It’s time to start thinking about the holiday turkey again. Last year the dry brined turkey was very, very good and got high ratings from everyone. I’ve also had excellent results with deep-fried, smoked, barbecued, slow cooker, and sometimes even a traditional roasted & stuffed bird that has turned out very good. It’s been a few years since I’ve cooked a wet-brined bird and thought it was time to re-visit my old recipe and update it.
Brining, using either the dry or the wet method, is an almost foolproof way to turn out a moist, tender bird and both methods give a lot of options for seasonings. Both brining methods work on the same principal–soaking any protein in a salt water solution draws the moisture out of the bird initially but then is reabsorbed into the cells of the flesh, seasoning and moisturizing during the process. The salt works to make the turkey retain water as it roasts. The scientific name for this is diffusion and osmosis
Salt and sugar, usually in equal proportions are standard in both methods. An endless number of seasonings can be added to suit any taste. In this recipe, part of the usual salt is replaced with soy sauce. I love the depth of flavor soy sauce contributes to many of my recipes. The brand of soy sauce is important in this recipe. Many soy sauces contain quite a bit of caramel as a coloring to make the sauce darker and this can result in a turkey with skin that is a little too dark for my liking. I found that Kikkoman soy sauce was perfect. I was still able to infuse the turkey with an extra depth of flavor (called umami) without staining the outside of the skin or creating pan drippings that resulted in gravy that was too dark brown. Kikkoman soy sauce is more delicate than many other soy sauce brands. While the heavier soy sauces are very good for various Asian cuisines, the lighter Kikkoman sauce resulted in a brined turkey with a flavor that is still very American with drippings that make some mighty fine gravy.
This recipe is enough for a 16-24 pound turkey but any poultry such as turkey breast, duck, chicken and game hens would benefit a great deal from this method. The first four ingredients are standard proportions but some of the water called for can be substituted with beer, wine or cider. The seasonings can include any favorite herbs, spices, citrus peel or garlic but it’s not really necessary to add any seasonings at all. Just remember that any added seasonings will also influence the flavor of the drippings that will be used later for gravy making.
2 gallons cold water (can substitute part of the water with beer, wine or cider)
1 ½ cups Kikkoman Soy Sauce
½ cup salt
½ cup sugar
Optional brine flavorings:
1-2 tablespoons alone or combination of dried or fresh aromatics such sage, celery seed, whole black peppercorns, thyme, rosemary, cumin, fennel seeds, dried orange or lemon peel, lemongrass, star anise, ginger, garlic
Select a container large enough to contain your bird and the 2 gallons of marinade. A stockpot or sterilized bucket large enough to fit in your refrigerator work well. A large plastic bag placed in a foam cooler with ice or on a tray in the refrigerator will also work well. The goal is to have the bird completely submerged in the brine.
Combine all of the brine ingredients and stir until dissolved. Place the thawed and rinsed bird in the container, cover with the brine and place in the refrigerator or in ice overnight or up to 24 hours. Remove the turkey from the brine, rinse well and pat dry with paper towels.
At this stage your turkey is ready to roast the bird according to your favorite method, basting every 30 minutes with pan juices or melted butter. The chart below gives approximate cooking times but a meat thermometer is essential to assure that an internal temperature of 175 degrees is achieved for an unstuffed bird (the temperature should be taken in the thickest part of the thigh)….or 165 degrees for a stuffed bird with the temp being taken in the middle of the stuffing. Allow your turkey to rest, uncovered for 20 minutes before carving for easier carving and a juicier bird.
Roasting times are for a preheated 325 degrees F. oven.
Approximate Roasting Times for Stuffed Turkey
6 to 8 pounds…….. 3 to 3-1/2 hours
8 to 12 pounds…… 3-1/2 to 4-1/2 hours
12 to 16 pounds….. 4-1/2 to 5-1/2 hours
16 to 20 pounds….. 5-1/2 to 6 hours
20 to 24 pounds….. 6 to 6-1/2 hours
Approximate Roasting Times for Unstuffed Turkey
6 to 8 pounds……. 2-1/2 to 3 hours
8 to 12 pounds….. 3 to 4 hours
12 to 16 pounds…. 4 to 5 hours
16 to 20 pounds…. 5 to 5-1/2 hours
20 to 24 pounds…. 5-1/2 to 6 hours