Brining meat is one of the most divisive kitchen techniques out there. Some, like Alton Brown, famously swear by it; others claim that we're kind of stressing out over nothing. But if you don't want to risk a dry, flavorless bird at the holiday season, you're probably going to want to brine.
The only problem?
Most brining techniques take between 24 and 72 hours, and when you're trying to organize everything associated with your big holiday meal, from prepping dessert to getting your gratins in the oven to finding enough fridge space to hold everything until it's ready to serve, brining meat is one of those things you can kind of forget about until its too late.
Luckily, we've got a few ideas to make brining meat a snap.
1. A 3-Hour Brine
Michael Ruhlman's quick brining solution is a 3-hour brine. To make it work, though, you'll need to play with proportions. Ruhlman's ideal brine is a 5 percent brine -- 1 part salt for 20 parts liquid. With a 10 percent brine, you up the salt content, and you only use half as much water when making the brine (that's a 20 percent brine, for those of you following at home), adding the second half of the liquid in ice form to make the final 10 percent brine and allow the brine to cool faster.
As a result, the brine only takes about 15 minutes to make, and the meat brines in the solution for about two hours before being rinsed and rested an additional hour. At this point, the meat is ready to cook.
2. A 2-Hour Brine
If you don't even have three hours, you might opt for a dry brine which has another added benefit: it takes up less space in the fridge.
After all, while some just plain forget to brine, others opt out of the technique just because you need to find a vessel large enough to hold the meat and the brine that can also be kept in the fridge. With a dry brine, you just season the outside of the meat, and some experts, such as Serious Eats' J. Kenji Lopez, say that this choice is better for flavor as you don't end up with the spongy, waterlogged texture a brined bird can occasionally take on. Two hours is ideal for a dry brine to infuse your meat with flavor.
3. A 10-Minute Brine
Don't even have two hours? You can get fairly good results just by adding an extra 10 minutes to your prep time with this quick brining technique.
First, you'll have to butterfly the bird in question; this increases the surface area, decreasing both the cooking time and the necessary brining time. Next, add a dry brine, but place it underneath the skin to keep it close to the meat and allow it to penetrate more quickly.
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Roasted turkey image via Shutterstock