9011 Manchester Road
St. Louis, MO 63144
Ph: 314-862-COOK (2665)
Store Hours
Mon-Sat 9:30 am to 5:30 pm
Sun 12 to 5 pm

Ask The Chef

Click Here to submit your questions.

Food scientist Harold McGee confessed yesterday in the New York Times that he does not brine his turkey. Neither do I. His complaint with brining is that the turkey drippings are too salty and tasteless for making a delicious pan sauce — and the gravy is the crucial component. I do not brine turkey because I find it an unnecessary step. I tried brining, but the result was ho-hum. If you do not overcook the turkey, there is no reason to brine. Some cooks argue that if the turkey was frozen, brining is an essential step.

Here is how I roast a turkey: Buy a fresh, never frozen bird (which is harder than it sounds, because supermarkets sell “fresh turkeys” that have been kept at 24 degrees). I have ordered a turkey from a local farm. Season the turkey with salt and pepper. Rub softened butter between the skin and the breast meat. Insert a probe thermometer into the deepest part of the breast meat, but do not touch the bone. Let the turkey come to room temperature (about 5-6 hours). I like to stuff the turkey and tie the legs together. Place the turkey in a v-rack in a roasting pan. Place pieces of aromatic vegetables in the pan (onion, celery, carrot). Cook the turkey for one hour at 400 degrees. Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees and cook until the thermometer reaches 150 degrees, about 2 more hours. Remove the turkey and — using a turkey lifter — move the turkey to the carving board and let rest for 30 minutes before carving. I do not cover the turkey because I want the skin to stay crispy.

Meanwhile, make the gravy. Strain the liquid in the roasting pan and pour into a gravy separator. Place the roasting pan on the stove on medium heat. Add a few tablespoons of the fat from the turkey. Whisk in several tablespoons of flour and cook until light brown. Deglaze the pan with a 1/2 cup of wine or dry marsala or bourbon. Let the liquid reduce by half. Pour in the liquid from the gravy separator (but do not add any more fat). Bring to a boil and turn down to simmer. Taste and adjust the seasoning. If desired, add more turkey stock or some heavy cream. Or chop up the turkey liver and add to the gravy for giblet gravy.

3 Comments for “To Brine or Not To Brine”  

  1. PTD

    I agree that brining most heritage breeds isn’t necessary, but I like brining the broad-breasted whites because of the subtle flavorings that can be added via the brine. The problem of the salty pan drippings is significant, but for those of us who are really hard-core about Thanksgiving, the solution is obvious: cook a second Turkey!

  2. Kathryn

    I have brined poultry and I have never found that the drippings are too salty to make gravy.

  3. Anne

    For those of us who love salt, brined poultry drippings are not too salty! If you do find the gravy too salty, add heavy cream and turn it into a cream gravy.