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500s FAQs: Brining

    This is a FAQ of collected posts and info from the GEFP Message Board. It is 
organized by post, and contains opinions and advice from people who have 
responded to a myriad of questions about making a turkey.

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  1. BRINING WHOLE BIRDS
    1. Do I have to brine it? Can I brine it too long?
    2. Do I have to use aromatics? What happens if I brine too long?
    3. Which brine should I use? GE or IJHFTF?
    4. Can I scale the GE brine up?
    5. Can you brine a turkey injected with salt solution?
    6. Can you brine a turkey before deep-frying?
    7. Can you roast a brined turkey in a Reynolds roasting bag?
  2. BRINING JUST THE TURKEY BREASTS
    1. How much brine do I need for breasts?
    2. I want to cook multiple breasts? Do you have any suggestions?
    3. Do you have any other advice on the whole "breast brining process"?

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  1. a. Do I have to brine it? Can I brine for too long?

Al,
    YES, you CAN brine for too long.
    The idea is to get some moisture, and the flavors with the moisture, into the cells of the bird. It does this by osmosis, and there lays your problem. Osmosis is a wonderful, but FIERCE thing!!
    First, it'll accumulate TOO MUCH salt! What can I say. Turkey pastrami. Corned turkey. Good Eats ONLY with proper preparation and treatment, which roasting ain't either a of!!
    Second, it'll accumulate TOO MUCH water with that salt!! That will destroy cells, and, accumulating BETWEEN the cells, push cell walls apart, giving the turkey a mooshey, spongy, unpleasant texture. Good Eats ONLY with proper preparation and treatment, which roasting ain't either a of either!!!
    Keep to the safe road and follow the directions. If you HAVE to brine it for 24 hours, or not brine at all, consider the joys of an unbrined bird.
    I don't brine mine for very similar reasons. Use the tent, watch your temperature and you'll still get a good bird.
    As for body-cavity fillings. Onions, apples and sprigs of thyme and sage. Onions, carrots and celery with sprigs of basil and parsley (cilantro?? Oooh!). Anything aromatic and moist. It's not for eating, after all, just to give the bird that one more shot of aroma and flavor and to provide the breast with just a tad more moisture. Think "turkey" and "smells like ...."
    Empty is Ok, as well. When you have a good turkey, you don't really NEED the aromatics. The neighbors'll all show up at the door with their bibs on without 'em.

  1. b) Do I have to use aromatics? What happens if I brine too long?
Kristina,
    Brining too long = salt lick. If you use a bigger than suggested bird, I think it could go longer. I think Alton said somewhere along the line that he doesn't put the stuff in the cavity anymore. good luck (you don't really need it, though, it's pretty easy)

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  1. c) Which brine should I use? GE or IJHFTF or another?
Nidia,
    I brined a turkey breast in the orange brine from IJHFTF and one in the brine from the show. They were both good - the orange brine was easier - no cooking and waiting for the cool down. Some of the tasters detected the orange flavor from the book brine and thought it was a little strong for turkey, though I didn't notice it. I think the one from the show is a little more complimentary for turkey, especially white meat, though.

Moose,
    I used the molasses based brine from Scrap Iron Chef on a pair of turkey legs. I substituted cane syrup, because that was what was in the pantry. They were juicy, not at all salty, with a subtle sweetness. Debbie Bickford,
    I've done the one from his show. No problems! It works. I did one last Sunday. Juicy, tender turkey. And I've done 7 or more turkeys. Also chickens. I will keep using that recipe. It works!

HazCat,
    I brined a turkey breast in the orange brine from IJHFTF and one in the brine from the show. They were both good - the orange brine was easier - no cooking and waiting for the cool down. Some of the tasters detected the orange flavor from the book brine and thought it was a little strong for turkey, though I didn't notice it. I think the one from the show is a little more complimentary for turkey, especially white meat, though.

  1. d) Can I scale the GE Brine up?
???
  1. e) Can you brine a turkey injected with salt solution?
    In her November Fine Cooking article, Shirley says: " ... any meat that's brined for too long will dry out and start to taste salty as the salt ends up pulling liquid out of the muscle fibers. (Be sure not to brine meats that have already been brined before you buy them ...)"
  1. f) Can you brine a turkey before deep-frying?

Shiva,
Brining adds some water to the flesh, but not enough to cause any problems. Make sure the bird is dried off well before you plop it in the oil. I wouldn't bother injecting the marinade if I'd brined the bird.

  1. g) Can you roast a brined turkey in a Reynolds roasting bag?

???

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  1. a) How much brine do I need for just the turkey breasts?
KJ in la,
    You probably don't need to make quite as much brine as you would for a whole 
turkey... I guess I'd go by weight, if you're planning on doing 20 lbs of turkey breasts then I'd plan on enough brine for a 20 lb bird etc.
    My experience has been that the brine imparts a much more distinct flavor in the dark meat than the white so you may want to plan for a little extra brining time for all white meat. I did a 13 lb fresh-frozen (ie non moisture enhanced) turkey with an apple cider brine last year for Christmas and had it in to soak for 36 hours. The dark meat was wonderful, the white meat was very good but the flavor was almost hard to pick out.. may have been because the dark meat was so rich.
  1. b) I want to cook multiple turkey breasts? Do you have any suggestions?
Al,
    First: Make sure they are all close to the same size. Small variations in size may (MAY!) make large differences in brine-time.
    Second: Brine lightly. A plain ol' turkey breast is tasty. Only cattle like salt-licks for Thanksgiving. :-) Also: lots of little breasts have lots Lots LOTS more surface area through which to get osmotic than one big one. Go to the shortest time. Maybe shorter.
    Third: EVERY breast gets a thermometer!! No, not the good Polder Electronic, just one of the $1.50 EZ-Read spike thermometers frm your local Grab-and-Bag. The breast comes out when IT'S done, not when they're ALL done.
    That's the best I can do for you without lots more thought. :-) Good luck with it.
    Oh: And, since you don't have any dark meat, you won't need the tent. (Just being thorough...)
  1. c) Do you have any other advice on the whole "breast brining process"?
Nidia,
    I've brined several turkey breasts - no one in my family likes dark poultry meat, either. I've adjusted the brine both less salty and more salty, by keeping all the seasonings the same, but adding less or more stock. I would recommend just a little less stock (as little as a cup or so less) to bring out the flavors of the white meat. Too much salt, and it's a salt lick - yuck! If you can experiment, find the amount of saltiness that you like. If you don't have time, I'd stick with the recipe - it has met with general approval in my experience.
    I have made double batches of brine for multiple turkeys just fine, but have cooked them separately, so I can't tell you how it affects the cooking time.
    I cook it the same as AB's directions - 500F for a half hour, cover, stick in the probe set for 161F. If I remember correctly, it only takes about another 45 mins for an average 10 lb turkey breast. Rebecca,
    Well here's my .02 worth. I brined a breast last Friday ... and I really must say, I winged it :) I could never find any info on how much brine, so I cut AB's whole turkey brine into less than half. I didn't have a plastic bag big enough to fit the breast and brine in so I stuck it all in my big roasting pan. I also added some apple juice to the mix, cause once the brine was in the pan it didn't come up far enough on the breast. Still, I turned the breast over several times.
    I started the soaking process at 9:30 AM and put the breast in the oven at 3:00 PM. I started it in a 500 degree oven and turned the pan around half way through the 30 minute "toasting", but the skin was still only half brown.
    I DID tent with foil, but wish I hadn't. The skin never got crispy. So, when I pulled it out when my Polder Probe reached 161, I stuffed it back in under the broiler. The temp. climbed to 170 before I pulled it out brown.
    All in all, the breast was okay. It wasn't dry, but it wasn't dripping with juice either. It was not salty, in fact, there wasn't much additional flavor at all. I did put apple, onion, fresh sage and rosemary (from my garden) in the "cavity". I didn't have a cinnamon stick.
    I wish I had NOT put the "foil-tent" on it. Next time, I think I'll come up with my own brine solution - something that adds more flavor.

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Last Edited on 08/27/2010