Start Cooking Thanksgiving Now: The Case For the Four-Day Brine

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Most of us are stressed about having to get things organized the day before Turkey Day, or just getting up early that morning. Well, here’s something that’s really going to put a wrench in the works. “You have to start the Sunday before,” Weber Grill Master Kevin Kolman told us recently.

To be fair, you don’t need to make the mashed potatoes yet. What Kolman is actually referring to is the process of brining the bird, a step generally recommended to begin the day before, or maybe two days max. “That’s not wrong,” said Kolman, “everyone has their way of doing it.” But he and some colleagues at Ohio State, where he is a guest lecturer in the Bar-B-Que Sciences course (yes, it’s real), have found that four days is the perfect amount of time to allow the salt to penetrate the bird and “keep the turkey in equilibrium.” According to Kolman, it will make the meat “way more tender, add more moisture and more flavor.”

The hardest part is finding the right ratio of salt — and keeping the bird cool for that length of time. For the salt, Kolman recommends putting a food-grade bucket large enough to accommodate the turkey on a scale, zeroing out the weight and then putting in the bird and filling it with water until the turkey is submerged. 

Next, remove the turkey and add the weight of the water to 1/2 the weight of the bird (this accounts for meat only, not bones). Your salt is 1.75 percent of this total. If you take this total and multiply it by 1.75, you will get the weight of the salt you need to add back to the water. (In other words, if the total was 100 pounds, you would need 1.75 pounds of salt; or 1 pound, 12 oz.) Then just soak the bird in the brine for four days — making sure it is either in the refrigerator or outside in colder climes — and blot it dry (or air dry it in the fridge an additional day). 

Next? Just cook it. Kolman, of course, has a preferred method there too: Salt, pepper, and olive oil, rub; 300-degree grill or oven; breast-side down. Easy, right?