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Brining Your Turkey, Wild Game or Other Poultry

Becky Johnson brine marinade poultry tenderize turkey wild game

Thanksgiving is almost here in the U.S.  Millions of home cooks will be creating fabulous dinners. The star of the meal will likely be a plump bird with all the trimmings to complement it.

It can be a challenge to cook a tender bird.  Here's a technique that will help: brine. The best way to achieve a moist and tender bird hot out of the oven is to take some careful steps in preparation.  Any bird – turkey, pheasant, game hens, quail, grouse or chicken (to name a few) will benefit from this technique, no matter how it’s cooked.  You can brine poultry as a whole bird or in pieces.

Brining doesn’t have to happen only on special occasions.  While it’s best for the bird to soak overnight, you can brine for three or four hours.  Be sure to make room in your refrigerator ahead of time. If your refrigerator won't accommodate your bird, use a cooler with plenty of ice as the bird must be kept below 40° throughout the brining process.

Fill a stock pot full of water and brine spice mixture, stir well. If you don't have our brine spice mixture on hand, you can also use 1-2 cups kosher salt, water, and some miscellaneous spices such as peppercorns, orange peel, and garlic. I've even used apple cider and brown sugar in the mix, so feel free to be creative. A good ratio is 4 cups of water for every 4 teaspoons of spice -- be sure you prepare enough solution to completely submerge your bird.

Boil the brine solution for ten minutes and remove from heat.  Cool completely and chill until cold.  Pour chilled mixture into a sterile tub (with a lid) large enough to submerge your bird (or its parts). You can line the tub with a brining bag to avoid a mess and to ensure the bird does not float above the water line. Add thawed and cleaned bird, cover, and allow to brine overnight, or up to 24 hours.

You can also dry brine poultry by using just about any spice mixture as a rub, and then leave it to marinade in your refrigerator for 3-4 hours.  Use reserved dry mix to rub onto and under skin of the bird just before cooking.

We wish you the very best on your feast and hope that you have a wonderful holiday. Be sure to remember your local food pantry this year!


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