FOOD & DRINK
11/20/2015 03:50 pm ET Updated Oct 12, 2017

Should You Brine Your Turkey Or Not?

Here's how to know for sure.
badmanproduction via Getty Images

The standard turkey can be a tough bird to crack.

At face value, it's a dry, bland, huge thing to cook -- getting one to come out of the oven with all of its white and dark meat evenly roasted, juicy and flavorful is a lot harder than it sounds.

That's why many people rely on brining, or soaking meat in a mix of salted water

Here's why: When a turkey is heated, the moisture in its meat is "flexed" out, according to Serious Eats. "Just like squeezing a tube of toothpaste, this causes juices to be forced out of the bird. Heat them to [not] much above 150 degrees Fahrenheit or so, and you end up with dry, stringy meat," they explain.

The Washington Post via Getty Images

The salt in the brine, therefore, will dissolve some of the proteins responsible for this flexing, which not only allows the muscles to absorb the brine, but release less of it when cooked.

The idea is that brining helps make a turkey super juicy and extra flavorful.

"If you can brine, you should," celebrity chef Josh Capon told HuffPost. "It's a big bird and [brining] will add some moisture and flavor in the meat," he said, adding that "you’ll be much more successful brining a fresh turkey, because when you thaw a turkey there’s so much moisture involved."

Once you get your water and salt, you can mix up many ingredients: sugar, honey, orange juice and herbs all "go a long way," Capon said. "If you can brine the bird, you're one-hundred-percent sure going to have a more moist, tastier bird at the end."

But not all foodies are brine believers.

The New York Times food writer Harold McGee says he doesn't brine, because "the collateral damage it does outweighs its advantages. Brining makes it harder to get a crisp skin (the skin retains water too), leaves the cooking juices too salty to use for sauce or gravy, and gives the breast meat the texture of deli turkey breast rather than roasted turkey breast, bouncy like a brine-cured ham."

Bon Appetit says all you have to do is rub salt on it the night before, a sort of "dry brine."

And BuzzFeed found in a blind taste test that a "dry-brined" turkey far outranked a traditionally brined bird.

While we won't choose for you, we put together some pros and cons to help you work it out.

The Huffington Post

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