Free for All Friday: Guest Blog—Thanksgiving Feats and Failures

You remember my sister, Stacy, don’t you? If not, let me refresh your memory. She’s the girl who will surely sink straight to the bottom of the ocean if, heaven forbid, she ever fell in without a life vest (or two) securely attached to her body.

What could be Stacy's ultimate demise...

Well, my dear sister loves food as much as yours truly, so I asked her to guest blog about her crazy experience preparing last week’s Thanksgiving feast. She stayed in Colorado *tear* and made dinner for her fiance’s family. Here’s how it all went down:

Thanksgiving might be one of my favorite holidays ever, for several reasons.

  • One, it kicks off the holiday season and segues into my most favorite holiday: Christmas.
  • Two, it’s one of the few days of the year it’s truly acceptable to stuff yourself like a turkey (pun intended!!) and not feel guilty about it.
  • Three, it leaves you with incredibly delicious leftovers.
  • And finally, because I love to host.

This was my third year being the head chef for Thanksgiving dinner and having two under my belt gave me the courage to venture out and try something new this year: brining. I had only heard good things about it and wanted my turkey to be the most amazing turkey ever, so I decided it must be done.

For those of you that don’t know what brining is, there are two kinds, wet and dry. I chose the wet brine, which is really just a fancy way of saying soaking the turkey in water mixed with a LOT of salt and some spices. It is said to help your turkey retain its juices and make it SO moist you just can’t live without brining it the next year.

Being engaged sends me into stores like Bed Bath and Beyond and Crate and Barrel on a way too frequent basis. As I was browsing C&B one day I was delighted to discover they had a whole brining kit! And for the low price of $12.99! It was fate. I purchased the kit and counted down the days until I got to use that baby:

Brining made easy

Wednesday morning, the day before Thanksgiving, I had had my 12lb turkey thawing in the fridge for 3 days.  For the brine, I had to boil the mixture with 1 gallon of water and then let it cool and refrigerate completely before I can add the turkey.  No problem.  This fancy kit I purchased included a bag.

Fantastic.

I checked it out and it is HUGE but looks pretty sturdy.  I got my turkey all situated in the bag and poured the brine in, which pretty much just covers the bottom of the bag.  The instructions say if the brine doesn’t cover the turkey (I’m wondering what kind of turkey 1 gallon would cover) then fill the bag with cold water until the turkey is completely submerged.

Ok, I can do that.

I start filling the bag and quickly realize it’s going to take a lot more water. Soon after, I also realize the bag is not that sturdy. As more and more water goes in the weight kind of sloshed the water to one side.

Great.

So now, after each pour I have to steady the bag AND seal it while I got back for the next round

I am about to my last pour when suddenly the bag sloshes to the left and a solid amount of brine spews out covering, my counter, the crack/floor between my stove and counter, several appliances on the counter and a brand new bag of disposable gloves.

I actually let out a little squeal before frantically righting and sealing the bag and then running to my room to grab some towels.  I finish filling the bag and get started on cloroxing my now very infected kitchen.

Looks much less messy and more sanitary than it actually was...
*Note for anyone wanting to attempt this next year: it’s a two person job!
Once I was satisfied with my clean up efforts, I moved on to the more daunting task of moving the turkey back into the fridge. Now, not only do I have to move a 12lb turkey, I also have to move 5 or 6 gallons of liquid with it…in a bag that’s already done me wrong.

I managed to get a hand underneath the turkey and sort of hold the top closed like a sack and get it in without too much trouble.

Whoa, Nelly!

As you can see, it takes up an enormous amount of room in the fridge so it takes some preparation.

Fast forward to turkey day. Moving the turkey from the fridge to the sink and emptying the brine? Surprisingly not that bad.  I was feeling anxious because that very morning I was watching The Today Show and the famous Bobby Flay (narrative interruption! This is Melissa speaking and it should be known that my sister texted me quoting “Bonny Flag.” Gotta love autocorrect!) was on giving some last minute turkey tips. Brining was of course, brought up and Bobby basically said brining was for people that overcook their turkey.  My ego was a little bruised and I was determined to prove him wrong.

I would love to say that I did. (Hint: she didn’t) My final verdict is I can probably live without it, which was in itself disappointing because I was so very excited about it. When I was making the brine it smelled amazing, but I can’t say that I really tasted any of the flavors in the finished product. The turkey was definitely juicy and not dry but I didn’t feel that it was overly spectacular or juicy. One of my guests politely mentioned that she thought it tasted better and juicier than other turkeys she’d had…but I think she was just being nice.

Ok guys, how about you? Ever brined your turkey? Was it a feat or a failure? Did you taste the difference? Are you willing to try it out after Stacy’s experience?
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