Your turkey is in the oven. You don’t want to overcook it and the breast to come out dry. But at the same time, you want to keep the skin lovely and crispy.
What can you do?
You don’t need to compromise. You can have both. Plus well-seasoned meat throughout.
Brining locks in meat juice and makes meat seasoned throughout
Brining is simple – submerge a piece of meat in salty water and that’s it. You leave it for a few hours, overnight or even for a whole day in the brine in the fridge.
The salt migrates into the meat. This has 4 benefits:
- It locks in juices of the meat when it’s roasting which keeps the meat moist.
- Some water is absorbed from the brine in the meat, bringing more juiciness into the meat (and flavour of the brine).
- Salt starts to break protein apart within the meat, making it tender.
- The seasoning is even throughout the meat, making it a much more appetizing experience than a joint salted just on the surface.
Since water penetrates the meat during brining, it makes sense to flavour it with spices and herbs so that a subtle flavouring also gets into the meat.
Step 1 – Decide on your brine
- This is in essence very simple. Just water and salt and your meat will transform to juicy joint unlike any other you’ve cooked before. Usually 5-10% salt brine is enough. What it means is that for every litre of water, you add 100 g of salt for 10% brine or 50 g of salt for 5% brine.
- I suggest you start with a lower percentage of salt brine, 5-7% of brine for smaller joints (beef and pork). This means for 1 litre of water add 50-70 g of salt. Use 7-10% brine for turkey – that is 1 litre of water and 70-100 g of salt.
- Each salt is different, best to avoid table salt, since it can impart chemical-like flavour to the meat due to iodine content. Use sea salt instead.
- You can dissolve some sugar and infuse spices in boiled brine to give it a subtle flavour. Sugar will help to caramelize the surface of the meat for a crispy brown skin.
- Choose a recipe, such as for brined turkey here.
Step 2 – Make brine and submerge the joint
- Get a container that will allow the whole joint to be submerged in water – a big pot or bowl works well.
- Place the joint or bird in the container. With a measuring container, measure and pour plain water over the meat to find out how much you’ll need to completely submerge the meat. Let’s say its 2 litres.
- Pour this water out.
- Make your brine. If you’re using only salt, dissolve it in cold water. For 2 litres you’ll need 140 g of salt for turkey and 100-140 g for beef or pork joint. If you are making infused brine with spices and sugar, boil them over in a smaller volume, then cool. Add water to make up the right volume of brine you need (you can also add some ice to it to cool it quickly and to get to the right volume of brine).
- Pour the brine over the joint. Place in the fridge, or keep cool with ice if you’re restricted on fridge space (overnight at least, 12 -24 hrs for beef and pork joints, 24 hrs for turkey). If you’re brining “last minute”, brine at room temperature for a few hours before cooking (4-6 hrs).
Step 3 – Roast and enjoy
- Give the meat a quick rinse, pat dry.
- If it is a bird, like a turkey or chicken, you can return it in the fridge to dry the surface of the meat. This will ensure you’ll get a perfectly crisp skin.
- Place in the oven and roast.
Using all that salt in brine can look intimidating. I know – you don’t want to over-salt your meat.
If you are unsure, go for 5% brine or brine for less time. When the joint is cooked and you’re carving the meat (or when it’s still cooking), taste it and judge its saltiness. You can always sprinkle more salt onto the meat or make your gravy a bit saltier.
Brining makes turkey breast juicy – even if it’s overcooked. Give it a try – it will transform your cooking. The more you use brining, the more confident you’ll get.
And your turkey and other joints will taste amazing – guaranteed.