Should I Brine Kosher Turkey?

The soaking and salting process of koshering meat has an effect on meat that is similar to brining. This is why kosher meat is so juicy and delicious!  It’s also why it can be salty (extra rinsing can help remove some of the salt if needed). We generally advise against brining since you don’t want to add much more salt to the meat. However, since brining can also impart other delightful flavors, we understand the kosher cook’s interest in trying it out.

We recommend using a brine that is no more than 5% salt – and less if you’re sensitive to salty meat.  To calculate the % of a brine, divide the weight of the salt (in g) by the weight of the water (in g).  For instance:

  • ¼ cup kosher salt = 62g
  • 1 qt water = 946g

A brine made with 1/2cup salt and 2 Qts water would be 6.5% — that is: (62×2)/(946×2)  (ie, too salty!)

A brine made with ½ cup salt and 3 Qts water would be 4.3% — That is: (62×2)/(946×3)

 

When calculating the weight of your salt, remember that different kinds of salts have different densities.  This weight is for Morton’s Kosher Salt — if you’re using something else, get it on your kitchen scale and measure by weight, not volume, to ensure you get the right ratios.

The pros have weighed in on the question of brining, which we find pretty reasonable.  Here is advice from Joan Nathan and Chef Moshe Wendel (Pardes Restaurant) as reported by Leah Koenig:

Joan Nathan wrote in Tablet last Thanksgiving that “most kosher turkeys are not as salty as they used to be,” which is why she chooses to brine her kosher bird anyway. Nathan uses “salt with equal amounts of brown sugar, as well as thyme and apple cider.”

[Chef Moshe] Wendel agrees. “Brining is about more than making your meat juicy; it’s about making it taste good,” he said. His brine includes aromatics like rosemary and juniper, which add depth of flavor to the finished bird. Before making the final “to brine or not to brine” decision, Wendel suggests cutting off and frying a small piece of turkey skin. Taste it: If it’s super salty, don’t brine it. If not, then go for it. Non-briners can add moisture and zest to their birds by rubbing them under the skin with olive oil and chopped fresh herbs.
Full article: To Brine or Not To Brine, Leah Koenig, TabletMag November 2012.
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