#12TastesofChristmas – Dry-Brined Turkey

On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me…three French hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.Roasted turkey

Abandon hope, all ye vegetarians who enter here. This one is about meat and there’s no escape.
My boyfriend loves turkey, but the problem with turkey and chicken is just how dry it gets. Brining involves soaking the meat in salty water before cooking and this does increase the moisture content, but there’s a problem with this method. No matter what you put in your brine–broth, herbs, etc–what’s going to actually be absorbed into the meat is almost exclusively salt and water. So you’ll get a moist bird with the wrong flavor and texture. Ew.
The trick, then, is to do a dry brine. Salt without any added water will be absorbed into the meat and prevent it from losing most of its existing moisture. Look, science-y looking graphs! Dry brined meat will retain nearly 90% of its original moisture. A traditional brine will retain ever so slightly more moisture, but much of it is added water rather than anything that tastes like meat. The dilution of the natural fats and proteins already in the meat leads to a squishier, blander meal. The choice is clear, at least for me.
To dry brine your bird, start the day before you’re going to cook it. Use coarse sea salt or kosher salt (never fine grained salt! you want big flakes!) to sprinkle onto the meat until it looks like a light snowfall. Mix in some poultry friendly savories with your salt for added flavor, like sage, rosemary and thyme and let it stay like this in the fridge overnight. Roast like you normally would, but don’t baste and don’t stuff. On this, Saint Alton Brown and I are entirely in agreement.
For the most moisture and flavor, put your salt and herb mixture between the skin and the meat. I haven’t done it this way, preferring the lazy method of just putting it on the outside of the skin. Even with the minimal amount of effort, I ended up with a turkey that was–sans any hyperbole at all–the best turkey I’d ever eaten.
I know things like Christmas goose and ham are more traditional, but if you’ve got a turkey lover you want to keep enthralled forever like I do, consider a dry-brined Christmas turkey. Your mouth will thank you.

4 thoughts on “#12TastesofChristmas – Dry-Brined Turkey

  1. Pingback: #12TastesofChristmas – Gingerbread Latte | C.M. Stone

  2. Pingback: #12TastesofChristmas – Pineapple Upside Down Cake | C.M. Stone

  3. Pingback: #12TastesofChristmas – Eggless Eggnog | C.M. Stone

  4. Pingback: #12TastesofChristmas – Swimming Swan Sandwiches | C.M. Stone

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