Pantry Basics: Brined Turkey

Brined Turkey

Brined Turkey

My brined turkey recipe arrives too late for this year, I know. I’m just quickly filing it away here while the memory of how it was made is fresh in my mind because this recipe, a variation on my friend Sujata’s, is a keeper. Turkey has never been the highlight of Thanksgiving or Christmas feasting for me. It’s almost always dry and often under flavoured. But more than a decade ago, when I tasted our good friend Sujata’s brined turkey, I quickly realised that roast turkey doesn’t always have to be stringy and sorely lacking in taste. Sujata’s turkey was succulent and deliciously savoury. I was pleasantly surprised that I even enjoyed the white meat and didn’t feel the need to douse it with gravy or cranberry sauce. I’ve since tasted a fair number of brined turkeys, but must confess that Sujata’s remains the best.

Before she moved to Geneva some years ago, she gave me a copy of her recipe, which I carefully filed away. Along with it, I added a great 2-page brining primer I’d clipped from the November-December 2001 issue of Cook’s Illustrated. Over the years, I’ve recommended Sujata’s recipe to anyone I’ve met who has shown any interest in preparing a brined turkey. And every Thanksgiving and Christmas, I’d think about those three sheets of paper in my files. Yet, I’d never actually applied the information myself until this year. I guess I was a little afraid of missing the mark.

Brined Turkey

While brining takes time, in reality the magic happens with little effort on the cook’s part. I find it quite liberating, actually, because it gives you a greater margin for error when it comes down to cooking your hunk of meat. I must say that I was very happy with the dark meat on our Christmas turkey. It was perfectly tender and juicy. (And I was rather pleased that my brother-in-law polished off a whole drumstick.) The only thing I’d change in this recipe is possibly the oven temperature. While my guests felt the white meat was exceptionally tender for turkey, it didn’t match my memory of the splendidly moist white meat on Sujata’s turkey—which I must confess I sorely miss now that we don’t get to celebrate Thanksgiving together!

About Su-Lyn Tan

Su-Lyn is Aun's better half and for many years, the secret Editor behind this blog known to readers simply as S. Su-Lyn is an obsessive cook and critical eater whose two favourite pastimes are spending time with her three kids and spending time in the kitchen. She looks forward to combining the two in the years to come.