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Here's Proof That Brining Your Turkey Is Stupid And Wrong

Our taste test reveals that soaking your turkey in a huge bucket of salt water for hours doesn't *actually* produce the best turkey — and a much easier way that does.

Lauren Zaser / Alice Mongkongllite / BuzzFeed

If you're hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year, that means it's up to you to cook the turkey.

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

You've probably heard that you should brine a turkey before roasting it by soaking it in salty water. People (Alton, Martha, etc) say that brining makes the turkey more tender and flavorful and delicious.

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

The thing is, wet brining is a pain. First, you need to make a brine out of water, salt, sugar, and seasoning. Then, you need to find a huge cooler or pot, figure out how to keep that cooler cold for at least 12 hours while your bird soaks in salt water.

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed
Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

Some people put their turkey in a brine bag, then surround the brine bag with ice that then needs to be changed regularly. Others clear out their entire fridge, which isn't exactly convenient. Best case scenario, it's cold enough outside that you can just put the turkey in a cooler on the porch.

What you might not know is that there's ANOTHER WAY to brine your turkey. Dry brining — rubbing the bird with a mixture of salt, sugar, and seasoning the day before you cook it — is SO MUCH easier. But, DOES IT WORK as well??

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

DRY BRINE is just a fancy way of saying: Rub the turkey with salt the day before you want to roast it. No brining bags, no coolers, no ice required.

BuzzFeed Food editors conducted a blind taste test to find out the most effective way to brine your turkey.

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

We started with three identical turkeys: One turkey was wet-brined, one turkey was dry-brined, and one turkey wasn't brined at all.




WET BRINE: Boil 1 gallon of water with 1 cup kosher salt, ½ cup light brown sugar, and 1 tablespoon black peppercorns, until all the salt and sugar is dissolved. Add a gallon of iced water, and let the brine cool to room temperature. Put a 14 to 16 pound turkey in a brining bag fitted inside a large stock pot, then pour the brine into the bag to cover the turkey. Refrigerate at least 12 and up to 24 hours.

DRY BRINE: Combine 1/3 cup kosher salt, 1 tablespoon light brown sugar, and 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper. Rub the mixture all over a 14 to 16-pound turkey — over the skin, under the skin, and inside the cavity — and refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 8 and up to 16 hours. Rinse and pat dry before roasting.

NO BRINE: The turkey was rinsed, dried, and seasoned with 2 tablespoons kosher salt and 1/2 tablespoon ground black pepper just before roasting.

All three turkeys were roasted at the same time in exactly the same way.

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

Here's exactly how we roasted them:

Place the turkey breast side up in a large turkey roasting pan with a rack and let it sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Rub softened butter all over your turkey, coating all of the skin and carefully pulling the skin away from the breasts to rub butter underneath. Tie the legs together with butcher’s twine and tuck the wing tips behind the back. Add a cup of water to the pan and roast the turkey for 30 minutes at 500°F. (Starting the turkey at a super high temperature makes for crispier skin.) After 30 minutes, turn the oven down to 350°F and continue to roast the turkey for 2 to 2 ½ hours, turning the roasting pan after an hour, until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 155°F. When the turkey is done, transfer it to a carving board to rest.

The finished turkeys were carved and plated. Each tasting plate had both white and dark meat from all three turkeys.

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

The plates were handed out to thirteen blind taste-testers, who then ranked the three turkeys in order from best-to-worst, and rated each one on both tenderness and flavor.

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

The winner? Dry-brined turkey, with 10 out of 13 votes.

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

DRY-BRINED TURKEY (10 out of 13 votes)

Tenderness: 3.8 / 5

Flavor: 4.0 / 5

Tasters thought that the dry-brined turkey had the most flavorful dark meat and the least dried out white meat of all three turkeys. A couple of people mentioned that this was the saltiest turkey, but in a good way.

And, THERE'S MORE! Tasters actually prefered the unbrined turkey to the wet-brined turkey.

Lauren Zaser / BuzzFeed

UNBRINED TURKEY (3 out of 13 votes)

Tenderness: 3.0 / 5

Flavor: 3.4 / 5

WET-BRINED TURKEY (0 out of 13 votes)

Tenderness: 3.1 / 5

Flavor: 2.9 / 5

It came down to flavor and crisp skin: Tasters thought the wet-brined turkey was totally bland and flavorless. The unbrined turkey had a just-ok flavor, but several people commented that they liked how crispy and nicely salted the skin was, which makes sense because it was heavily seasoned just before roasting.

The wet-brined turkey was slightly more juicy and tender than the unbrined turkey, but just barely. But that didn't make up for its bland flavor and rubbery skin. This is truly fantastic news because, like we mentioned, wet-brining is CRAZY and a huge pain.

Here's a step-by-step guide to dry-brining your Thanksgiving turkey. You KNOW you want to try it...

Lauren Zaser / Alice Mongkongllite / BuzzFeed