For this year's Thanksgiving dinner, I made the turkey. I've carried this immense responsibility (and minor stressor) a few times over the years. I'm not a great chef and my turkeys always ended up being too dry. That is until eight years ago, when I first brined a turkey! Brining is a magical technique that not only seasons the bird, but also and keeps it moist and juicy throughout the cooking process.
I didn't write a beer blog eight years, so I didn't think to add beer to the brine. Not this year! Beer was the star ingredient in my brine, and our turkey turned out most and delicious!
Although Thanksgiving is long gone, I wanted to share my brine recipe in case anyone was looking for a simple, but good recipe to brine their bird or other protein. You could easily incorporate your favorite spices and herbs, and I expect it would turn out well.
- 6 cups water
- 1 cup kosher salt (don't use table salt)
- 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 15 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
- 10 sage leaves
- 5 bay leaves
- 4 thyme sprigs
- 24 oz of beer (you can use a wide variety of styles. I prefer malt-forward beers, you could use hoppy beers as well). I used Colorado Native Winterfest, a Vienna-style lager, from AC Golden Brewing Co.
Put all the ingredients into a saucepan, heat to boil until the salt and brown sugar dissolves, and the liquid turns clear. Remove from heat, stir in the beer, cool to room temperature. Pour the brine over the meat into a container large enough to hold both. Cover, and refrigerate at least 12 hours (I let mine marinate for 24 hours). Remove meat from brining liquid, and cook as desired. After cooking is complete, be sure to let the meat rest for a sufficient time (20 minutes for my turkey) before carving. If you don't, all the juices will quickly drain, and dry out the meat!
Here's my finished brine, cooling in an ice bath.
I used a large plastic roasting bag to hold the turkey and the brine solution. I used the bag only to brine, and removed the turkey from it prior to baking.
Poured the brine into the bag, over the turkey.
Placed the bag filled with the turkey and brine into a roasting pan and put it in the fridge. Every 6 hours, I gently turned the bag over, exposing the other side to the brine.
24 hours later, I pulled the bird out of the brine bag, put in the roasting pan, and filled the pan with assorted root veggies, and baked it.
Success! The turkey was well seasoned and juicy. It picked up the herb and spice flavors. The leftovers tasted tasted even better the next day...
I'll definitely use this recipe again, and will experiment with a different style of beer. Probably a porter or stout. If you try this recipe, please let me know how it turns out! Cheers!