Published November 1, 2006.
We have brined thousands of turkeys over the years. But with limited room in the refrigerator, was it time to develop a space-saving alternative?
Brining is the best way to guarantee a moist turkey, but it isn't always the most practical way, especially considering limited refrigerator space.
We wanted to develop an alternative method to brining that would both season the meat and keep it moist while the turkey inhabited only its allotted refrigerator space.
With our Spice-Rubbed Picnic Chicken recipe, we investigated salting, a kind of "dry-brining" in which we rubbed chicken pieces with salt and let them rest in the refrigerator for several hours. Salting works by drawing moisture out of the meat; this moisture mixes with the salt to make a shallow brine. Over time, the salt migrates from the shallow brine into the meat. Once inside the meat, the salt changes the structure of the muscle fibers so that the meat is able to hold on to more water, even in a hot oven. We wanted to translate this successful approach to a whole turkey. First we learned that salting the turkey for 24 to 48 hours left most of the meat nicely seasoned and pretty moist, but also left salty pockets (which could be washed off). A comparison taste test with a brined turkey gave us both good and bad news: The salted turkey was as tasty as the brined (some felt it had even more turkey flavor) but not as moist. Since the dryness was concentrated in the breast, we iced the breast before the turkey went into the oven, allowing us to remove the turkey when the dark meat was thoroughly cooked but the breast wasn’t overdone.list of recipes