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with Chef Domenica Catelli

Domenica Catelli's blog has now been retired. We appreciate all the wisdom and support she has brought to the WebMD community throughout the years. For more information on nutrition and eating well, visit our Real Life Nutrition blog.

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Monday, November 15, 2010

Brined Turkey 101

It’s that time of year again. I can’t believe Thanksgiving is around the corner! I have to confess I had never been much of a turkey fan. Both the dried-out bird and the tryptophan coma that inevitably ensues after the meal usually leave me craving sushi.

roast turkey

Creatas Images

However, when I discovered the brining method for turkey about seven years ago, my opinion changed. (Although I do still need a nap right after too much of this holiday bird). If you have never brined your turkey before, I encourage you to give it a try this year. You will not believe the difference in flavor AND it cuts down cooking time! The traditional brine is water, salt and sugar. However, this is where you can get creative. You can add spices and juices and other fun and creative combinations of flavors.

If you live in any part of the country where the temperature outside is colder or as cold as your refrigerator you can save yourself the hassle of moving everything out of the refrigerator to store the bird. If you are in warmer weather I suggest using a large ice chest to brine your turkey overnight.

For the brine, you will need to dissolve your kosher salt and sugar in hot water (if you are adding dry spices — bay leaf, star anise, peppercorns, etc. — you can add them at this point. Remove the mix and add ice and more water to cool. You will need enough liquid to cover the turkey by 4-6 inches. I like to add a few oranges and lemons juiced and also one cut into rounds to marinate with. I also add fresh rosemary and thyme to my brine.

Remove all the innards of the turkey (and keep and refrigerate for stuffing or gravy). Immerse your bird in the cooler — you may need to place a plate or something heavy on top of it to keep it from floating. Brine for up to 24 hours.

On the day you are cooking, remove turkey about two hours before cooking, pat dry and rub down with extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt, cracked pepper and whatever herb or rub mix you prefer.

The next trick to a fantastic turkey is cooking 2/3 of the time with the breast side down. This keeps the breast from drying out by all the juices running down towards the breast and working as its own natural baste. You will need to get some help in very carefully removing the turkey and flipping right side up to finish and brown. You can turn your oven on to broil for the last 10 minutes if you need to get a more golden color.

More Thanksgiving tips coming your way! Until next time, stay fresh and delicious!

~ Chef Domenica

Posted by: Chef Domenica Catelli at 8:33 am

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