To brine or not to brine, that is the question.
In my experience brining adds a lot of moisture and flavor to a turkey. It also tends to cook faster because moisture carries the heat better.
The process is simple, but it does require more planning. You just can't decide to do it at the last minute. I work the time I need out backwards starting from the time I want to cook it.
So if I want to cook it on Saturday I plan it this way.
Fri: Rinse & Dry (optional)
Thur. wash & Brine
Mon: purchase by this day
The dry day could be reduced to a few hours before you cook it or skipped all together if you are in a hurry. We have a large walk in cooler where we let them dry over night and then put them in front of fans for an hour before we season and cook.
Drying helps make for a crisper skin.
The main ingredient in a brine is salt. The salt ratio is very important. I find about ½ cup of kosher salt to a gallon of liquid is about an average ratio. My recipe is about .6 cups of salt to a gallon or 3 cups of kosher salt to 5 gallons of liquid.
There is a lot of science behind what the salt does and how it works, but it basically permeates the meat drawing moisture into the meat as well as flavors.
However, it doesn't carry the actual spices into the bird only the liquid that is why you steep the aromatics to flavor the liquid better.
Here is our recipe.
Apple Cider Turkey Brine
½ gal Apple Cider
1 qt Water
¾ cup Kosher salt (not table salt)
1 lb Brown sugar
3 ea oranges split
1 Tab ground cloves
6 ea bay leaves ½ cup gran. garlic
5 sprig rosemary
5 sprig thyme
¼ cup smashed garlic
4 oz smashed ginger
½ gall ice water
Smash garlic and ginger, cut oranges and squeeze into the pot.
Add everything else except ice water.
Bring to a boil then cover and turn off to steep about 30 minutes.
Pour into an ice chest and add ice water. Don't use until temperature is below 40º
This is an older video that shows how to make the brine. It references some other older videos that aren't available anymore on our website but you can see them on my youtube channel.