Marinading or Brining a Turkey for Thanksgiving

Many Thanksgiving turkey recipes will discuss rubs, marinades and brines. All of these are used to season and flavor the turkey. The rub is used immediately before cooking, while a marinade or a brine takes time to season the meat.

Brines

While a brine is technically a marinade, it has a salt base instead of an acid base and works on the meat through the process of osmosis. This process adds moisture to the meat by allowing water to flow out of the meat and salt to flow into the flesh. This causes the meat to remain juicy and moist while cooking. The turkey can be brined overnight and then prepared according to the method of choice. It can be grilled, smoked, roasted or fried.

Beer Brined Turkey

A beer brined turkey will take on the flavor of the beer selected. This opens a variety of flavors for the turkey.

  • 3 bottles of beer
  • 14 ounces of salt
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 3 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 gallon ice water
  1. In a large pot, mix together all of the ingredients, except the ice water. Stir over a medium heat until the sugar is dissolved.
  2. Bring the mixture to a low boil and then allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat.
  3. Add the ice water and allow to cool.
  4. Either add the turkey to the pot or place the mixture, along with the turkey in a marinating bag. Place in the refrigerator and allow to brine overnight.
  5. Prepare the turkey according to the method of choice.

Apple Brined Turkey

The apples and cinnamon impart a fall flavor to the meat of the turkey.

  • 8 cups of apple cider
  • 1 pound brown sugar
  • 1 cup of Kosher salt
  • 12 cups cold water
  • 2 cups orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 15 whole cloves
  • 6 large bay leaves
  • 3 tablespoons garlic, crushed
  1. Combine the apple cider, brown sugar and salt in a large saucepan.
  2. Bring the mixture to a boil. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and boil for one minute. Remove the mixture from the heat and allow to cook.
  3. In a large container or marinating bag, combine the rest of the ingredients with the brine mixture. Add the turkey.
  4. Refrigerate for 24 hours.
  5. Discard the brine and cook the turkey according to the preferred method.

Drunken Citrus Brined Turkey

The tequila and citrus fruit in this brine bring a caribbean flair to the Thanksgiving table.

  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 1 orange, sliced
  • 2 limes, sliced
  • 1 medium onion, cut into wedges
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon thyme
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 2 cups tequila
  • 1 ½ gallons cold water
  1. Rinse the turkey inside and out. Pat dry with paper towels.
  2. Rub salt on the turkey, inside and out.
  3. Place the remaining ingredients, along with the turkey, in a marinating bag or in a large pot.
  4. Place in the refrigerator overnight.
  5. Discard the brine and prepare the turkey according to the preferred method.

Marinades

Using a marinade to flavor a turkey can open up an array of seasonings and taste profiles and it is not as difficult as it sounds. Marinades are acid based and do not take as long to flavor the meat as a brine does. All marinades are made up of three basic ingredients: acid, oil and herbs. The marinade flavors the meat by penetrating the surface of the flesh. Like a brine, a turkey that has been in a marinade can be prepared in any manner.

Maple Marinated Turkey

This is a sweet marinade that soaks into the turkey. If the turkey is wrapped in bacon and basted with the maple marinade while cooking, the flavors really come through.

  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • 1 ¾ cup maple syrup
  • 1 ½ cup olive oil
  • 12 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Mix together all of the ingredients in a large pot or in a marinade bag.
  2. Add the turkey and refrigerate overnight or for at least 3 hours.
  3. Prepare the turkey according to the preferred method.

Hawaiian Marinade

Looking to the islands to flavor a Thanksgiving turkey may seem unusual. However, it really opens up otions for the table and works really well for large family gatherings where ham is also being served.

  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup pineapple juice
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 4 tablespoons garlic, minced
  • 1 ½ cup onion, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ginger
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Mix together all of the ingredients in a large pot or in a marinade bag.
  2. Add the turkey and refrigerate overnight or for at least four hours.
  3. Prepare the turkey according to the preferred method. For additional flavoring, place pieces of oranges and pineapples in the cavity of the bird while it is cooking.

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