In my family, being the Thanksgiving Master is the highest honor you can receive. It means that you are the mother hen (or father rooster?), and this honor is passed on only once per generation. When I was too young to know of this great honor, my Grandma was the Thanksgiving Master, and then she passed it onto my mom who currently still holds the torch, hopefully for at least another decade.
In our family, the Thanksgiving Master’s responsibilities include: meal planning, grocery shopping, hosting, and cooking most of the mains including the pièce de résistance—the turkey. This is a lot of responsibility to take on, and is not for the weak of heart. You may have recently found out that the Thanksgiving torch has been passed to you this year, and you’re scrambling for all the tips you can get. The biggest, most important tip I have for you is to:
Brine your bird.
While I likely won’t be the Thanksgiving Master for another decade, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be training. Thanksgiving is basically like The Olympics—you train your whole life for that one moment. And in my training, I’ve discovered that brining your Thanksgiving bird makes all the difference.
Why should I brine my turkey?
Brining your turkey means soaking it in heavily salted water, usually over night. This allows your turkey to absorb extra moisture, which will help it stay extra moist and juicy while you’re cooking it. And since the water is salted, it will also help nicely season your turkey from the inside out. If you’ve got time, why not?!
So to test this theory (and to help me train for Thanksgiving Master), we cooked a fresh chicken in our test kitchen. We really tried to get a turkey, but it ended up being too early in the season to find fresh turkey.
After brining, the chicken turned out wonderfully juicy AND still crispy on the outside.
Tips for brining a turkey just right:
- When brining your turkey, use a non-reactive container such as a brining bag, stainless steel, or glass.
- Use either kosher salt or table salt when brining. When using kosher salt, add ¼ cup per quart of water. If using table salt, add 2 tablespoons per quart. There’s such a big variance in how much salt to use because table salt is so much finer than coarse kosher salt, so you need less of it.
- Experiment with flavouring your brine with more than just salt. In our brine, we added some peppercorn and a bay leaf for some extra flavour.
- Store your brine in the fridge, as the brine must be kept cold for the entire process.
- Thoroughly rinse and pat your turkey dry when you are done brining so that the skin doesn’t turn soggy.
Cook Culture’s Chicken and Turkey Brining Recipe
Make the brine
- Using kosher salt, combine 1/4 cup of salt per quart of water. Make as much brine as you will need to cover the entire chicken or turkey. (we put the brine in a brining bag)
- Stir to dissolve salt
- Add in a few peppercorns and a bay leaf
- Add your chicken or turkey into the brine
- Let soak for at least 6 hours, or overnight in the fridge
- When ready to cook, remove your chicken or turkey and pat dry with paper towel
Roast your chicken or turkey
- Gently loosen the skin on the breasts of your bird so that you can butter and season it under the skin
- Mix together some butter with fresh rosemary and sage and rub under the skin
- Stuff some garlic and the remainder of your herbs in the cavity of your bird, along with a lemon if you’ve got one
- Truss your chicken so that it cooks evenly. You won’t have to worry about dry white meat and undercooked dark meat.
- Since we were roasting a chicken, we decided to use this Staub pan which fits a chicken ever so nicely.
- Add some roughly chopped onions to the base of your pan, and place your bird on top.
- Cook for about an hour and a half for chicken (or 30 minutes per pound), or until your thermometer reads at least 165. We used a Thermapen (only available in store) to get an instant read on the bird’s temperature.
- About every 30 minutes or so you should be checking on your bird, and baste it with the juices in the pan and some melted butter.
- Once you chicken or turkey is ready, remove from the pan and let it rest for 15 minutes before you carve into it (with a sharp, thin knife). This will allow the juices to settle and give you a super moist bird!
Once you master brining a Turkey, you’ll be one step close to becoming The Thanksgiving Master!
What are your big turkey roasting tips? Let us know on our Facebook page!