Soaking turkeys in saltwater is great technique
(ED NOTE: While parts of this article are already used
elsewhere herein, this article contains additional useful
information NOT repeated.)
Meet the perfect turkey, prepared according to cookbook author
Pam Anderson's recipe for brining a bird.
By Judy Walker
The Arizona Republic
Nov. 17, 1999
The search for the perfect Thanksgiving turkey is like the search
for eternal youth: It's maddeningly elusive, it probably doesn't
exist, but humans may never stop seeking it.
Pam Anderson leads the seekers. When she stood on the stage
at Phoenix Civic Plaza during the International Association of
Cooking Professionals' annual meeting in April to accept her
cookbook award for The Perfect Recipe: Getting It Right Every
Time (Houghton Mifflin, $27), she recalled the hours she spent
one summer roasting 40 turkeys.
Her search for perfection led to a method and technique that is
working its way into the mainstream of America's kitchens.
She soaks the turkey in a saltwater solution before cooking it,
and, if the bird is small enough, rotates it to achieve even
Arizona residents are among the supersoakers. Diane Daspit of
Paradise Valley plans to brine her turkey again this year,
"because I have a friend coming I want to impress."
"She's a gourmet cook," she adds.
Daspit first brined a bird two years ago and said the thought of
soaking a turkey in a bucket of water was "a little
disconcerting" at first. But she did it, and then took the turkey,
on ice, to Puerto Penasco, Sonora, (Rocky Point) to roast for a
"It was absolutely fabulous," she said.
Bill Eimers of Phoenix said he has "conquered Thanksgiving"
since he began brining turkeys two years ago.
"It seems like a big deal, but it's ridiculously simple to do,"
He said brining solves common turkey complaints: that by the
time the dark meat is done, the white meat is dry; or, when
the white meat is juicy, the dark meat is underdone.
"With brining, it's all perfect," Eimers said. "It just adds a hint
of seasoning. It doesn't seem salty."
When she set out to perfect a turkey-cooking method, "the two
things I knew about turkey were that the breast was dry and
that it was a pretty bland piece of meat," Anderson said by
phone from her Connecticut home. "The only thing that made
it good was if you could make good pan gravy."
TRIAL AND ERROR
Anderson, former executive editor of Cook's Illustrated
magazine, first wrote about her perfect-turkey method there.
She gathered cookbooks and noted as many methods as
possible: cooking in a paper bag; covering the turkey with
butter-soaked cheesecloth; dismembering the bird and putting
it back together; enclosing it in foil for part of the roasting;
injecting turkeys with butter, salt and pepper. She found the
brining technique in a Portuguese cookbook (of all obscure
places) and the flavor of the bird was the best of any she tried.
She knew she was on to something, although the breast was
still dry. To solve that problem, she uses a rotating technique
that she gleaned from a James Beard recipe.
A meat thermometer will show the temperature of turkey
breasts roasted breast-side up registering 10 degrees higher
than that of the legs and thighs.
"If the legs and thighs are 170 degrees, which is the minimal
heat, the breast is 180," Anderson said. "And you know you
get nothing but sawdust at 180.
"The double whammy is, not only does the breast cook 10
degrees faster, but it's done 10 degrees sooner. The legs you
can get away with 170, 172, and they're done, but a breast is
done at 160. Pop-up timers on the breast pop up at 160."
The best possible thing you can do for a turkey is to start it
breast-down and leave it that way as long as possible,
Anderson said. Juices flow down into the breast and keep it
moist. The reason you want to turn it breast-side-up before
cooking time is done is to get the right appetizing color.
Anderson did her first turkey research on 12- to 14-pound birds
and then redid it with larger ones. She found that the smaller
the bird, the higher the temperature you can use for roasting.
SEASONED TO THE BONE
She roasts smaller turkeys at 400 degrees, starting them
breast-side-down, then rotating them wing up, other wing up,
and then breast-side-up, using a wad of paper towels in each
hand to handle the turkey. Much over 15 pounds, however, and
the bird is too big to turn wing-up, not to mention too heavy
and unwieldy for the cook, Anderson said.
"Plus, the bigger they are, the lower the temperature," she
says. "If you roast them at a high temperature, the bird will
overcook on the outside before the inside gets done. I usually
cook all larger roasts at lower temperatures, roast them at 250
and then flip them, then crank it to 400 just to brown."
A lot of roasting techniques are just the opposite ... higher at
first, then lower. However, Anderson said she has found that
on any cut of roast, you can get it darker quicker at the end.
Because the fat's already rendered, it colors more quickly.
As for the brining, she has received feedback that is almost
universally "WOW." The solution permeates the meat, so it's a
pleasantly seasoned bird throughout. One of her biggest
frustrations had been that other methods seasoned only the
Brining vastly improves the texture and taste of frozen turkeys,
Her brining recipe calls for 2 cups of kosher salt or 1-1/2 cups
of table salt and 2 gallons of water. Why kosher salt? It's
more pure, with no iodine, and has a brighter, less harsh flavor,
Anderson said. Also, it's traditional. Poultry is koshered in a
coating of kosher salt, which purifies the poultry, draws out
the blood, and gives it a cleaner flavor.
KEEP IT COOL
What about practical considerations? It's no problem finding a
container: new 5-gallon plastic paint buckets are $2.85 at
Home Depot. But The Perfect Recipe says to set the bucket of
brining turkey "in a cool spot" for 12 hours or overnight. In
Connecticut, Anderson's garage qualifies as "a cool spot." In
the desert Southwest, however, if you don't have an extra
refrigerator, where are you going to put the bucket to keep it
cool that long? Especially if your only refrigerator is already full
of other Thanksgiving food.
You can double the amount of salt and soak for half the time,
The November issue of Cook's Illustrated has a solution: place
four or five large clean frozen ice gel packs in the more
concentrated brine with the turkey to keep it cool for 4 hours.
For ease of cleaning, you can also line the brining vessel with
a turkey-size oven bag.
The turkey is rinsed after the brine bath, under cool running
water for several minutes, until all traces of salt are gone.
Rinsing is important. Anderson said the only complain she's
ever received on the brined-turkey method was from a couple
who left the turkey in the brine too long, and the broth from
the turkey was too salty.
Anderson's method calls for roasting the turkey on a V-rack
adjusted to its widest setting over a pan. If you don't have
one, Cook's notes that the broiler pan and rack that are
standard equipment in every oven are fine turkey-roasting pans.
The flat-slatted surface of the rack doesn't cut into or disfigure
the meat when the turkey is started breast-side-down. Put two
sheets of 18- by 25-inch aluminum foil on top of the rack, put
the bird on it breast-down, and roll and crumple the edges of
the foil up around the sides of the turkey to keep it from
(c)Copyright 1999, Arizona Central
That's it, Gang ! Please let us know how it turned out for you !
Remember, outdoor cooking of BBQ is NOT Rocket Science. It
is an Art Form. One that allows for a lot of personal
interpretation and experimentation. Just follow the guidelines
we have tried to give you herein. Then, see what works for
You and your Family and Friends will appreciate the results !
Now ... go start your own Brining, Injecting, Smoking, Frying,
or Smofrying - And Enjoy The Results !
(Atlanta, GA - The HEART & SOUL Of Dixie!)