A Conscious Feast by Nicole Aloni

The Conscious Food Chain: Recipes. News. Travel.

To Brine or Not to Brine? the Turkey Conundrum.

November 18th, 2010  |  Published in Entertaining, Events and Occasions, Recipes, Turkey Recipes

Grilled and brined bird ready for the table, photo Nicole

A Recipe for Brining and Grilling Your Turkey

Brining has been a trendy way to prepare the Thanksgiving turkey (and lots of other things) for at least a decade. And still I couldn’t bring myself to risk desecrating this most traditional of meals with some faddish method. (Keep in mind, I was the last person I know to get a microwave or Cusinart —and now I can’t live without either.)

Finally the weight of fabulous cooks who had voted pro-brining overcame my luddite tendencies.  And as long as I was going crazy with Grandma Morgan’s turkey, I thought I’d try the other technique that had piqued my interest—cooking it on the grill.  In for a dollar, in for a drumstick.

So how did it turn out?

Bottom line, the sweet/salty/herbaceous brining definitely makes for a moister bird (which is especially helpful on the grill). By the way, you could use these same brining techniques to prepare a bird to be cooked with a standard oven method. Brining will make that turkey moister, too.

And not only does your grill turn out a perfect crisply-tender turkey, but using the BBQ for the bird frees up the kitchen for the rest of your preparations. Bonus.

I recommend you try one or both of these methods chez vous for next Thursday’s eat-o-rama.

EASE OF PREPARATION: an investment

BEVERAGE TO ACCOMPANY: Syrah or Sauvignon Blanc

Serves 8 to 10


  • 2 gallons cold water
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 oranges, quartered
  • 1 small bunch fresh thyme or sage
  • 1 (10 to 12-pound) turkey, defrosted
  • Olive oil
  • 4 bay leaves
  • Prepare the brine

    In a large stockpot or clean plastic bucket, dissolve the salt and sugar in the water and add the oranges and herbs.

    To brine the turkey

    turkey submerged in brine bath, photo Nicole

    Remove all giblets, neck, etc. from cavity of the turkey, rinse and pat dry. Submerge the turkey in the brine for at least 12 and up to 24 hours in the refrigerator.
    If you do not have a stockpot or clean plastic bucket that is large enough to hold the turkey, you can enclose the turkey and brine in a heavy-duty plastic garbage bag. Carefully squeeze out the extra air and put this bag into another trash bag for safety. Refrigerate (or put in an ice chest with ice).

    To grill the turkey

    placing trukey for indirect cooking over drip pan

  • Prepare grill for indirect cooking at 350°. For gas grills, that means you will only turn on one of two burners, or the front and the back if you have three. For a charcoal grill, that means building the fire on both sides and leaving the center open.
  • Place an aluminum or metal roasting pan under the turkey (where there is no flame). Add water or stock to the pan to add moisture to the roasting (don’t let this go dry).
  • Before grilling, rinse the turkey well and pat dry. Sprinkle with pepper inside and out. Put bay leaves into the cavity. Tuck the wings under the neck and truss the legs together. Brush liberally with olive oil.
  • Place the prepared turkey on the grill over the pan, close the cover.
  • Baste the bird with wine or stock and check the drip pan about every 30 minutes. Cover the bird with foil if it begins to over-brown.
  • Cook until the bird reaches an internal temperature of 175° measured in the thickest part of the thigh (about 13 minutes per pound). Discard the liquid in the drip pan. Let rest for 15 minutes before carving.
  • turkey ready to come off grill, photo Nicole

If you want to try a more classic turkey, my recipe for Maple Glazed Turkey (via Grandma Morgan) is also wonderful. And this posting includes information for finding organic and heritage turkeys.

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