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In the Kitchen
How to roast the perfect turkey:
The secret’s in the soak

File photo: Kayleigh Van Vliet Baig

Editor’s note: Kayleigh, who is expecting a baby this month, is on family leave. We are reprinting some of our favorite “In the Kitchen” columns  while she is on leave. This one was originally published on Nov. 22, 2014. 

So have you heard that the bird is the word? I am referring to the bird you have been thinking about or forgotten about for the last 51 weeks.

If you haven’t guessed, I am talking about the largely consumed, overcooked and sometimes just plain boring turkey. The holiday is quickly approaching and you only have less than a week to get all your birds in one bucket.

Bucket? Yes I said bucket. A cooler or really big pot that you just might happen to have lying around will do too. Anything that will fit your 20 pound bird along with a few gallons of water.

No we aren’t giving the bird a bath. It’s time to brine. Brining is to soak in or saturate with salty water. The outcome is a tastier, more moist bird. If you are skipping this step before roasting your turkey or any other meat for that matter, then you are missing out. Let me repeat that, you are missing out.
There are really no excuses when it comes to brining either. I’m sure you can dig something out of the garage or the shed or the back closet that can fit a turkey in it.

Trust me. When have I ever steered you wrong? (This is the part where you gracefully head to the garage and go find that bucket!)

The extra time is well worth the super delicious moist turkey meat you and your guests will be devouring. Yes, those guests are going to be super-impressed by your turkey skills. It’s OK — your secret is safe with me.

There really aren’t any tricks to this either. Well, just don’t drop the bird; that is the key when it comes to lifting a raw turkey.

If anything there are bonus features to brining. Is your bird still half-frozen and you have to get this thing in the oven in 12 hours? Well placing your bird in ice-cold water over night will speed up the defrosting process and so it doesn’t hurt to throw a few spices, salt and sugar in the mix while you’re at it.

Is your fridge too small or too packed with everything else on the menu? Check the temperature in the garage, below 40 degrees? Cold enough to store a bird in a bucket of cold water.

After removing the turkey from the brine it is essentially well seasoned. Not much else is required to cook the perfect bird. The perfect is already soaked in.

Now your number one goal is to keep it away from the dogs and that uncle who likes to lick his fingers in-between taste-testing. (You know who you are.)

If you are a first-time turkey cooker and don’t know where to begin, this is the place. If you’re an old-timer and never look forward to that dry, boring turkey every year, here is the solution.

You, your family and your friends will be giving thanks to you for cooking them the best turkey they have ever eaten.

Happy Thanksgiving from my kitchen to yours!

Kayleigh’s Ultimate Turkey Brine

Ingredients & Supplies
2014_1122_turkey_33 Gallons cold water
2 cups kosher salt
1 cup sugar
1 full head of garlic, cut in half
1 package of Poultry Blend fresh herbs, if not available use rosemary, thyme and sage, 4 sprigs each
2 Tablespoons whole allspice
2 Tablespoons peppercorns
1 large orange
5 gallon bucket or something equivalent
10 – 20 pound turkey

• Place the water salt and sugar in the bucket. stir to dissolve the sugar. Using a vegetable peeler, peel all of the zest off of the orange. Add to the bucket along with all of the other ingredients. Stir. Carefully and slowly add the turkey being sure not to overflow the brine out of the bucket.
• Cover. Place the bucket with the bird in a refrigerator for 12 – 18 hours. Cook the turkey as you normally would being aware that the turkey is pre-seasoned and lightly salting to taste.

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baig kayleigh

Kayleigh Van Vliet Baig was born and raised in Riverhead, where she lives with her husband Tahir and their two dogs.

Kayleigh is in her third season as Sous Chef at a private kitchen in Southampton. Not only is she second in command but her main focus is on creating, preparing and executing cold dishes such as salads, hors d’œuvres, appetizers, canapés, pâtés and terrines. Kayleigh has been in the culinary industry for the last 15 years, working her way up in kitchens on the East End. She also is a personal chef.

Look for In the Kitchen with Kayleigh every Saturday on SoutholdLOCAL.com.

Got questions? Recipes? Ideas? [contact-form-7 id=”26578″ title=”Write to Kayleigh”]