A Solution to Dry Turkey and Chicken Just in Time for Christmas

Sometimes fiction hits a little close to home.

Remember that turkey in Christmas Vacation?  Chevy Chase cut it open and there was nothing left by dry crust and hot air.  I watched Chevy eating, laughing and crying.  I could really relate.

My mom tried her best.  Baking bags were big, big in the 80s.  Mom used them (even though I shudder at cooking food in plastic now) but they never seemed to work.  In my early teens, I discovered that I could eat her turkey if I got some while it was still warm enough to melt the butter I slathered over each slice just so I could get it down. Don’t get me wrong.  I love turkey.  I was just so…well…dry.

Years later I learned about brining from the fabulous book Charcuterie (We use that recipe below).

I’d heard of it before and always thought it was something only fancy chefs do.  So maybe this is your chance.  No more a cook – let’s be chefs this Christmas!

As a matter of fact, this brine recipe is so good that we decided to forgo turkey altogether last year and spotlight chicken as the main protein at our big family Christmas dinner.  The bones were literally picked clean – and very easily too – the meat was so juicy and tender!

Ok, so here’s what you do.  If you’re going to use this for Christmas, you want the turkey or chicken(s) thawed by Sunday morning. 

If they’re frozen, pull them out tonight.  No problem if they’re finished thawing Saturday.  They’ll be fine in the fridge overnight.

For dinner Christmas Day, sometime Sunday put together the following…

One Gallon Water

1 Cup Kosher Salt

1/2 Cup Sugar ( You can cut this down, of course)

1 Bunch Fresh Tarragon (In Kroger you’ll find this near veggies)

1 Bunch Fresh Parsley

2 Bay Leaves

1 Head Garlic, halved horizontally

1 Onion, sliced

3 tbsp pepper (peppercorns crushed, if you like)

2 Lemons, halved

Your bird of choice

1. Combine all brine ingredients in a pot large enough to hold your bird.  Give the lemon halves a good squeeze as you add them in.  Place on high heat and bring to simmer, stirring to dissolve salt and sugar.  Remove from heat and let cool to room temp. Refrigerate brine til chilled.

2. Add chicken or turkey to brine.  Weigh it down with a plate or something clean and big enough to keep it submerged.  Place in fridge for up to 24 hours (if it’s cold enough outside, we put the pot on the porch, covered with a lid that’s held down with a rubberband.

3. Remove bird from brine.  Rinse well and pat dry.  Place in fridge until dry and slightly tacky to touch.  This will be a few hours.

4. Preheat oven to 450.

5. Roast bird til it reaches internal temp of 160 degrees. Cavity juices will be clear when bird is done. Remove oven and let rest for 15 minutes before serving.

A few notes and tips…

  • Though this recipe calls for cooking your bird at 450, we cook our birds breast up, with a little ‘tent’ made out of aluminum foil.
  • Get your hubby to do this! One way I try to help the wifey out during Christmas is brining and cooking the bird for her.  Recently we brined and smoked two chickens on the grill.  If you have a Green Egg or something like it, you can smoke a chicken in an hour at 300 degrees.
  • Don’t be afraid! It is not uncommon for brined and smoked poultry to have a pink hue.
  • Do not fight over poultry.  It ruins holiday cheer.
  • Enjoy and Merry Christmas!

If you don’t have a chicken yet for Christmas, text us at 901.491.0183 and we’ll make sure you can easily transition from cook to chef this year.