How to Brine Turkey or Chicken

I am a lucky woman. My husband is the THE MAN in the kitchen. Tonight my belly is full of seafood gumbo, but that will have to wait for another post. Tonight I’m writing about the barbecued bird. Harper makes the BEST barbecued turkey and chicken. It is so juicy and tender and flavorful. It just can’t be beat. And even though I don’t have a picture of the finished product, I’m going to post his instructions on brining poultry so you can start planning your Christmas feast now. I will add pictures later when I have them or find some of the old ones on my hard drive. (The one below is from a few years ago when he barbecued an entire turkey instead of just the breast for our Thanksgiving dinner. He always starts the fire with charcoal but uses mesquite and pecan logs/limbs for the actual cooking time.)

For the last few years, Harper has barbecued turkey for the annual Thanksgiving meal at his parents’ house. This year, I asked Harper to buy an extra turkey breast for us to keep so we could have leftovers. Imagine my reaction when I saw that he had brought BOTH of them to share. He swore there would be leftovers–it was 12 pounds of turkey breast!

Needless to say, there were no leftovers from his turkey. Sometimes I hate being right.

It’s hard to complain tonight–my belly is still full of gumbo, after all. But my mouth is already watering at the thought of Christmas turkey…

Harper wrote these instructions at the request of one of his cousins-in-law after his barbecued turkey breasts were devoured at the annual Lange family Thanksgiving:

I like to buy young turkey breast that still has the bone in.  There
are several kinds, but I prefer to get one that does not have some
type of solution added.  If you like the legs, thighs, etc, this recipe
will definitely work with a whole turkey.  Obviously, some type of free
range turkey would be the best.

I like to brine all of my chicken or turkey – this is the very basic
recipe I use:
1 cup salt (just regular Morton salt)
1 cup sugar
1 gallon water

Heat the water with the salt and sugar until it is dissolved.  After it
is dissolved, I add ice so that the brine cools faster.  Add your turkey
and brine to some sort of container that will fit in the
refrigerator and store over night.  The turkey needs to be fully
submerged.  The turkeys that I did at Thanksgiving bathed for about 24

Remove the turkey from the brine and rinse thoroughly with cold water.
Pat the turkey dry.  At this point, you can put the turkey or chicken on
a rack and refrigerate it for another 24 hours – I have done this before
with chicken, but I did not do it with the Thanksgiving turkeys.  This
is supposed to help make the skin turn out crispier.  When I have done
it with chickens, I don’t really know if it made any difference at all.

After brining, rinsing, patting dry (and optional resting for 24 hours
in the refrigerator), I like to carefully pull the skin back from the
breast and apply seasoning.  I usually use a BBQ rub that I make that
has a lot of ground black and red pepper.  Some store bought rubs are
heavy in salt, so be careful with the salt!  It definitely helps to add
olive oil or softened butter to a turkey breast when applying the rub so
that it sticks, keeps it moist, and helps to seal in the flavors.  After
you season the breast, reapply the skin and season it also.  You can let
this sit for a bit or go straight to the pit.  The turkeys I did only
sat for about 1 hour with the bbq rub.

At this point you can follow the directions that come with your turkey
for cooking time.  I smoke mine (with mesquite and pecan wood), so it cooks
at a lower temperature for a longer time.  You can smoke it for a couple
of hours at around 200 degrees and then transfer it to a covered pan
with some chicken broth in the bottom and cook it the rest of the way.
I think they recommend cooking turkey to an internal temperature of 175
degrees, but remember if it is 175 when you take it out, the turkey will
carry over and overcook!  I never cook anything fully, knowing that it
will continue to cook.  After cooking, it is good to let it rest (I keep
it covered) for at least an hour.

Let me know if you try this and/or if you have any questions. I’ll pass them on to the man of the house.

Harper working the pit in July 2008


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One Response to How to Brine Turkey or Chicken

  1. Yum!!! I bet it’s slap your mama good. We did our turkey in the big green egg for Turkey Day and it was pretty phenomenal. God love the grill!

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