Monday, December 14, 2009

To Brine or not to Brine! The near Perfect Roast Turkey.

To Brine or not to Brine! The near Perfect Roast Turkey.

Perfection is a slippery word. We often say things like "this is perfect" or "that is perfect" … in the course of our lives, but in truth nothing is really absolutely perfect.

You can however get close to perfection on many things. Roasting a Turkey is one of them.

For years I cooked turkey the old fashioned way, like many households currently do that learned from Betty Crocker's Cook books or "The Joy of Cooking". Sometimes the Turkey could turn out to be a little dry and there was endless basting. But in the end they were tasty and we loved to eat them. There's absolutely nothing wrong with the methods in these books.

But, as I wanted to improve my skill as a cook, I decided to scour the internet and other cookbooks for other people's processes when cooking Turkey.

The genre, what I am after, is oven roasted Turkey. I also love Deep Fried Turkeys and Smoked Turkeys; those are different disciplines and you can achieve near perfection with those methods also. I am getting ready to build a smoke house.

Several years ago I came across a method described here.

If you follow this you will have a fabulous Turkey every time. The Turkey will be moister than the traditional method.

Being an engineer and musician I can't help myself to play around and tweak things.

I start the oven at 500 degrees for 30 minutes and I adjusted times and ending temperature down to 200 degrees and the result is (after a slightly longer process) I have a slightly crispier skin. Pundits will argue that 200 degrees is too low and will result in unsafe handling because bacteria could possibly be a factor I would agree in part.

Some slow cooking methods call for very long roasting times starting and ending with 200 degrees. Potentially you could have problems with these methods. Starting with an oven preheated to 500 degrees and cooking at that temperature for 30 minutes pretty much assures any surface bacteria in the cavities and outside skin will be obliterated.

Recently, I was researching brining. I've done a little of it with Brisket but not with Turkey.

Get a 5 gallon paint can, double lined with 13 gal trash bags; add some water and salt and you're in business.

I compared about 10 brining recipes for ingredients and quantities and times. What I did was dissolved 1.5 C Kosher salt, 3/4 C of Brown sugar in two quarts of water. I caramelized 2 chopped onions, celery a few other spices and added that to the salt/sugar mixture.

I added that to about 2 gal of ice cold water that I poured on top of a thawed turkey and put it in to the refrigerator for 12 hours.

This was my first time at this so I made a few false assumptions. If you are going to brine for a very long time you need to back off the salt a little. If you are only keeping the meat in the brine for a few hours then you will be ok.

The next time I do it I will only use salt and sugar to see how a minimalist version does. I can do some aromatics when I roast.

I rubbed butter under the skin and put it into the oven.

I was astonished!

With the non-traditional cooking method and the brine the Turkey was so moist and tender that I was concerned that it was not cooked properly. I had to assure myself twice. I checked with TWO different thermometers and the internal temperature was correct.

Is brining for every one? Perhaps not, it is time consuming and I had to remove a shelf in the refrigerator to make room. Fore me, this is not a problem. Those of you with a second refrigerator can do this with little inconvenience.

Brining brought a new level of quality to this process.

For me the answer is YES, whenever it is feasible … by all means BRINE!

Have a great day.

No comments:

Post a Comment