Turkey meat is very lean so may need some assistance to stay moist during the cooking process. Many cooks swear by brining as a way of ensuring that their gorgeous turkey will remain tender and succulent during roasting. ‘Brining’ the turkey simply means that it is soaked in a salty (brine) solution with added flavourings and seasonings prior to cooking. This is usually done overnight but we’d say for at least a minimum six hours. We often hear at Christmas you have far too many treats in your fridge, and that it can be hard to find room to brine a whole bird amongst the hams and the salads and the beers! Dive into your garage and haul out your chilly bin – it’s a safe and handy alternative to using the fridge!
To prep your brining solution:
4 litres water
1 cup plain salt
1 Tbsp black peppercorns
½ Tbsp whole allspice
2 onions, peeled and quartered
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
a further 4 litres of iced water
Pour the 4 litres of water into a very large pot.
Add salt, sugar, peppercorns, allspice, onions, cinnamon and bay leaf and heat to boiling point, stirring until salt has dissolved.
Remove from the heat, allow to cool down, then refrigerate until completely cold
When the turkey is ready to be brined, mix the chilled liquid with the iced water
Refrigerate the prepared brine solution until thoroughly chilled – pop it in the freezer to get it as cold as you can, provided you have space in the freezer!
Sterilise your plastic chilly bin by rinsing with boiling water and wiping dry with paper towels. Allow it to cool down. You want to use a chilly bin that the turkey fits comfortably in – you want the brine to come about half way up the sides of the bird – if your bin is the size of an Olympic swimming pool you might consider making a second batch of brining liquid.
Pour the chilled brine into the bin, and using clean hands, place the thawed turkey breast-side down into the brine.
Fill two or three sealable plastic bags (big ziplock ones work well) with crushed or cubed ice and pack these around the turkey (as many as you can fit). Don’t use loose ice cubes as these will dilute the strength and flavour of the brine.
Put on the lid and place the cooler bin in a cool place, away from direct sunlight.
Halfway through the brining, turn the turkey over and check the ice, replenishing if necessary.
After removing the turkey from the brine, rinse it inside and out with cold water, drain and pat dry with paper towels before continuing with cooking preparations.
Discard the brine and sterilise the chilly bin by giving it a good wash with hot soapy water and then wiping with a little bleach on a paper towel before using again.