I almost always brine poultry and especially the cuts that contain mostly white meat like the turkey breast. Brining turns out birds that are a lot more awesome than they are without brining.
Brining in a nutshell is simply soaking meat, such as turkey, in a 6% salty solution for several hours. The salty solution is drawn deep into the meat fibers making it more flavorful and more moist. If you add flavors such as herbs, spices, juice, etc. to the brine, those flavors also end up inside the meat. It's easy to see how potentially beneficial and exciting this can be.
Below you will find the turkey brine recipe that I created for this Thanksgiving and I am using it on all of the turkey that I prepare this month.
Get the brine made up a day or two early so it can cool down in the fridge before you need to use it. You can always add ice but that dilutes it some.
- 3 quarts of water (approx.)
- 1 to 1.5 quarts of ice
- A couple of 4-inch sprigs of thyme
- A couple of 4-inch sprigs of rosemary
- 1 tablespoon of course ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon of red pepper flakes
- 8-10 garlic cloves smashed with the side of a knife to release lots of flavor.
- 1 cup of kosher salt
Add 1 quart of the water, the rosemary and thyme, black pepper, red pepper flakes and garlic into a medium sized pot. Cover the pot and bring it just to boiling and then turn off the heat. Let the ingredients steep in the water for 20-30 minutes before removing the cover. Put the “tea” in the fridge to cool down. I recommend giving it several hours at least but overnight is best.
If you procrastinated, don't worry.. I have your back. Simply pour the hot brine through a sieve into a gallon sized pitcher. Add about a quart of ice and stir the ice and brine mixture to cool it down.
Add more ice if you need to to cool it on down.
Finally, to the pre-cooled brine mixture, add enough cold water to bring it up to a gallon.. you should have a total of 1 gallon of liquid in the pitcher.
Add 1 cup of kosher salt to this liquid and stir gently for a minute or two until the salt is completely dissolved.
This, my friends, is your brine.
Note: if you want to make a simple brine with nothing extra, add 1 cup of kosher salt to 1 gallon of cold water and stir until the salt is dissolved. This will also do wonders for the juiciness of the turkey.. it just won't add anything other than a little bit of saltiness to the meat.
There's not a lot to do to these boneless wonders. Remove the outside packaging but leave them in the net they come in as this holds them in that football shape while they cook.
Place the netted turkey breasts into a large zip top bag and pour brine over them to cover.
Seal the bag and place it down in a larger bowl in case of leakage.
Brine the turkey in the fridge for about 4 hours.
When the brining is complete, rinse the turkey breasts under cold water and discard the brining liquid.
Once again, leave the nets in place around the turkey breasts.
Brush some cooking oil onto the turkey breasts and season liberally with Jeff's original rub (Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled rub).
Setup your smoker for cooking at 225-240°F with indirect heat. Fill the water pan if your smoker has one.
Make sure you have enough wood for 3-4 hours of smoke. I used apple wood for these but any good smoking wood will work great.
Let the smoker preheat for about 30 minutes and you are good to go.
Place the turkey on a Weber grill pan or a Bradley rack for easy transport to and from the smoker. You can also use an ordinary cooling rack for this.
Set the pan or rack on the smoker grate and close the door to let the cooking commence.
You can expect these boneless turkey breasts to take about 3.5 to 4 hours but time is not an indicator of when the turkey is done.
Remember that the only way to know if your turkey is both safe to eat and not overcooked is with an accurate digital thermometer.
I monitored the temperature of my smoker and the turkey breasts with the “Smoke” thermometer by Thermoworks and I have been so impressed with this new smoking gadget!
The main part of the unit stays outside by the smoker..
The receiver part of the unit goes around your neck, in your pocket or on the table next to where you are.
This is the best product that's come out in a long time for us smokers.. range is about 300 feet, big, easy to read numbers, batteries last 1800 hours, it lights up, it's splash proof and it's super easy to set the high and low alarms.
The best part is that it comes paired together from the factory so when you turn it on, it's immediately ready to go.
Get your hands on one of these and you'll see what I mean.. it looks and feels extremely tough. Check it out!
Turkey is safely done at 165°F however, as we've discussed before, turkey tends to keep cooking for several minutes after you remove it from the heat.
I usually figure on about 3 degrees of carryover cooking on these and to be on the conservative side of safe, I remove them from the heat at 162°F.
When the boneless turkey breast has reaches 162°F, remove it from the heat immediately and carry it into the house.
Tent a loose piece of foil over it and let it rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing. During this time, it will rise to 165°F and the juices inside will redistribute throughout the turkey.
When the rest time is finished, remove the netting with scissors or a sharp knife. Be careful so you don't disturb the rub crust on the outside more than is necessary.
Slice the boneless turkey breast into ½ inch pieces and serve.
Can you see how juicy that is?