Here's Where Chefs Stand in the Great Brining Debate
Ah, the age-old Thanksgiving question of whether or not to brine. We wish we had a definitive answer, but, unfortunately, speaking with some of the country's top chefs has left us feeling even more confused. While Bobby Flay is adamantly opposed to the practice, Stephanie Izard says the pre-roasting, salt-water bath is non-negotiable. Our heads hurt.
Before deciding for yourself, take a moment to read what chefs told us when we asked them the question: Is brining worth it?
Bobby Flay: Don't Bother
"Brining scares me. Sometimes when you brine a turkey, it gets waterlogged, and it gets a weird texture to it, almost like a rubbery texture. I just think that if you cook the turkey slowly, you’re going to get a delicious turkey. People brine beause they think it’s going to make it moister. Also, where are you going to brine your turkey? People put it in their bath tubs. I literally just take the turkey and kick it in the oven. I put some vegetables around it, salt and pepper, chicken stock at the bottom and some butter on top."
Rocco DiSpirito: It's (Mostly) Not Worth It
"If you’re going to get a Butterball, you don’t need to brine because there is already so much fat. If you’re getting a wild turkey, a brine might be a good idea, but otherwise brining is not worth it. It's risky. If you aren’t familiar with brining you will probably over-season it, and then you wasted all that time. For the average home cook, it's too risky. If you’re a turkey stud, who has done it hundreds of times, brining will give you a juicier turkey, but it’s not necessary at all."
Michael Schulson: Brine If You're Deep-Frying
"I do brine. Last year we deep-fried the turkey. The key for deep-frying is to brine it. You have to brine it because anything you put on the outside is going to fall off and burn."
Stephanie Izard: It's Essential
"This is an important step in making a turkey nice and moist. What it’s going to do is put in a lot of flavor while it’s sitting in the brine and make sure the moisture gets trapped in while it’s roasting, so it’s not going to release all its juices and become really dry."
Billy Alin: Go for the Dry Brine
"It's like a barbecue brine, a dry rub. If you salt the outside of a piece of meat right before you cook it, it will taste salty, but if you season it ahead of time, the salt has time to penetrate the meat and season it all the way through."
Ken Oringer: It Adds Flavor
"Brining introduces flavor that penetrates to the bone. And, because brining adds moisture, the turkey can handle high heat."