Home Cooking

Brining - how to make it less of a pain in the...


Home Cooking

Brining - how to make it less of a pain in the...

sweet100s | | Feb 23, 2008 09:51 AM

My quest for the most delicious home-made turkey-ranch sandwich ever starts with a brined turkey breast that I grill on my Big Green Egg for 1.5 hours with some cherry wood nearby.

The biggest pain-in-the-butt part of this quest is brining the bone-in skin-on 6 pound or so turkey breast.

I want to try the "dry-brining" technique described in other topics, but the problem is it takes so much longer than wet brining (days vs hours). If I pick up a turkey breast on Friday and want to cook it on Sunday, wet brining is the only option. (right?)

Goal: To make the brine, put the turkey breast in, and start brining in ONE MOTION / one cooking session. And immediately put it in the fridge for 1.25 hours per pound of turkey breast.

Obstacles figured out:

1) Not enough space in the fridge

Buy a spare fridge and keep in the garage. I was surprised at how inexpensive the very-basic but full-size refrigerators are, and also how inexpensive they are to run per year. Why did I make so long to do this? Makes entertaining, Thanksgiving, and Christmas a lot easier also.

Helps minimize risk of cross-contamination also while there's all this raw poultry around.

2) Don't have the right size container to brine the turkey breast

Bought a set of those square lexan food-safe plastic containers from a restaurant supply place. I use the 12 quart size for turkey, the smaller ones for other meats marinating or brining. Very handy; and square shape is efficient use of space!

3) Recipes always underestimate how much brine I need to adequately cover the meat,

Double the recipe for brine. I've found 1 BIG (8 pound) turkey breast needs 2 gallons of brine when using the square containers.

I have used those plastic bags which allow for less brine required. However, I don't want to pour hot brine into a thin plastic bag. Easier to make more.

4) Brine takes WAY too long to cool to safe temps for the turkey (< 40 deg) if you use all the water in the boiling part, or if you don't hold back enough for the ice to immediately get the mixture to 40 degrees.

This is the biggest pain.

Example: I called ahead while driving home and asked a relative visiting to start boiling the water for my 2 gallon brine recipe. I forgot to mention holding back some of the water for the ice part. OK no problem, I thought. I'll just let it cool down in the fridge...

Any guesses as to how many hours it took to take 2 gallons of brine solution to cool from hot (barely not boiling) to 39 degrees in my near-empty spare fridge?

Hint: I had to make something else - no turkey that weekend!
Answer: It went into the fridge at 1am. The fridge temp (I have a sensor wiht display mounted on top of the fridge) IMMEDIATELY went up to 72 degrees! At 2pm the next afternoon it was only 49 degrees!!! I think I finally started brining at 5pm. It might have been ready at 4. Good grief.

The other problem (experienced today) if you don't use ENOUGH water to dissolve all the brine, not all the salt dissolves because it's super-salinated. I tried:

End goal: 2 gallons of brine.
Basic Brine ratios: 1 gallon of Brine: 1 cup salt :: 1 cup sweet :: 1 gallon water :: 6 bay leaves :: 0.5 head garlic smashed :: whatever other herbs I want
So for 2 gallons of brine:
2 cups salt :: 2 cups sweet :: 2 gallon water :: 12 bay leaves :: 1 head garlic smashed :: and today I added 2 tbsp of dry Italian herbs

Started with: 1 gallon of water to boil, which would leave 1 gallon for the ice water
Problem: not of the 2 cups of salt would dissolve
Added: 4 cups of water. Then, all of the salt dissolved.

Problem: Adding: 1 gallon (minus 4 cups) of ice water. But that resulted in a temp of 65 degrees. Now I'm having to wait again while that cools in the fridge to 39. Probably a couple hours. Argh.

Next time I'll hold back 50% of water again. I'd rather have some of the salt un-dissolved than have to wait for the brine to cool.

And yes, moist juicy flavorful turkey meat for argula salads, turkey-ranch sandwiches, etc is worth it...

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