The use of a good, basic smoked turkey brine does wonders at improving the flavor and texture of the meat. Brining turkey also causes changes that prevent the meat from drying out as it cooks in the smoker.
And don't think that brining is useful only for improving smoked turkey. It's a good practice when barbecuing on the grill or pan roasting turkey in the oven.
Basic turkey brine consists of just three ingredients - water, salt and
sugar. The salt and sugar play important roles in the process.
Adding salt to the water creates an environment that allows the transfer liquid and minerals through the flesh of the turkey. Water containing the salt and sugar are absorbed in, and some of the juices of the turkey are released out into the brine. Salt improves flavor, and also causes changes to the proteins, which cause the turkey to retain moisture as it cooks. The sugar magnifies this affect, by causing the turkey to hold in even more moisture.
This transfer process can be used to great advantage when flavorings are added to the brine, which are then absorbed into the meat.
Three ingredients are needed.
Bring 3 quarts of the water to a boil with the salt and sugar. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring until each is completely dissolved. Cover and allow to cool to room temperature. Combine this with the remaining water and chill down to between 36-40 degrees Fahrenheit.
When making turkey brine, the boiling step can be skipped, and the salt and sugar can be stirred directly into the cold water. However, boiling causes a much more complete breaking down of the salt, and in turn improves the affect of the brine.
Put the brine into a tall, narrow container, like a 5 gallon food grade
bucket. The prepared and rinsed turkey goes in neck end first, legs at
the top. If there's not enough brine to completely cover the bird, add
just enough cold water to do the job.
Place a heavy bowl, partially filled with water, on top of the turkey to keep it under the surface. Keep the brining turkey at or below 40 degrees for 12 to 24 hours, before removing, rinsing and smoking.
This is a very basic smoked turkey brine that allows the true flavor of the turkey to come through. As I said before, other flavorings can be added, such as fruit juices, herbs and spices. Once you get the hang of brining turkey in the basic brine, you can try some other turkey brine recipes, or let your creativity guide you to new smoked turkey flavors.