Our Forefathers Brined Their Turkey
People first began to brine meat to preserve it when refrigeration was not available. Over time, they started to add their own combination of spices and herbs to the salt and water to make some truly unique flavor combinations.
Why Brine Turkey Breast?
Brining any lean meat is an excellent way to add moisture and flavor. This is especially true with turkey. If you’ve ever eaten dry turkey, you know exactly how unappetizing it can be. A good brine can infuse moisture along with unique flavors that everyone can enjoy. Though brining takes anywhere from a few hours to an entire day, a basic infusion of salt and water can add a tremendous amount of delicious juiciness and flavor. You are in a sense, seasoning the turkey meat both inside and out.
How Brining Works
- The added salt breaks down proteins in the meat, making it softer and more tender.
- The salt also helps the meat cells absorb moisture from the water bath and hold onto it while cooking.
5 steps on How to Brine a Turkey Breast
- The two staple ingredients in brining a turkey breast are salt and water. Know the correct salt to water ratio for of the piece of meat you’re brining. A good ratio is 4 tablespoons of salt to every 1 quart of water. You should have enough brine to submerge your piece of turkey. While brining particularly large pieces of turkey, you may need to add weight to the top of the turkey to keep it submerged in the brine.
- Choose additional ingredients. There is an endless supply of ingredients to choose from when creating a brine. Brown sugar and maple syrup tend to popular ingredients. Their sweet flavors pair well with turkey. Here are some favorites which will bring subtle flavors to your resulting meat:
- Coffee – Coffee brings a bright, slightly acidic taste to turkey meat. It can also bring a muted chocolate flavor, depending on which type of coffee you use.
- Chicken Broth – Chicken Broth can add additional flavor but also added salt to the mixture so be careful.
- Rosemary – Rosemary is a very aromatic herb, and healthy too! It’s a great source of vitamins A, C, and B6, along with iron. It adds a peppery, flowery taste to poultry products. Be careful though because too much can be overpowering for some taste buds.
- Sage – Sage brings a slight woody and bitter taste. Brine recipes typically call for it in small amounts.
- Thyme – Thyme adds a gentle, bitter flavor to turkey meat. It also brings to the meat an earthy flavor, with a hint of citrus and mint.
- Create a brine. In order for the salt and other ingredients to dissolve, you need to bring the mixture to a boil after adding them. This creates a more homogeneous mixture, allowing more flavors to soak into the turkey breast during the time it sits.
- Time. Keep an eye on the time the breast spends in your brining solution. An overly brined piece of turkey can lead to a very salty taste – along with a mushy mouthful of meat. For smaller cuts of meat, recipes call for them to be submerged anywhere from a few hours to up to 12 hours in the brine. It’s not a good idea to brine your turkey breast for more than 24 hours. The outcome will be disappointing, and most likely unpalatable. While brining, place the meat in a cold, preferably refrigerated, location.
- All done! Remove the turkey breast from the solution and place it on a platter or in an oven pan. Discard the brine. Next gently pat it dry with paper towels. If you’re planning to cook the breast within the hour, you can leave the breast out and uncovered on the counter. If you will be cooking it later than that, place it back into the refrigerator.
Many people do not like turkey because of the dryness that can occur when cooking. This will not be the case when you take the time to brine it in advance. Salt helps to denature the proteins, and denatured proteins taste tender and succulent. When a piece of turkey is soaked in brine, the meat slowly absorbs the moisture, (and flavors) reducing the amount of moisture lost during cooking. Two great reasons for anyone to try their hand at brining a turkey breast.