Two alternatives to brining a turkey – steaming or dry salting

Steamed turkey

Fifteen or so years ago, brining – soaking a turkey in a salty water solution for 24 hours – was introduced as the best way to insure a moist, flavorful turkey. But brining has now come under assault. It always was a problem in that it required a large container and refrigeration – difficult for anyone who didn’t have an extra refrigerator hanging around or a convenient back porch where the temperature never exceeded 40 degrees. Two articles this week have carried this assault even further.

At Serious Eat’s Food Lab, in The Truth About Brining Turkey, Kenji Alt confesses he never brines his turkey. In a moderately lengthy explanation of why (read here) he ultimately states, “Well let me end how I started:  I don’t brine my birds because I like my birds to taste like birds, not like watered-down birds. Salting your meat is nearly as effective at preventing moisture loss, and the flavor gains are noticeable. Want to know the truth? Even advanced salting is not a necessary first step. I see it more as a safeguard to overcooking. It provides a little buffer in case you accidentally let that bird sit in the oven an extra 15 minutes. As long as you are very careful about monitoring your bird, there’s no reason to brine  or salt it in advance.”

And over at The New York Times, they’ve resurrected a Jacques Pepin approach that he derived from Chinese cooking, described here in Jacques Pepin’s Steam-Powered Turkey (the actual recipe can be found here). The idea is to first steam and then roast the turkey. This approach also has the added benefit of shortening the cooking process – 3 hours and 15 minutes for a 16 – 18 pound turkey. And rather than use butter to help the turkey brown, he uses a simple glaze.

Of course, no matter what approach you use, if you buy a frozen turkey, make sure to give it ample time to thaw.




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