Brining is commonly used in restaurants to turn out succulent poultry dishes. When turkey soaks in a brine, extra moisture makes its way into the meat -- even if it's slightly overcooked. While basic brine is just salt water, you can combine water with another liquid, or even replace it entirely. Orange juice is one option to impart a good deal of flavor. Brining is easy, with the most difficult part for a turkey probably being creating enough space in your refrigerator for the large container.
Fill a clean bucket or cooler with cold water and orange juice. Use whatever ratio you like; the more juice, the stronger the imparted flavor. You need enough liquid to completely submerse the turkey. For the most cost-effective yet tasty combination, use containers of thawed orange juice concentrate for 1/4 to 1/2 of the liquid.
Stir in approximately 1 1/2 cups of kosher salt per gallon of liquid with a large cooking spoon until it's dissolved. If you have crystal kosher salt, it weighs less by volume, so use more -- about 2 cups per gallon of water and orange juice. Table salt works if it doesn't have added iodine. It weighs more than the other salts by volume, so use around 1 cup per gallon. Precise measurements aren't essential, but much less salt won't be effective and much more makes the turkey too salty.
Sweeten the brine to offset some of the saltiness. Honey, brown sugar or molasses complement the orange juice flavor well, though you can use granulated sugar as well. Add in about 1/2 cup of sweetener per gallon of liquid. Again, the exact measurement isn't too important, but the more sweetener you add, the sweeter the turkey turns out.
Season the orange juice brine if you want to add more depth of flavor to it and the turkey. Possible complementary additions include black pepper, clove, bay leaves, garlic, thyme or dill. Give everything a final stir and place the turkey in the brine.
Refrigerate the turkey in the brine for about 24 hours. Never leave it out at room temperature to soak. Poultry and meat must stay below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and should never remain out at room temperature for more than two hours, or for more than one hour if the temperature exceeds 90 F. When you're ready to cook, remove the turkey from the brine and blot it dry with paper towels. Pour the brine down the drain.
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Eric Mohrman is a food and drink, travel, and lifestyle writer living with his family in Orlando, Florida. He has professional experience to complement his love of cooking and eating, having worked for 10 years both front- and back-of-house in casual and fine dining restaurants. He has written print and web pieces on food and drink topics for Orlando Style Magazine, CrushBrew Magazine, Agent Magazine, Dollar Stretcher Magazine, The 863 Magazine and other publications.
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