To Brine or Not To Brine…Here Is The Answer!

turkey-brineIt has become the norm for folks to brine their turkey every year. In fact, I even get asked by new customers if they should brine our Vic Farms chickens (you shouldn’t). There are always exceptions, but here is my basic philosophy on brining anything: Brines have become popular over the years due to the lack of quality meat available to the general public. You see, by brining something you are soaking it in a salt bath, basically making the meat hold more water. This makes the meat artificially juicier. You can also use a brine to impart more and/or different flavors to your meat. So yes, if you just bought a turkey that cost less than $4/lb, you should probably brine it. Anything under that price has probably been frozen at least once, and even fresh has a severe lack of flavor. Modern commodity meat is manufactured specifically to be cheap and have an extended shelf life. The by-product of this is bland meat that gets dry and tough when cooked, even if you are talented chef. I can prove this point rather easily. Think about the last time you went to a white tablecloth restaurant. Let’s assume that the farm the protein came from was NOT listed in the menu. I bet the entree had a really great sauce on it, didn’t it? That is because the commodity meat that even the best restaurants use has very little flavor.

Now ask yourself the question at topic again: Should I brine my turkey this year? You just spent $7.75 or $9.75 a pound on some of the finest turkeys in the world raised on the finest pasture right here in Northern California. It better taste spectacular with salt and pepper and maybe a little butter under the skin. Properly cooked, I am confident the only way you have had a turkey with as much natural flavor as this one is if you bought one from us last year.

For Every Rule There Is An Exception

dry-brined-turkeyI do like to “dry brine” my turkey. All you’re going to do is salt the outside (skin) of the bird and drape it with a light kitchen towel. Be very liberal with the salt, especially over the breast as it is the thickest part, as you will rinse off the excess later. Let it sit in the fridge naked except for the towel for a couple of days before cooking. If you are short on time you can separate the skin from the meat and rub the salt directly on the meat, but I prefer to let it happen over a few days. The morning of the big day, rinse the bird with cold water inside and out, pat dry, and let sit on the counter for a good hour or so so it comes to room temperature.

Here’s why this is awesome! First, the salt draws out the meat juices through osmosis. Next, the salt dissolves into the juices, essentially turning into a “natural” brine even though there isn’t any added liquid. And finally, this brine is reabsorbed into the meat and starts breaking down tough muscle proteins, resulting in juicy, tender, seasoned meat. This method was made popular by chef Judy Rodgers, who dry-brined her famous roast chicken at San Francisco’s Zuni Cafe.  This magical little trick makes for amazingly juicy meat and incredibly crispy skin, and we all know that’s the best part!