Poultry is a favorite item to grill or barbeque, no matter the time of year. Chicken is popular in the summer months while turkey takes center stage at Thanksgiving time. Whenever you are choosing to serve up some bird, it is important to remember that without some precautions, you could end up with a dried out meal. There are simple ways to ensure juicy, moist, delicious meat. Brining and injecting are easy ways to prepare your poultry for any cooking method. Some chefs prefer one over the other while others try different combos every time.
Think of brining as a type of marinade. It keeps your poultry moist and tender and is easy and affordable. The sodium content in the brine causes the meat to swell and absorb moisture. The structure changes that occur in the muscle tissue lead to a substantially more tender bird once cooked. Some important things to remember when choosing a bird to brine include:
* Buy a natural bird with no additives
* Make sure that it is fully thawed before brining
* Remove any giblets or leg restraints
* Thoroughly rinse the poultry on both the inside and outside then pat dry
* Select a large bucket that will hold your bird and brining solution; it should fit in a refrigerator or cooler
Once you have prepped your bird for brining, it is type to make your solution. For each gallon of icy cold water used, add 3/4 cup coarse salt, 3/4 cup sugar, 1 cup boiling water and 1 tablespoon black pepper. There are other flavorings you can add if you are feeling adventurous. Some cooks enjoy using apple juice, bay leaves, herbs, spices, lemon or orange slices, garlic, or even beer or maple syrup. Use enough solution to fully submerge the bird in the bucket. It is very important that the bird be kept below 40 degrees while brining. Refrigeration is absolutely necessary. If you want, you can purchase brining bags for this process but they are not necessary. The length of time needed for brining depends on the weight of the meat. A whole chicken (4 lbs) should brine for 4-12 hours. If in pieces, reduce it to 1-1 1/2 hours. A whole turkey would benefit from 1-2 days. If just brining the breast, 5-8 hours should do it. After brining is done, lightly rinse and pat dry and move on with your choice of cooking method.
Another way to ensure that your bird cooks up juicy and delicious is to inject it with a flavor of your choice. Using a rub or marinade only flavors the outside of the meat. Using a meat injector allows you to really get to the flavor throughout the bird. The meat syringe has many holes in the tip of the needle that spread the flavor out. All kinds of spices or herbs can be used in liquid form. You can also use wine, beer, vinegar, and even sriracha sauce depending on your preference. When you have chosen your bird and flavoring, place your poultry breast side up. Try to limit your puncture holes when you start injecting. Use different angles to spread the liquid throughout the bird. Repeat injection process in legs and wings. After injecting, place in the refrigerator overnight. Remove from fridge and set at room temperature for 2 hours before cooking. This will allow the flavorings to fully absorb into the meat.
No matter what method you choose, brining and injecting improve the taste of poultry tremendously. Don’t be afraid to try different variations and maybe even come up with your own signature combination!