The Thanksgiving Turkey Brine, with a twist of orange

The season is upon us. Turkeys are going into hiding. Pitmasters across the US are warming up their grills to impress their families. Some are even deep-frying these large birds. Size does indeed matter when we talk turkey. 10-12 lbs is considered an appetizer. Families consume more food that day than any other holiday in the US.

It is a terrible time of the year to be a turkey. Thanksgiving is savage.

According to history, we celebrate the pilgrim’s harvest meal in 1621 when they feasted with the natives, the Wampanoag people.

In reality, we celebrate food, a ritual killing of a turkey, football, beer, family, and wrap it all up with an insane sale referred to as Black Friday. The feast is upon us, and we love the urge for food, sides, drinks, and laughter.

Talking about savage. There are trade secrets for perfecting the turkey, and one of these is bathing (submerging) a turkey in a brine for 18-48 hours. A proper brine will deliver an extra punch to your turkey.

Historically, brine was used for food preservation, but there are two solid reasons why we brine our: flavor and texture in the high-tech age. It infuses the meat with savory, finger-licking flavors, all while tenderizing it to a butter-soft texture. Still not convinced?

I recently grilled eight (8) large turkeys for a local charity, providing Thanksgiving meals to 13 local military families who couldn’t be together due to overseas deployment. It was an awesome opportunity for me to be part of, and extremely grateful for the experience.

As part of that event, I came up with a new brine, just for Thanksgiving.

  1. Take a large pot or ice bucket, big enough to hold a large turkey and fully submerged
  2. Fill it 1/2 a gallon of cold water
  3. Sprinkle in the following ingredients
    1. 1/3 cup of salt
    2. 1/3 cup of sugar
    3. 2 tablespoons of black peppercorns
    4. 2 tablespoons of dried cilantro
    5. 3 bay leaves
    6. 4-5 cloves of garlic
    7. 1 small onion, quartered
    8. 1 large orange, quarter, and skin scored
    9. 1 bottle of summer IPA
  4. Mix the ingredients until sugar and salt has dissolved
  5. Add the turkey to the pot or cooler
  6. Slowly add more cold water until it covers the bird
  7. Cover the pot or close the cooler
  8. Put the pot/cooler in the garage or basement
  9. Store it for a minimum of 18 hours – the longer, the better

Once the time has passed, you empty the water and pad the turkey down. You decide how you want to grill or roast the beast, and you also decide if you want to use a dry rub or traditional butter under the skin.

Good luck, and let me know how you got on.

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