The best thing about turkey is it’s really low in fat. The worst thing about turkey is that it’s really low in fat. Fat is the thing that keeps meat moist during long cooking. Since turkey is big, the cook time is long, and the risk of meat drier than the Sahara is high.
A succulent turkey is a thing of beauty. They’re not inexpensive (the 6kg beast I bought was just under $100), so you really don’t want to dry them out. And as we’ve discussed, they take quite a bit of time to defrost, so if you ruin it, there’s no popping down to the store to get another emergency turkey hoping it’ll be cooked in time for Christmas dinner.
The secret is brining. I’ve discussed brining a chicken before. It’s fundamentally the same process, but you have to scale up the volume of brine you’re using and the time it takes. Other than that, it’s really easy.
Oh, another important tip, make sure you have a fridge big enough to hold your turkey in it’s briney bath, because the risk of bacteria using your turkey as a breeding ground is still high, so you need to keep it chilled under 4ºC. Alternatively, fill a big chilly bin with ice and water, adding more ice to keep the temperature down as you got. I just emptied all the vegetables out of my veggie drawer and used that. It worked well.
So to the brine.
- Mix 3/4 cup salt with 3/4 cup sugar and 4 cups water in a large pot. Bring to the boil and stir until sugar and salt are dissolved.
- Turn off the heat and mix in a chopped onion, diced carrot, sliced celery stick, a sprig of thyme and rosemary, a couple of bay leaves and about a tablespoon of peppercorns.
- Put the brine mix into the fridge and leave until very cold.
- Pour the brine mix into a large, heavy plastic bag (a black rubbish bag is perfect) with 7 litres of cold water. Add the turkey, squeeze all the air out of the bag and tie securely.
- Refrigerate or submerge in a chilli bin as above for 72 hours.
72 hours seems like a long time. Trust me, it’s worth taking a few days to make sure the flavour of the brine really gets in.