There’s a joke that Cook’s Illustrated should actually be called “Brining Illustrated” because they are such evangelists of this technique for preparing poultry. I am an apostle myself. Here is my brining recipe, adapted from their original. But, first, a few other thoughts on brining.
I was shocked (SHOCKED!) to find brining bags at our local market for $8 each. Eight bucks! You are JOKING?! Williams-Sonoma has brining bags ($16 for four), which seemed a bit more reasonable. Bed, Bath and Beyond has one for $5. But, again, Cook’s Illustrated has an even better idea: Zip Lock’s “Big Bags.”
Although designed for storing sweaters and pillows, Ziploc Big Bags XL ($5.79 for four) are foodsafe and, at 2 feet by 1.7 feet, they’re the perfect size for turkey brining. In addition, the flat bottom keeps the bag steady during filling, and a handle provides a tighter grip on the slippery plastic.
NOTE: DO NOT BRINE YOUR TURKEY IN A GARBAGE BAG. It’s not food safe.
I suppose if you’re totally uncoordinated you can buy a pre-packaged brining kit for $10 at Amazon. Or for $13 at Bed, Bath and Beyond. Or for $18 at Williams-Sonoma. Or you can make it at home for a few cents. Whatever. By the way, the Williams-Sonoma one has some interesting ingredients: coarse dried apples, juniper berries, lemon peel, Spanish rosemary and other herbs, plus large black tellicherry, sweet Indian green and Madagascar pink peppercorns. I may consider adding some of these to my homemade brine.
You can brine up to 24 hours. After that the meat gets mealy. If you’re roasting a kosher or self-basting turkey, do not brine it; it already contains sodium.This is for a 12-hour brine.
1/2 cup of salt per gallon of cold water (two gallons of water is usually enough)
4-6 whole allspice, smashed
3-4 large garlic cloves, smashed with the skins still on
3-4 whole cloves
1-2 tablespoons brown sugar
10 whole peppercorns, smashed