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To brine or not to brine...
November 21, 2007 3:20 PM   Subscribe

So I know you aren't supposed to brine a butterball turkey, but I've already bought the turkey and all the brining stuff, what's the worst that can happen?

I'm sorry if this is a repeat, but I've searched through the archives and couldn't find anything on this exactly. Googling said you shouldn't, however no one seemed to actually have had any bad results doing it, just in theory it could be too salty (and there was a lot of anti butterball sentiment). I know you don't have to brine it, but I want to brine it for the flavoring (and it would be such a waste not too!). I'm using orange juice, broth, salt, and spices to brine it. Could I just use less salt? (or would that defeat the purpose?) Brine it for less time?

It's a 14 pound turkey and it's pre basted. I've never cooked a turkey before so I don't want to mess it up! I especially want to hear from anyone that has actually done this.
posted by whoaali to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Pre-basted = Salt injected. It's not going to need any brining. However, I do understand your wanting to add those ingredients. I would suggest cutting out the salt and having it be a marinade instead if you really want to do it.

I, however, have had the absolute best luck brining a bird with just salted water (no spices, etc) and letting the natural flavor shine through, and air-drying the bird in the fridge for 8 hours before baking for crisp skin. Brush butter over the skin, and bake high and fast on a v-rack.

In your case, I suggest letting the bird air out a bit overnight instead of brining so that the skin gets crisp.
posted by mccarty.tim at 3:51 PM on November 21, 2007


Friends did this a couple years ago, they already had a butterball in the freezer- we didn't notice any problems, you can probably back off the salt a little (1/2 cup insted of a cup maybe), and you might want to add a little brown sugar or maple syrup to the mix to counter any extra 'saltiness', but I wouldn't worry about it too much - as for time, it's concentration or time one - a really concentrated brine for a short time, or a weaker brine for a longer time.
posted by pupdog at 4:06 PM on November 21, 2007


DON'T BRINE THAT BIRD!!!

If it's pre-basted, it's already got plenty of brine in it. If you add more sal, it may start to draw water out of the turkey than put water in, and therefore will do exactly the OPPOSITE of what you want with brining.

(Note: I researched and wrote this page on turkey brining, hence my basis of knowledge and research.)
posted by rednikki at 5:01 PM on November 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


If it says not to brine the turkey, then don't brine it. Years ago, my uncle insisted on brining a butterball bird--it turned out just terrible--too salty, and texture was funky. I always wondered why our brined bird flopped--now I realize that the reason it stunk was because it was a butterball.
posted by pushing paper and bottoming chairs at 5:22 PM on November 21, 2007


What rednikki said. I'm not a fan of brining turkeys in general, but you really don't want to brine a butterball!
posted by trip and a half at 5:29 PM on November 21, 2007


You'll definitely kill it with saltiness and dry it to death. I'm okay with all the advice above, too, as long as you skip the salt.

Personally I'm a big believer in the extra-fast, extra-hot, tinfoil-sealed low-labor turkey method for maximum moistness without spending all day cooking and drying the bastard out... but I won't bother explaining here because I don't want the outrage.

(I usually just pretend I've been cooking all day.)
posted by rokusan at 5:30 PM on November 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


nah, don't brine it. mash the spices (sans salt) into some unsalted butter and smear it all over before you roast it. skin will be crispy, and the flavors will sink in.
posted by thinkingwoman at 5:34 PM on November 21, 2007


Unsalted butter? Come on. Go big or go home. Use rendered goose fat.

Or, as a friend of mine did once, fat rendered out of foie gras. Jesus Christ that was a tasty bird.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 6:06 PM on November 21, 2007


I call hooey on all y'all.

Whether or not the turkey is a Butterball or any other sort of "pre-basted" beast, brining will *not* draw out what's already in unless the brine itself is a less salty solution. Between osmosis and diffusion and other bits of chemistry I don't pretend to recall with any sort of precision, the salt will seek equilibrium throughout the solution -- both in the bird and out -- and all the spices and flavors (Vermont maple syrup this year, along with some allspice) will go along for the ride.

This year my wife got a great deal on a turkey at the market. It's a Butterball. And right now it's in my brining bucket.
posted by deCadmus at 7:29 PM on November 21, 2007


I'm with deCadmus. You may want to cut down on the amount of salt in your brine - but not by much.
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:48 PM on November 21, 2007


If you want the flavor without the brining than go ahead and make a compound butter/fat of choice and put it underneath the skin so it melts close to the flesh taking flavor with it.

You can brine the butterball however, you must be careful of the amount of salt because it is already brined or salt injected in this case.

Be sure to TASTE the drippings BEFORE making the sauce/gravy. The saltiness of the drippings give you a hint of what to expect from the bird. Most brined birds make horrible gravy. I am dry brining this year so am not sure about the gravy issue.

If you don't want to dry the skin for 8 hours than pat it dry and yes, use a hair dryer though that just smacks of desperation. The alternative is the high heat method which will get you a crispy skin.
posted by jadepearl at 8:37 PM on November 21, 2007


I admit it's been a long time since I've taken chemistry, but if you put the bird in a container of solution that has LESS salt than the bird, wouldn't the solution enter the bird?

If you put the bird in a tank of solution that's way more salty than it is inside, that would draw the water out of it ... (The extreme would be packing it in rock salt, and would essentially mummify it.)

Right? Am I missing something here?
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:45 PM on November 21, 2007


hmm i think i'm going to do something in the middle and cut the salt a little but only brine it for 4 or 5 hours, wish me luck!
posted by whoaali at 9:18 PM on November 21, 2007


You're not drawing *water* one way or the other, really... via osmosis the salt will migrate from areas of higher concentration to areas of lower concentration until it's achieved equilibrium throughout the solution (both in the bird, and out). If the brine has a lower concentration, than you'll pull salt out of the bird; a higher concentration would draw salt into the bird.

Me, I don't want to make the bird more salty, so I'm hoping the concentration I'm using is more or less in line with what's in the bird already. I expect there will be some exchange, and that the flavors I've added to the brine will end up in the bird, too.

I'll report back with my results, tomorrow. ;)
posted by deCadmus at 9:23 PM on November 21, 2007


The answer is... Yes! You *can* brine a Butterball. And the results are delicious.
posted by deCadmus at 5:10 PM on November 22, 2007


Same here. I only brined for about 6 hours, but came out great!
posted by whoaali at 9:34 PM on November 22, 2007


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