Brined Chickens (or Turkey)

Sorry people, no pictures on this one.  It is a recipe but also just a process about cooking poultry.

A few years ago I was watching one of my favorite shows, Good Eats.  Alton Brown is a great entertainer; funny, informative, and well, entertaining.  I love how he mixes science and cooking.  I get all giddy when he has a little demonstration of how flour and fat particles makes the best roux and thickener.  I especially like how he can make it all come together..  ah I am gushing.  Must be the Novocaine.  I had my wisdom teeth out today.  My mind is a muddle so I really can’t do homework right now.  Too much discomfort!  So what a great time to talk about roasting poultry.  Which is where I was heading with my talk of Alton Brown.  HA!

Soooo anyways he was showing how to brine and roast a turkey.  I thought.. ummmmmmmmmmmm soaking it in water, salt and sugar… odd.  So I tried it!  Had every turkey in the last 3 years brined.  Love it! Love it! Love it!  But I had never brined a chicken until this weekend.  May have to do it from now on.  Brining doesn’t just add juiciness, it adds flavor.  We have a brine we use but there is so much you can do with a brine to change it up.  Below is our current recipe that we use for turkey and used this weekend for the chicken(s, we made three to have left overs for chicken and dumplins).  There are hundreds of brining recipes out there but we have worked on this one for a couple of years and really like it.

One other thing we like about this is that we didn’t have to buy any special expensive equipment.  We just used a Home Depot bucket with a lid that we have dubbed the bringing bucket.   we brine the turkeys in it and it is the perfect size for a 15-18 lb bird or three 8 lb chickens!  Just clean it out well after use and let air dry.  Then it goes down into the basement until the next use.  If we had another fridge we would use it for corned beef too but since that has to brine for over a week and it would be too hard to keep that temperature controlled this bucket seems to be only for poultry.  HA

Water about 2 gallons (not an exact science here people)
1 1/2 cup kosher, canning or sea salt (I guess you could use iodized but I have never done so and canning salt isnt that expensive and what I use)
1 cup brown sugar
2 oranges
1 lemon
Bunch of fresh rosemary
Bunch of fresh thyme
Bunch of fresh sage
2 Tbsp Peppercorns
1 large onion cut into eights
1 bulb of garlic

To start off I take 3-4 cups of hot water and put it into a sauce pan and add the sugar and salt. Bring it to a heat to dissolve the salt and sugar.  Turn it off.  Take my pestle and coarse crack the peppercorns just to break them up a bit.  Again not an exact science, just a coarse crack.  Throw that in the hot brine.  Thick slice the oranges and lemons (we have use limes too which is good) and throw them into the hot water.  This helps to release the essential oils.

Pour all this into your Homer Bucket or what ever you determine to use. Add about 2-3 cups of ice cubes to bring it back to a cold temp.  I then kind of eyeball it and add enough water to bring it up to about 2 gallons of liquid.  I cut the bulb of garlic in half, the whole thing, just cut it across the thickest part horizontally and put the bottom half (the part that is going to stay together due to the root) into the cavity of the bird(s you may have to break it up a bit if doing more than one bird) and break up the top part and throw the half cloves into the brine.  Put half of the onion chunks into the cavity of the bird and break up the rest.

Now this is essential to using fresh herbs in brines or marinades.  You have to bruise or crush the leaves on fresh herbs to get them to release the flavor.  So I take half of my fresh herbs and make them a bundle and just bend, break and generally bruise them but rubbing them in my hands.  Stuff them into the cavity with the onion and garlic. Then I do the same with the rest and throw them into the brine bucket.

Now comes the hard part, put the bird in, breast side down.  Cover with a plate to keep bird submerged and add 2-3 cups of ice cubes. Place cover on top and put in a cool room (or if you have a fridge you can put it in the fridge).  Hard huh!  Now walk away.  Dont touch unless you are adding more ice to keep it cool.  Seriously.  No need to fiddle with it.  Just leave it for atleast 5-6 hours for a chicken or 8-12 for a turkey.  I usually do it for 24 hours for a turkey but as long as you give it the minimum you will see the difference.

Okay, now to cook!!  Take our bird out of the brine and rinse with cold water.  Put in the roaster you are going to use.  Set your oven to 425 degrees.  Trust me.. 425.   We don’t stuff our turkey cause we leave the things in the cavity (onion, garlic and herbs. Also sometimes stuff some of the citrus in as well) but if you wanted to stuff it there are safety precautions to use about making sure the stuffing is up to temperature.  I usually truss the bird up a bit so the wings don’t burn but you dont have to.  Put the roaster uncovered into the oven and set your timer for 20 minutes.  When the timer goes off turn the oven down to 350.  Then roast like you normally would.  I usually put a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the breast about 1 hour into cooking and keep an eye out for correct temperature that way but use whatever technique works for you usually.

Once the bird is done, take it out and cover loosely to let the meat rest for 10 minutes. Then let the family attack the yummy skin.  It is usually a fight between Rob and Aaron, but if Mom is here, it is a free for all!  Then carve it up!  Makes amazing sandwiches the next day, or even better used for chicken/turkey and dumplins the next day.  Take all the meat off and make a stock with the bones. But that is another post……

Happy Roasting!!


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