Not Martha

Our First Turkey, the Brining

tag of my fresh turkey marked 11.7 pounds

Vegetarians look away! Raw turkey flesh photographed in poor lighting adorns this post. Photography lovers might as well look away too.

We’re having a Room Painting and Turkey Roasting Thanksgiving this weekend. We’re taking advantage of the stretch of uninterrupted days to get a chance to paint the bathroom. Finally. It’s been an unattractive beige for more years than I’d like to admit. In order to spend more time painting and less time cleaning up in the kitchen we’re taking a few shortcuts (boxed stuffing, can shaped cranberry) that I’d like to think of as nostalgia rather than outright laziness. I am from the Midwest after all, these are the traditional dishes as I remember them. But I couldn’t pass up the chance to cook a turkey for the first time.

I bought this one from Bob’s Quality Meats in my neighborhood. It’s been there for three generations, I hear, and the sign is a fixture. I have to admit that I was intimidated going in for the first time but I was greeted cheerfully and instantly fell in love. Yay for awesome and old school local butchers! I was a little late in ordering my turkey and ended with the 10-12 pound range. Mine came out to be closer to 12 pounds. Gulp.

brine ingredients

Just as I was realizing I needed to learn to brine a turkey Savory Sweet Life came out with this perfect Easy Turkey Brine Recipe. I had been thinking I was going to need to buy a cooler to brine my turkey but Alice points out that the lower drawer of a fridge is just the right size for this. She uses a plastic turkey sized oven bag, brilliant.

the fresh turkey, all waiting to be brined

The photo above marks the point that Scott saved Thanksgiving. I tentatively poked around the turkey and pulled out the neck but couldn’t find the giblets. So I shrugged and started pouring the brine over the top (that’s the little green bits you’re seeing). Scott decided to keep looking and, other turkey noobs take note!, found the bag of giblets tucked in the neck cavity. Thank you Scott, you’re my hero.

turkey in brine bag in the lower drawer of the fridge

I washed the bottom drawer of our fridge very carefully, though I’m happy to report it was very clean following a massive and likely Hoarders-inspired scrub down of the interior of the fridge last summer. Should it spill all the brine will end up in the drawer and not, hooray, dripping down other stuff in the fridge.

And there it sits in the fridge. Tomorrow I’ll turn it over. So far so good.

· comments [17] · 11-23-2010 · categories:food · holidays ·

17 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Tina // Nov 23, 2010 at 5:48 am

    I brined my first, a ten pounder, last year in a 2 gallon ziplock bag placed in a stock pot in case of leaks. Moistest turkey ever! Good luck with yours!

  • 2 Melissa // Nov 23, 2010 at 8:07 am

    I’ve never brined a turkey but I’ve always wanted my try.

    My yearly unsolicited turkey-cooking advice is to cook the bird breast-side down. This makes for the most delicious, most turkey ever, with the absolute least effort — but it is not a pretty turkey. No, it pretty much looks like cooked carcass, but nobody cares!

  • 3 Bri // Nov 23, 2010 at 8:36 am

    I’m so glad I’m not the only one who is inspired to scrub their house after watching Hoarders. My husband can’t figure out why I like watching it, but I do.

    Best of luck with the turkey, I’m sure it’ll be great!

  • 4 Kat // Nov 23, 2010 at 9:25 am

    Cleaning the fridge is on my list of to-do stuff before Thursday…unless I can manage to keep it closed whenever anyone comes into the kitchen. No, that won’t work. Better clean it.

  • 5 Christine // Nov 23, 2010 at 9:29 am

    I have great childhood memories of can-shaped cranberry as well, but try this:
    It’s really fast, easy, and amazingly good. Leftovers are awesome with goat or cream cheese on toast.

  • 6 marnie // Nov 23, 2010 at 10:41 am

    We use Ikea lingonberries instead of cranberry sauce these days. As easy as canned, but just every so slightly classier! Also: more delicious.

  • 7 megan // Nov 23, 2010 at 10:48 am

    Thanks Christine, we’ve already bought the can-shaped cranberry and Seattle has been paralyzed by snow so I’ll try it another time. When it snows here we get unusually icy streets that nobody is plowing, combine with drivers inexperienced in snow and it makes for a few days safer spent far outside of the reach of cars.

  • 8 megan // Nov 23, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    Tina – Leeks! That sounds wonderful.

    Melissa – I am considering doing that. Since it’s just us we don’t have to worry about the presentation of the bird. I think we’ll try it.

    Kat – We used a an eco friendly cleaner and lots of paper towels. I can be pretty squicky, but once it’s done it’s so very nice.

  • 9 Francesca // Nov 23, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    Megan, that is an excellent idea, to store the turkey in the drawer!

  • 10 sue // Nov 23, 2010 at 6:10 pm

    My first turkey: my roommate and I bought the turkey together and got up early to prepare it. We removed the neck and popped it in the over (then opened some wine). Hours passed and with every poke, the juices still ran pink – no matter how golden and “done” it looked. We waited and waited. Fearing a too-dry turkey, we finally removed it and started to carve. More pink juices flowed from one end. And then… I hit a plastic bag. We forgot (or, rather, didn’t realize) the giblets are put in the other cavity. Oops. Surprisingly the bag didn’t melt after so long in the oven.

  • 11 Our First Turkey, the Brining | roxannep01 // Nov 23, 2010 at 6:55 pm

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  • 12 megan // Nov 23, 2010 at 7:13 pm

    Sue – That is exactly where I was heading! The bag we found was made of what appeared to be a waxed paper. I hope your turkey was great despite the unexpected find.

  • 13 karin // Nov 23, 2010 at 8:52 pm

    I too, purchased some boxed stuffing and canned jellied cranberry sauce today, in case I can’t make it out to my parents’ on Thursday. I felt a little guilty buying those at Metropolitan Market, but the cashier didn’t make fun of me. :)

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  • 14 regan // Nov 23, 2010 at 8:57 pm

    I also made the rookie mistake of leaving giblets in the bird when cooking it. But, in my defense, even jparks reached into the bird and didn’t feel anything. I think they freeze really well to the inside and become sort of stuck there. The upside was that no one noticed the baggie until one guest set to work removing all the leftover meat from the bird.

  • 15 megan // Nov 23, 2010 at 9:59 pm

    Karin – Glad to know the cashier was kind to you. I was sort of surprised to find Met Market carries all those normal groceries as well as the fancy pants stuff! I do appreciate it though, I can buy boxed croutons and amazing cheese in the same trip.

    Regan – Hee! I’m glad it was an after the fact discovery.

  • 16 Breda // Nov 24, 2010 at 7:35 am

    Thank you SO much for the vegetable drawer idea! I was planning on brining our turkey but had no idea where to put it. This is brilliant solution.

    Enjoy your white Thanksgiving & stay safe! (happy to report that Cleveland is still snow-less)

  • 17 Beth // Nov 24, 2010 at 6:48 pm

    Brilliant idea to use the veg drawer. We have always brined our turkey and have used the oven bag in a bucket and a huge tupperware container. No matter what, it took up tons of fridge space. (Except for the year it was so cold we could put it outside in our cooler!)
    Thanks for the hint, giving me lots of extra space this year. Happy thanksgiving!

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