Updated: Nov 30, 2018
I was making a turkey breast, in my opinion, the driest part of the bird. And I was nervous as hell. What if I messed up! What if, like in National Lampoon I cut into this thing and it puffs open to reveal a dry husk!?
I needed to take all the precautions I could. The first is brining the meat, leave it in a salt bath overnight to lock the juices in. I never did this before, and an extra step seemed like the end of the world. Have you ever been in one of those moods? You are sick of putting in so much effort that you don’t want to try, or you want to skip steps and the outcome be damned? I was flirting with that line really hard.
While I was on the phone with my brother in the store, and I settled on a turkey breast I almost gave up and went with individual chicken thighs when those words came through the phone. “You know what you are going to have to do now Kate? You’re going to have to brine it” NOOOOO! I didn’t want to. That meant extra steps and extra purchases. But he was right. If I didn’t I was running a huge risk. It would be an unenjoyable waste if I didn’t take the time to prep my meat.
“Do you have a brining bucket?” WHAT?! Is that a thing people just have? “I do,” My brother told me with that distinct voice that I knew came with a shit-eater grin. Oddly enough, I remember when he got the bucket. He actually called me two years ago to tell me so.
But no, I don’t have a bucket sitting in my Chicago studio apartment that’s only purpose is to brine astronomical portions of meat.
I took my turkey breast home and began doing research and taking inventory of what I had, I refused to make more purchases to make this work. This led me to a piecemeal of a brine that worked perfectly for me! I had all of these things in my home already so if you are looking for a brine that is scraping by, here is one for you. Followed by a method to roast the bird that left me with the moistest white meat I have ever had. Good Luck!
7Lb Turkey Breast
9 C Water
8 Ice Cubes
1 C Salt
½ C Sugar
2 Tbsp Chopped Garlic
1 Tsp Ground Ginger
1 Tsp Ground Cloves
1 Tsp Red Pepper Flakes
1 Tsp Whole Black Pepper Corns
In a large stock pot bring 4C of water to a boil with salt, sugar, garlic, and spices. Stir to make sure salt and sugar don’t burn to the bottom of the pot and continue to cook until dissolved. Once finished, about 15 minutes, add ice cubes and remove from heat. We want the water to come back down to room temperature, we don’t want to add hot water to our turkey and cook the outside.
Next, have your brining vessel handy. This can be a bucket (like my brother has), a plastic container, a plastic bag (not a trash bag, those are treated and are not safe for food), or stainless steel. I did a lot of research as to what I could use. I knew that certain materials react with this high a concentration of salt and that could affect the taste of the meat. I also didn’t want to purchase anything new so I was hoping I would find something already in my kitchen. Do not use aluminum or cast iron, these metals react to salt and you will not be happy with the result.
Stainless Steel it is! It is not a reactor metal and is safe to use (I turned to numerous sources because I didn’t want to be wrong).
Place your meat breast side down in your chosen container, add the other 5C water, and brine mixture. Make sure the entire bird is submerged, cover and place in the fridge for at least 12 hours but no more than 24.
Actually Not Dry Turkey Breast
7Lb Pre-Brined Turkey Breast
10 Tbsp Butter
¼ C White Wine
16 Inches of Cheese Cloth
2 Packs Poultry Fresh Herb Blend
Salt and Pepper
Remove turkey from refrigerator, remove from brine and pat dry.
In a food processor add one pack of fresh poultry herbs and blend, add 4 Tbsp of room temperature butter and smoosh together with a fork. We are creating an herb butter to rub under the skin of the bird so as it cooks the butter will melt into the meat and hopefully prevent it from drying out in the oven.
Roughly chop one onion and scatter along the bottom of your roasting pan. I went with a disposable pan, I rarely cook such a large portion of meat and don’t own a metal roasting pan. I also was not looking forward to cleaning one and this way when it is all over all I need to do is empty and throw it out.
On top of the onion spread out sprigs of fresh herbs from your second container of Poultry Blend. Place dry turkey on top, skin side up.
This is where it may get gross depending on how you feel about working with raw meat. Luckily for me, I think my early exposure allows me to move through things like this easily but I definitely have friends that would refuse to extensively touch raw meat.
You are going to need to separate the skin from the meat by sticking your fingers between the two at the cavity. Work your fingers to gently pull the skin away without tearing. After the skin is loose rub herb butter into the meat under the skin. I am not going to lie, it looks a bit like a horror movie watching your hand move under something’s skin. But, worth it!
The butter may clump so push against the top of the skin to spread out the globs of butter and push them around. Cover as much of the meat as you can. Crack fresh salt and pepper over the skin.
In a small saucepan melt butter with wine and soak cheesecloth until completely saturated. Lay cloth over the top of your turkey making sure to cover the entire bird. This little trick I came across at Betty Crocker and it was genius! As the turkey cooks the wine and butter will continuously seep through the meat, it has the same effect as basting.
Place in a 325℉ oven for 1.5 hours. After one hour I poured the remainder of the butter and wine mixture over the cheesecloth. Once your alarm goes off remove cheesecloth, onions, herbs, and any drippings (I didn’t get any dripping just the extra butter and wine). Turn turkey skin side down and return to the oven for 30 to 60 minutes until a thermometer reads 165℉. I ended up melting an extra 3 Tbsp of butter with some wine and poured it into the cavity of the turkey, with the intent that the liquid would seep into the meat from the other direction. Pierce turkey with the thermometer in the thickest part and don’t go all the way to the bone. I took my turkey out of the oven at 163℉ because I knew that it would continue to cook as it rested and I was more worried about overdoing it.
Allow to rest for 10 minutes then carve, plate, and enjoy! I can honestly say it was not as scary to cook turkey as I thought it was, maybe next year I will attempt a whole bird. Happy Turkey Day!