Brining is my favorite way to make sure that both Poultry and Pork dishes stay moist and juicy. I do this step whether I am roasting, pan frying, or smoking the meat. The other thing that I pay close attention to is the internal temperature of the meat.
Poultry needs to be cooked to 165 degrees then allowed to rest covered for 20 minutes or so until it cut and served. The meat needs time to relax and if you cut it as soon as it is cooked all of the juices run out and the meat looses it’s juiciness. This is true for all proteins. They need time to rest before cutting.
There are a lot of people still who think that pork needs to be cooked a lot longer than is really necessary. I usually cook pork until it reaches 135-140 degrees then cover it and let it rest after removing it from the oven. I like my pork just slightly pink. If you cook it till it is well done it will be rather tough and dry. Pork today is quite lean and does not have the fat content that pork did when my grandmother used to cook it.
Here’s my all-time favorite brine recipe. I cooked a turkey breast last week that was from a free-range, organically raised turkey. The meat was so juicy and delicious. I couldn’t stop munching on it!
Poultry & Pork Brine
2 gallons of water
1 c. kosher salt
1/2 c brown sugar
3 bay leaves, crumbled
1 T juniper berries, crushed
1 T black peppercorns, crushed
1/2 to 1 whole turkey breast ( I like to have the butcher split the breast in half so it fits in my pot)
Dry Rub for Turkey
2 – 3 T soft butter
1 T salt
1/2 T pepper
1 T garlic, minced
1 T onion powder
1 T ground rosemary
Directions for brining and roasting a turkey breast
Rinse the turkey breast under cold water.
Place the turkey breast in a large pot and cover with cold water. Add all the brine ingredients. Place the pot in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours and as long as overnite.
Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Remove the turkey breast from the brine, rinse under cold water, and pat dry. Rub the turkey breast with the rub ingredients listed above. Place the turkey breast in a large roasting pan. Add enough water to be 1 -2 inches deep. Sprinkle a sliced onion in the water if desired. You can also add 1 – 2 tablespoons chicken stock base (paste form) or a chicken bouillon cube to the water and stir to dissolve.
Roast the turkey breast for 20 minutes at 400 degree F. Turn down the heat to 325 degrees F and roast until the breast registers 165 degrees with a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the meat without touching the bone. This will take 2 – 3 hours depending on the size of the breast.