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Turkey brining -- second try

Sandra_'s picture

Someday I may get the hang of this new format, but I'm not holding my breath... The first time I posted this question, it somehow ended up in the "Comments" folder. I think. Either that, or the Fine Homebuilding Discussion Group. Anyway, here goes again...
'm going to brine the Christmas turkey in a bath of star anise, chinese 5 spice mix, and tarragon. Can
anybody suggest a really sumptuous stuffing to go with the beast? I'm thinking of a
spinach/apricot/prune/pine nut mix. Will the turkey be too salty to cook it stuffed? If so, I can cook the
stuffing separately (though I've never been able to see the point of that, personally.) And will the drippings
be too salty to yield a really nice gravy? I've done brined turkey before, and agree tht this is the absolute
best way, but I've only done it unstuffed, and without making the gravy.

Chiffonade_'s picture

(post #25920, reply #1 of 5)

The only time I ever brined a turkey was when I used to get them fresh killed in NY. The drippings were not too salty to use for gravy. TASTE TASTE TASTE and if you feel the drippings are salty, just don't salt your gravy end product. (By the way, you can't brine a stuffed turkey.)

Re: The stuffing, I used to be the "Norman Rockwell" stuff-the-turkey-before-cooking-it type but realized that there are some real benefits to NOT cooking the stuffing in the bird. For one thing, you must heat the stuffing to around 130 degrees for it to be considered safe and it very well may mean drying out the bird to get the stuffing hot enough. Second, the grease from the turkey gets in the stuffing when cooked in the bird (and you will get PULENTY of calories this time of year). One more thing, which is more mechanical, is that it takes additional time to roast the bird when it's stuffed. I am much more confident that the meat right around the bones is done when the bird is roasted unstuffed.

Here's another stuffing idea...

1 pkg Italian Sweet Sausage out of casing

1 lg. chopped onion

2 cloves chopped garlic

1 pkg frozen chopped spinach, thawed

2 cups cooked white rice

1/4 cup pignoli nuts toasted

Salt & Pepper to taste

Saute the sausage meat and set aside in large bowl. Keep 1 Tbsp. drippings from the sausage in the pan and saute the onion till translucent and the garlic till soft, put in bowl with sausage. Crumble the package of spinach over the mixture. Add the rice and toasted pignoli nuts to sausage mixture. Toss well to combine and taste for seasoning. Place in oven safe dish and cook @ 325 for 30 minutes.

Can be made one day in advance. If cold from fridge, allow to come to room temp before baking.

Larry_D.'s picture

(post #25920, reply #2 of 5)

I have brined every turkey since I read an article in Cooks Illustrated November, 1993 on this topic. I have modified the original description somewhat: I dissolve 3 pounds of salt in warm water and add this to a sufficient volume of water to cover the entire turkey. After covering the pot, I place the container in a cool place (usually the garage which is very cool at Thanksgiving or Christmas). I soak the turkey in this solution for 2 to 4 hours (original description of 4 to 6 hours). Remove turkey and very thoroughly rinse under running water.
At this point you can prepare any desired receipe-stuffed or not though Cooks Illustrated suggested the bird not be stuffed, cooked at 400 degrees and it is done in 1hr. 45min - 2hr. usually-the entire article should be found and read to be understood. The gravy does not taste salty and the breast is deliciously moist!

cany's picture

(post #25920, reply #3 of 5)

I'm interested in the science behind this. Wouldn't soaking in a brine draw out juices rather than keeping the meat moist?? TIA


Sandra_'s picture

(post #25920, reply #4 of 5)

Hi Cany:
the turkey absorbs the brining liquid as well as the suspended salts and seasonings, so stays beautifully moist while cooking. There's a well-detailed explanation of the science of brining at the Epicurious site ( done it two Christmases in a row, I am now a convert. this year I brined with star anise, fennel seeds, tarragon and Chinese 5-spice mix -- the result was easily the best turkey ever.

Good luck,

kai_'s picture

(post #25920, reply #5 of 5)

Oh my goodness! This is wonderful information! And I will probably spend hours perusing that site! I think I will try it with chicken, too. Thanks, Sandra :-} and Cany for the question.