The Turkey: To Brine or Not to Brine?

November 22, 2011 | By | Comments (3)

Before we get started, I have to confess that I bought a turkey that is labeled “extra lean.” Was that a mistake?

This year my husband’s family is coming for Thanksgiving and I am making an entire menu from Real Simple’s November issue. Even the Brussels sprouts, which my husband really hates. (In a spectacular moment of loving-wife behavior, I am making green beans for him instead.) I am making turkey, scalloped potatoes, stuffing with sausage, the Brussels sprouts, the bourbon gravy (which I will make with white wine, as we are not really a bourbon household), the cranberry fig compote, and the herb biscuits. Really, I am being so true to the Real Simple brand this week that I might as well have a giant RS tattooed on my forehead.

Except for the brining. As the Real Simple food department knows—and much to their disappointment—I brine my turkey. I have been brining the turkey for the last 10 years, ever since I cut out a how-to from the New York Times. The little clipping got so covered with turkey grease and water over the years that it is now completely held together with tape. And yet I persist. Even though this behavior is not on-brand, because we are not a pro-brining magazine. But every year the results are pretty good and I am afraid to go back. My mother-in-law cooks her turkey with a cheesecloth over it and seems to baste it every 10 minutes. The results are delicious, but I just don’t think I have the enthusiasm for that.

Now back to my extra-lean turkey. In my store, next to the extra-lean turkeys (which were also, by the way, free range and had no antibiotics—I think these turkeys are healthier than my kids, but of course my kids are, um, still alive) were the kosher turkeys. They looked gorgeous and cost about as much as a new bike. So I did not spring for the kosher turkey, although my mother later told me that if I had, I would not have to brine.

So now I must decide: Do I stick with my tried-and-true method, or do I abandon brining in the name of Real Simple?