Thanksgiving turkey: Do you need to brine your bird?
To brine or not to brine, that is the question. With Thanksgiving only a day away, you're likely scrambling to make sure you get that one last bag of potatoes from the grocery store or triple checking to make sure you have enough cranberry sauce for the whole family. With all those other distractions taking place, sometimes it's hard to set aside enough time to brine your Thanksgiving turkey.
Fortunately, Serious Eats has posted a lengthy explanation for why you don't have to. The motivation behind brining -- or, in simpler terms, soaking your turkey in a salt bath overnight -- is to preserve moisture and create a juicier bird. But it turns out that simply salting your meat before it goes in the oven can have the same effect and doesn't dilute the quality of your meat.
The writer for Serious Eats treated several turkeys in a variety of ways to see which provided the juiciest, best-tasting meat. The ultimate determination was that brining doesn't make a turkey juicier but rather waterier, whereas salting the bird before it goes into the oven helps preserve the moisture already in the turkey. In the end, it was decided that a turkey doesn't need any extra help staying dry from an outside brine as long as the chef makes sure it doesn't overcook. Long story short: Don't leave your bird in the oven for an extra 15 minutes, and it will taste just fine.
If you swear by brining or want to try out Alton Brown's excellent recipe, by all means do so. But if you -- like me -- never seem to have enough time to brine, don't sweat it. All it takes in exchange is a little extra vigilance to make sure you have the perfect Thanksgiving turkey.