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Space-Saving Brining Tips

Fine Cooking Issue 88

The hardest thing about brining a turkey is finding the space to store it in its brine. For her Thanksgiving menu, author Ris Lacoste likes to brine her turkey in a 5-gallon pot, but with your refrigerator stuffed full of food around Thanksgiving time, you might be challenged to fit a large pot in there as well. And if you don’t own such a large pot or bucket, you have a double conundrum. Here are a couple of alternative space-saving approaches to brining: 

Use roasting or brining bags

Brining the turkey in a jumbo plastic bag uses less space and less brine than a pot does. Look in kitchen shops for turkey brining bags (or order Grill Friends’ brining bag online for $7.99 at LaPrima Shops), and follow the instructions on the package. Or use the plastic turkey-cooking bags found in the plastic wrap and foil section of the supermarket. Just double up the bags (for leak protection) and add the turkey, breast side down. Put the bagged turkey in a roasting pan or bowl (again, for leak protection) and add enough brine to fill the inner bag about halfway up the turkey. Then tightly close the opening of each bag with a twist-tie, eliminating as much air as possible from the inner bag to force the brine to surround the turkey, and refrigerate.

Brine in a cooler

Using a clean cooler means the turkey won’t be in the fridge at all—nice if you’re really crunched for space. The challenge here is that you need to add ice to keep the turkey cold, but you don’t want the melting ice to dilute your brine too much. To offset the ice-melt, use 1/2 cup extra kosher salt in your brine. Make sure the brine is refrigerator-cold before pouring it over the turkey in the cooler. Add enough ice to submerge the turkey in brine—you’ll need 5 to 10 pounds, depending on the cooler. Store the cooler in the coldest location you can think of. If that happens to be outdoors, put it in a place where animals can’t get to it, like a screened porch or your car.

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