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Turkey submerged in saltwater cooks up moist
Top chefs know the secret but it's hard to do at home
by WKSU's VIVIAN GOODMAN
This story is part of a special series.


Reporter
Vivian Goodman
 
Courtesy of Zachary Duvall
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In The Region:

Whether your turkey arrives fresh from the farm or frozen from the supermarket, a common complaint at the Thanksgiving table is …it’s too dry. The cure for that might be a refreshing saltwater bath, not for the cook… for the gobbler. For today’s Quick Bite, WKSU’s Vivian Goodman travelled to Moreland Hills to consult with a master chef to make sure our turkey comes out of the oven moist and juicy.

It's never too dry when you brine

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Chef Minnillo:  “Brining is really a process of covering the problems that most people have at home when they do turkey, which is they overcook it. If you brine your turkey and you overcook it, it’ll still be moist.”

 Quick Bites:  “.. I would think that many people would wonder how could you keep it from getting salty, tasting salty?

Chef Minnillo : “Well the brine itself is not, I mean, it does have salt in it, but it also has sugar so the sugar cuts the salt down.

QB: And besides salt and sugar, you can put a variety of other spices?

Chef Minnillo: “You’re kind of wide open. Our recipe called for two gallons of water, three cups of salt, two cups of sugar, and then that’s where we can make our differences. You could use, if you didn’t want to use water, you could use two gallons of apple cider and do an apple-cider brine. And then you would slice up maybe six apples and put it in there. So we did 2 gallons of cranberry juice and sliced up 6 oranges and threw some fresh sage. And you have a lot of leeway on that, too. You could use thyme, you could use tarragon, you could use any sweet herb like basil.

QB:  Could you actually have a spicy brine?

Chef Minnillo: “Sure you could put a lot of different spices, a star anise, allspice, you could put in some chili peppers. And you just bring that to a boil, and then you let it cool down, and then you put whether it’s a turkey or capons or a pork loin in a bucket where it’s submerged and the item is always covered. And keep it in there for 24 hours and cook it the next day. You’re going to get a home run.”

QB:I can certainly understand why people don’t normally do this at home and you find a lot of people who haven’t heard about it, but I guess if you did want to do it at home you would need a freezer or a large space.

Chef Minnillo: “But we live in Cleveland so you could put it outside. It’s cold enough outside right now.  And obviously cover it with aluminum foil and elevate it so you don’t get outdoor creatures getting it. But keep it outside where it goes 40 degrees at night.”

QB:  Now, you said at first that if you brine it doesn’t matter if you overcook, but…

Chef Minnillo: “I mean if you crush it, brining’s not going to save you, but a lot of times people cook, and here’s the key to brining and to cooking a turkey: Start it out for half an hour at 475 or 500 and then lower your temperature to 300. And depending on how big it is, like we had a 20- pound turkey, we did 475 and in a convection oven with a high fan for 45 minutes. Then we lowered it to 300 for about I think four hours and it came out perfectly. And you don’t need to put foil over it or anything and you don’t need to pat the turkey down. When you pull it out, it’s wet. You don’t need to dry it off. It’s ready to go. You don’t need to stuff it. I’m from the belief you just throw some celery and carrot and onion in the cavity and make your stuffing in another pan.”    

Chef Paul Minillo says his own Thanksgiving is pretty traditional . His Irish wife insists on candied sweet potatoes with marshmallows.  And as always, he’ll add a little Italian touch with chestnut sausage stuffing. That will be at home with the family. Flour will be closed on Thanksgiving Day.

As for the day after Thanksgiving, we’ll cover that next week on Quick Bites with tips from the Western Reserve School of Cooking on what to do with the leftovers.

I’m Vivian Goodman, 89-7, WKSU



         
Cranberry Brine (Turkey)        
         
         
Product/Item Description Item Instruction Amount Unit of Measure  
Cranberry Juice   2 Gallons  
Salt - Kosher   2 Cups  
Sugar - Granulated   2 Cups  
Star Anise   6 each  
Coriander   2 TBS  
Cinnamon Sticks 4 sticks  
Oranges   2 each  
Sage fresh 10  sprigs  
Turkey whole 30 lb  
         
Procedure:        
1. Add all ingredients in a large stock pot and bring to a simmer.        
2. Place hot liquid in a large container (igloo ice container)  and add        
two scoops of ice. Allow to cool.        
3. Place turkey in cooler and cover with brine. Let turkey bath in brine       
for 24 hours.         
4. Remove turkey from brine and rinse off with cold water.        
5. Dry turkey off and roast in oven.        
         

Related Links & Resources
Flour website

Listener Comments:

I have to disagree with some of the other comments posted. Brining is a wonderful way to add flavor and moisture (via osmosis) to any bird. Ken what you have described is called koshering (or kosher preparation.

Bill, While I am new to turkey farming, I have been brining turkeys for nearly 10 years. The high temp approach has never caused any issues with any turkey I have cooked. I use 30 minutes at 500 degrees then 325 until I reach a temp of 158 degrees measured in the breast. Brining has zero effect on gravy production, aside from added flavor. I am not sure where you have gotten all of these negative stigmas, but I would gladly invite you to a thanksgiving dinner at our table, and put all of these bad notions to rest. Poultry is not pulled pork, there are many ways to successful cooking.


Posted by: Matt Becks (Arab, Alabama (formerly of Medina Ohio)) on December 1, 2012 2:12AM
I have done brining a couple times. Then I found out about salt rub and will never brine again. The salt rub is put on up to 24 hours before cooking and rinsed off before dressing to cook. It draws moisture from inside the bird to keep the breast and skin from drying out. I do use a cooking bag which guarantees sucess as well. Wings and legs will fall off upon removal but most chefs today serve their turkeys carved at the table anyway. Ken McDonald


Posted by: Ken McDonald (Wooster, ohio) on November 17, 2012 2:11AM
Having been a Turkey Farmer for over 20 years and having cooked hundreds...I can say there is no better way to ruin a bird than to brine it. Plus you ruin any opportunity for good gravy. Poultry should be cooked slow and low. Most people will burn their turkeys if they follow the high temp approaches. Can't even tell you the number of folks that have called me to complain about this high temp approach........


Posted by: BILL (PA) on November 16, 2012 12:11PM
It sounds great, I will do a brine this year...And I will let you know how it work;s out...

Thanking you, Mike


Posted by: Michael Piacenza (Daytona Beach FL.) on November 16, 2012 9:11AM
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