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Turkey Brining - Whole and Crowns

Asked by LRJ. Answered on 20th December 2010

Full question

Hi, Last Christmas you had a recipe for an overnight brine bath for a turkey. I can't seem to find the recipe. Are you able to post this again please? Regards, Lynne

I'm making christmas dinner this week for my girlfriends and we love to try something new. Just been reading nigella's recipie and wondering if I'd be wasting my time doing this with a turkey crown?? There's only five of us eating so I tend to just buy a croan to minimise on waste and nobody's fussed for legs. Also could you possibly suggest nigella's most indulgent ideas for canapes/starter and dessert....I am really struggling to choose a dessert they all sound so tempting!!!!!!!!!!!! Auntyshell

Our answer

Brining is a wonderful way of tenderizing your turkey and ensuring a juicy roast, even after a long spell in the oven. The salt in the brining solution breaks down some of the proteins in the turkey, allowing water to enter the cells. When the meat or poultry are cooked the proteins contract, forcing out water, but as there is extra water from the brining process then the cooked turkey will be more juicy. Brine is a base of salty and water, with added flavourings and sometimes sugar or a fruit juice. Nigella has a spiced brine in Christmas (p115) which includes fresh orange, bouquet garni, caraway, cloves, allspice, star anise, maple syrup and honey.

A whole turkey can be brined for up to 2 days. For a turkey breast crown the cooking time is a lot shorter so there is less risk of the meat drying out but it will still benefit from a short soak. You will only need about half of the brining solution and the breast should only be brined for 5 to 6 hours. This can be done the day before and you can remove the turkey from the brine, pat it dry with kitchen paper (paper towels) and leave it covered in the fridge until the big day. Make sure that your turkey (whole or crown) is kept very cold during the soaking period.

As brine contains salt you do not need to season your brined turkey with salt before cooking. Also be slightly wary if wanting to use the pan juices in your gravy as they can be quite salty. Deglaze the pan with water and taste the resulting liquid before using it for gravy, to see if it is suitable to use. However, Nigella's Allspice Gravy (p118)does not need to use the roasting pan juices and is still delicious.

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