallons apple cider

2 cups kosher or coarse salt

2 cups brown sugar

¼ cup allspice berries, cracked

4 sage leaves

4 bay leaves

Combine cider, salt, brown sugar, allspice, sage, and bay leaves in a large stock or soup pot. Heat mixture to a boil then allow to cool for 15 minutes. Add the cold water.  Place your turkey in the bucket or container.  Pour the water/brine mixture over the bird until it's submerged. Cover, refrigerate or store in a cool place. Allow the turkey to brine at least a day. Remove from the brine six hours before cooking. Rinse the turkey and allow to dry. Discard the brine. Roast the turkey at 450 degrees for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 325 and allow to cook through.

Brining can impart flavor and moistness even if it's done for just a day, though three days is optimum for dry brines, and two days for wet brines. You can also use brines if you plan to deep fry, smoke, or grill your turkey. It's a great, easy way to add bold flavor to the star of your holiday menu.

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