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26 April, 2012

Turkey Breast – Brined and Cooked to Perfection

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A few years ago I took a cooking class from Chef Kent at a local restaurant in town and learned how to cook a turkey breast that has been brined (I guess this isn’t a word but I’m not sure how else to say it).  Ever since that day I’ve only made these turkey breasts for my Thanksgiving Day dinners and my family loves it.  So much of the rest of  the bird went to waste anyway that I find this doesn’t cost me any more money.  Last night I cooked up a full breast ( two 6 pound halves) and it fed 23 of us and we still had some leftovers.  I find that on Thanksgiving menu there are so many other things to eat that one nice size slice of just breast meat is plenty for most people (I will say my 26 year old son has a lot more than that).

The reason you brine a bird is that salt changes the structure of the muscle tissues in the meat, allowing it to swell and absorb water and  flavorings.  It also breaks down the proteins, resulting in a tender turkey.  This means that despite the moisture loss during roasting and the long cooking time, the end result is a juicier bird.  Especially the breast meat. How many times have you been served dry, tough breast meat.  Two things, they didn’t brine the bird and second they typically overcook the meat.

To brine the bird you need a container that you can place the breast in and fully submerge it into water.  The ratio is one cup of kosher salt and one half cup sugar to one gallon of water.  So figure out how many gallons of water you will need to submerge the bird and then add the appropriate amount of salt and sugar.  Be sure to dissolve the salt and sugar before adding the bird.  Just immerse the turkey breast and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours.

When you are ready to roast, pour off the brine.  Rinse the turkey in cold water and pat dry with paper towels.  Proceed with your favorite recipe.  I just use unsalted melted butter (remember the bird has plenty of salt so anything you do shouldn’t add more salt) with some garlic paste.  Brush that all over the turkey breast and then add pepper.  Place in 350 degree over for 11 minutes per pound or until a meat thermometer registers 165 degrees.  Let the turkey set for at least 20 minutes before serving.  Slice it up and enjoy!

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