Can You Brine a Butterball Turkey? And Related Questions

You’ve purchased your Butterball turkey and it’s ready to be prepped for the upcoming meal. A few friends have recommended brining the bird beforehand, and you’re interested in giving it a shot. But can you brine a Butterball turkey? And if not, why?

Can You Brine a Butterball Turkey?

You can brine a Butterball turkey, but it’s not necessary with this brand. The birds are already treated with a brine solution before packaging. If you do decide to take this step, cut down on the amount of salt that you use in the brine.

Brining 101

Soaking meat in a saltwater solution can be a great way to improve the flavor and moisture content of your meat. Let’s talk about how this works.

Since a typical brine contains a great deal of salt, it’s obvious that the method would impart flavor. But how does it help the meat retain moisture?

Salt has the effect of denaturing the protein strands that are naturally present in meat. The process is similar to the effects of acid or heat: the strands become unwound, which causes them to tangle together. The tangled strands form a sort of cage that traps in moisture, making brined meats that much juicier.

A turkey that’s been exposed to brine for 12 hours will be slightly heavier than its non-brined counterparts, even if their weights were identical to begin with. On average, the weight increase is around 3/4 pound before cooking. After the turkey is roasted, a brined bird might weigh 6 to 8 ounces more than the one that skipped the saltwater bath.

What Ingredients To Use

Salt and water are the base ingredients for every good brine. Kosher salt is preferable to table salt, but you can use the latter if you adjust the quantity. The smaller crystals mean that table salt is more concentrated, which could lead to an overly salty brine. Use about half as much table salt as you would kosher salt when making a brine.

The ratio of salt to water may vary depending on how long you plan to brine the meat. For shorter brining periods of 4 to 6 hours, use a higher concentration of salt. 1 cup of kosher salt for every gallon of water is a good rule of thumb. When brining the meat for longer periods, use 1/2 cup of kosher salt per gallon of water.

You can add other ingredients to the brine, such as fresh herbs, aromatic vegetables, and garlic cloves. For a sweeter flavor profile, try using brown sugar or apple juice. The sugar will also help to crisp up the turkey’s skin, making for a gorgeous presentation.

Can You Brine a Butterball Turkey?

Butterball turkeys are treated with a solution that includes water, salt, spices, and “natural flavor.” If this sounds familiar, that’s because the solution is essentially a brine in and of itself.

This solution can make up as much as 8 percent of the total weight of the average Butterball turkey. That’s why many pros recommend skipping the brine when working with this brand—or any other turkey that’s been pre-brined in this manner.

Companies take this step to help extend the turkey’s shelf life and provide a flavor boost into the bargain. If you’ve purchased a Butterball or another pre-brined bird, there’s no need to brine it. That said, the step won’t do any harm, as long as you cut back on the amount of salt that you use.

How Long To Brine a Butterball Turkey

Butterball recommends brining their turkeys for 45 to 60 minutes per pound. So if your turkey weighs 12 pounds, you should plan on leaving it in the brine for 9 to 12 hours.

As we mentioned, you should decrease the amount of salt in the brine if the turkey has already been treated with a salt solution. Use 3/4 cup of kosher salt per gallon for shorter brining periods, or 6 tablespoons per gallon if you’re planning on brining the turkey for any longer than 6 hours.

Can You Brine a Turkey for Deep-Frying?

It’s permissible to brine a turkey if you’re planning on deep-frying it. However, make sure to dry the bird thoroughly before adding it to the hot oil. Otherwise, the oil will boil over when you put in the turkey, which could result in serious injury.

Brining a Butterball Turkey: A Step-By-Step Guide

Ingredients

  • 1 gallon water
  • 3/4 cups kosher salt or 6 tablespoons table salt
  • 4 tablespoons cracked black peppercorns
  • 6 whole garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 8 bay leaves
  • 6 sprigs fresh sage
  • 6 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 6 sprigs fresh parsley
  • 2 medium yellow onions, halved
  • 1 gallon ice water
  • 1 Butterball turkey, thawed (preferably 12-20 pounds)

Directions

1. Bring 1 gallon of water to a boil in a large stockpot.

2. Add all of the remaining brine ingredients except for the ice water. Return to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring, until the salt is dissolved.

3. Pour the ice water into a clean container large enough to comfortably fit the turkey and brine. Make sure the turkey has enough room to fully submerge without spilling any of the brine.

4. Pour the brine mixture over the ice water and mix well.

5. Use an instant-read thermometer to check the temperature of the brine. It needs to be chilled to 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below in order to safely add the turkey. If it’s too warm, add a few more ice cubes until it reaches the correct temperature.

6. If you haven’t already done so, remove the turkey neck and giblets from the bird’s inner cavity. If desired, you can also take off the plastic “hock lock” that holds the legs together (note that not all Butterball turkeys will have this device). Rinse and pat the meat dry with paper towels.

7. Carefully add the turkey to the brine with the breast side facing down. Cover and refrigerate for 45 to 60 minutes per pound.

8. When you’re ready to start cooking, remove the turkey from the brine. Rinse well inside and out and pat dry with paper towels.

9. Follow your recipe’s instructions for roasting or grilling the turkey. We don’t recommend stuffing brined turkeys, as the stuffing might turn out too salty as a result. Instead, cook the stuffing in a buttered casserole dish while the bird rests.

Final Thoughts

Although you don’t need to brine a Butterball turkey before cooking it, you certainly can if you’d like. The meat should be juicy and flavorful no matter what. Just be careful not to use too much salt in the brine, and be judicious with the other seasonings when making the stuffing and gravy.

Best of luck, and happy grilling!

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