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Tuesday, November 26, 2019

To Brine your turkey or not to brine, that is the question?

Being brainy in the kitchen is not just knowing 'things', its also about learning 'things'. This year, more than in the past, the thing seems to be a question ~ to brine your turkey or not.

What does it mean to brine a turkey or a large piece of meat? The basic process involves soaking meat (usually lean meats, like turkey, chicken, or pork chops) in a tub full of heavily salted water overnight. Most brines are in the range of 5 to 8% salt to water by weight. Over the course of the night, the meat absorbs some of that water. More importantly, that water stays put even after the meat is cooked. By brining meat, supposedly you can decrease the amount of total moisture loss by 30 to 40%.

That means, you should in theory, have a juicier turkey, right? To understand what's really happening, you have to look at the structure of turkey muscles. Muscles are made up of long, bundled fibers, each one housed in a tough protein sheath. As the turkey heats, the proteins that make up this sheath will contract. Just like when you squeeze a tube of toothpaste, this causes juices to be forced out of the bird. Heat them to much above 150°F (66°C) or so, and you end up with dry, stringy meat.

Salt helps mitigate this shrinkage by dissolving some of the muscle proteins (mainly myosin). The muscle fibers loosen up, allowing them to absorb more moisture, and, more importantly, they don't contract as much when they cook, ensuring that more of that moisture stays in place as the turkey cooks.
However, brining robs your bird of flavor. Think about it: Your turkey is absorbing water, and holding on to it. That means that that extra 30 to 40% savings in moisture loss doesn't really come in the form of turkey juices—it's plain old tap water. Many folks who eat brined birds have that very complaint: It's juicy, but the juice is watery.

If I have learned a thing or two it is that some brine and some don't. If you have had success brining your turkey, then don't bother with this shared information. But, if you have been disappointed with brining and exhausted by the time and effort involved doing it, then simply cook your turkey without brining and give thanks!

*Source ~

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