Thanksgiving: Have a better turkey
11/20/2012 09:36PM ● Published by Curt Guillory
Cook a turkey this year that everyone will love. Image by wikicommons
Brining is all the rage this Thanksgiving, and while I have no doubt that it works, there are some considerations to take into account which makes injecting the way to go.
To brine or not to brine
Let’s take a quick look at what brining is first. Brining is nothing more than submerging a meat in a saline solution. Of course the recipes for the brining solutions stretch far and wide, but it is a reliable way to introduce additional moisture and flavor into meats.
Nerd alert! Nerd alert! The following section gets a little technical. Please feel free to skip ahead if you’re not interested. Brining works because of something called osmosis. That is the process in which a liquids and/or solids balance their pressures by displacing one another until a uniform pressure is reached.
So in the case of a turkey, the water permeates the muscle tissue in an attempt to equalize the pressure. Salt breaks down, or softens, the water’s surface tension allowing the water to get into smaller spaces. The salt also acts as a preservative and flavoring agent.
While brining is all well and good there are a few things to think about. First is storage. Brining a turkey required a very large pot at best, or a very large, very thick, plastic bag at least and the whole thing must be kept refrigerated. I don’t know about you, but my refrigerator is stuffed to the edges of the shelves right now. There is no way I have the room to accommodate a huge pot full of turkey and salt water.
Secondly, brining takes a long time. Unless you are willing to commit at least two days to this process don’t even bother, and up to five days is optimal. You see while the saline solution does its magic all by itself, it’s not quick about it.
One more consideration is that the flavor of the brine will not get into all of the meat tissue, at least not in 3-5 days.
The injection connection
There is a supremely better way to bring flavor to every part of the turkey…injecting. Injecting is nothing new to South Louisiana. The good folks at Cajun Injector introduced a home injection kit over 20 years ago, but injecting has been around for much longer than that.
If you read the labels of some produced hams they will say “water added”. By law they have to disclose that. Well how do you think they get that water in there? That’s right either by injecting or pressure brining which is essentially the same thing.
Injecting works by immediately introducing a flavored solution directly into the muscle tissue by way of a big ass syringe. Once there the solution just kind of sits around until the meat is cooked. Then once the natural liquids in the meat start to move around and work their way to the surface, they take the injecting liquid along for the ride.
This process disperses seasoning and flavor throughout the meat like brining could only hope to. What’s better is that you only need to inject the meat about one hour before cooking, and it takes up no more fridge space. Nice right?
To make or buy the injection liquid
Making your own injection liquid is pretty tricky stuff. You have all sorts of things to consider like viscosities, saline contents, seasoning proportions, etc. The truth is that there are companies that have nearly perfected the stuff for you. Cajun Injector, Louisiana Seasoning, and Tony Chachere’s are three of the most widely known and used brands. What’s more is some even have the syringe attached to the bottle.
So unless you are experienced in experimental cooking and recipe development skip making your own and just go buy some.
It’s as easy as this: inject, season the outside, roast (or fry) as normal, serve, and sit back and wait for the compliments.
Happy Thanksgiving from my family to yours. Stay safe and of course…