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Dry Brining Turkey


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Russ Parsons refers to it as Judy-ing in honor of Zuni Café's chef, and wrote an article on the technique last year. (The nice folks at the Salt Institute gave me a copy when I stopped in for a chat, following Parsons' latest salt roasting article.) This year, the LA Times says they've developed a couple of minor refinements to the Judy-ing technique to improve browning.

BTW, not that anyone here would ever disdain the advice of our federal government, but USDA finally came around to their senses a little last year and lowered the recommended safe temperature from 180F to a slightly more reasonable 165F. In case you need a debating point with that anal-retentive aunt who insists on doing things by the book :blink:

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Let's be clear on two things before "brined turkey" loses all meaning.

First, no matter what you do to a turkey, it's still a turkey and thus tastes horrid. Think how ofen you eat turkey versus how often you eat chicken, beef or pork. That's how bad turkey is. :blink:

Second -- and as a person who loves words and loathes turkey -- you cannot "dry brine." The process of brining necessarily involves liquids. In addition to making the poultry taste like chemically-treated protein food, brining draws liquid into the bird's cells, thus making it moister after cooking and, sadly, giving it the texture of a playground kickball.

Judy-ing is, in critical ways, a vastly different and vastly more rewarding approach to poultry prep. But it still won't make a turkey taste good.

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Washington Post article on dry vs. wet brining: click

The straw man fallacy rears its ugly head. The dry salting technique that WaPo's Benwick uses is not the one Parsons describes. Parsons salts only the exterior of the bird, while Benwick works the salt between skin and meat...and then complains about uneven salt distribution. At some point she does prepare a bird with only the exterior salted, and then dismisses it because it encourages people to eat the resulting crispy skin. I don't have an opinion one way or the other, but if you're going to draw a conclusion about two popular techniques, at least apply a little scientific rigor!

Although, her twist calls to mind the Peking duck technique of blowing the skin away from the meat so the fat will run out. There's much less fat on a turkey; I wonder if there's a way to adapt this so the fat melts its way around to the breast?

BTW, I'm with Waitman on the matter of nomenclature. "Dry brining" is an oxymoron.

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Come 'round the Waitman Household Turkey Day -- we'll be having cassoulet. And the only foul involved in the prep will have quacked, not gobbled. (Turkey confit...ewwwwwww).

Oh, murder most fowl, eh? You and the Mrs. ought to swing by my place on T-day and have a taste of the turkey that I make-- herb brined and smoked in the Weber kettle. With a gravy enhanced with the lightly smoky contents of the steam/drip pan that is filled with white wine and aromatics during the cooking. You'll be whistling another tune about turkey, I promise you.

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A brine is water with a high concentration of salt. If there's no water, then it's not a brine. It's "salting." "Dry brining" is a namby-pamby euphemism most likely made up by a marketing focus group to make it sound healthier.

I'll be trying Saveur's apple-scented roast turkey with cider-calvados gravy with a heritage bird from Eco-Friendly, and hoping it's not too barf-inducing. :blink: Here's the method:

A day before serving, brine the 10–12-lb. turkey, calculating 1 hour of brining for each pound. In a large plastic brining bag or stockpot, combine 1 cup kosher salt, 1⁄3 packed cup dark brown sugar, and 1⁄3 cup ground ancho chile powder. Put 2 cups fresh apple cider, 35 cloves garlic, and 4 unpeeled, cored, and coarsely chopped granny smith apples into a food processor and purée. Add purée to the brining bag along with 6 cups apple cider and 4 quarts cold water. Whisk to dissolve the salt and sugar.
I am thinking of making a paste, rather than immersing it in liquid.
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