Later today I hope to pick up a couple of the 40¢ per pound turkeys at Walmart. I like to get nice big ones, because I’m planning for leftovers. (I buy 2, freeze the second one, and we enjoy another nice turkey dinner in early spring.)
One of the things I’ve learned about cooking a fabulous turkey, one that is NEVER dry, is to brine them.
Since they’re sold frozen and take forever to defrost (or so it seems!) I brine them while they’re defrosting. Usually in an ice chest or a 5-gallon food-grade buckets as well. Think safety here! You need to make sure that turkey stays cold! (safety zone: under 40°, see USDA), so plan on brining it in icy water, in the refrigerator if possible.
While you can get packaged brine mixes at the store, I personally don’t. I can just can’t get myself to pay $5-$9 for what is mostly salt!
Recipes for brines abound right now, check your newspaper (The Virginian-Pilot had a brine recipe on Sunday).
Here’s my turkey brine recipe:
7 quarts (28 cups) ice & water
1 1/2 cups salt
3 bay leaves
1 tbs. ground or rubbed sage
1 tbs. dried thyme
1 tbs. black peppercorns
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves, crushed (you don’t even have to peel them, just mash ’em)
1/2 cup sugar (optional)
1 fresh whole turkey (18 to 20 pounds) — remove the giblets and rinse
Boil 1 quart of the water, the salt, bay leaves, and spices to a simmer, stirring until salt has dissolved. (the simmering really gets the flavor out of the the spices. Let cool for 10 minutes. Add the garlic and onions to the cooked, cooled brine.
Place turkey into your brining container. Add the garlic and onions. Add salt mixture, remaining 6 quarts of ice and water. If turkey is not submerged, weight it with a plate. Brine for 24 hours, flipping turkey once.
Take out of the brine just before cooking and rinse.
Again, please see the safe turkey handling instructions at the USDA link above.
Related post: How much meat does a turkey yield?