If you’re planning to serve a plump and juicy wild turkey this Thanksgiving, you better get started today. The first step, after tagging a turkey and dressing it, is brining, or soaking the bird in a saltwater solution. During the brining process, which is typically overnight or longer, the saltwater is absorbed by the meat, creating a moister, plumper, and more flavorful bird.
Brining is not the same as marinating, which uses an acid or enzyme to break down protein fibers and ostensibly tenderize a tough cut. Like a marinade, brines can be used as a flavoring agent, however by adding garlic, onions, fruit or spices. It’s fun to experiment with different flavors, but be sure to also keep the same ratio of 1 cup of kosher salt to gallon of water.
1 gallon water
1 cup kosher salt
1 cup brown sugar
In a stockpot or other large container, combine water, salt, and brown sugar. Whisk thoroughly until salt and sugar are completely dissolved. (The salt and sugar will dissolve faster and easier in hot or warm water, but be sure let the water cool to 40 degrees or lower before adding meat.) Completely submerge the bird. If necessary, use a plate or other heavy object to keep the turkey under the surface of the brine. Place in a refrigerator and let soak for 24 to 48 hours for a whole bird, or 8 to 12 hours for a turkey breast.