It doesn’t matter if you’re having a traditional juicy roast turkey for Christmas dinner.
Or a golden smoked turkey at Thanksgiving. It needs to be brined!
But how do you know if your turkey has been pre-brined?
The brining process is important for that extra flavor! But you need to know if it has already been done!
As it can affect your cooking methods.
So how do you know if your turkey is pre-brined?
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How Will I Know if My Turkey Is Pre-brined?
Knowing your turkey is brined is typically very simple.
The majority of producers will advertise as a selling point.
But are you are buying from a butcher?
Or maybe it is not listed on the packaging and you’re still not sure.
Turkey Meat – What You Need To Know
Let’s just quickly touch on turkey meat to get a bigger picture of our product.
Turkey is consumed and enjoyed due to its natural gamey flavor.
It also has a higher level of fat within the proteins and skin.
Remember that fat = flavor!
The average weight for an entire turkey is 15 pounds but can get much bigger!
Did you know turkey consists of two different types of meat?
White meat and dark meat.
Breast meat consists of white while the legs and thigh meat consists of the dark.
The meats lose moisture during a turkey’s long cooking time.
Which is why a turkey is likely to be pre-brined.
Reducing the chance of losing moisture during cooking.
Read further to understand what happens when a brine solution is applied.
Check the Packaging
As a rule of thumb, the advertising on your packaging should indicate a pre-brined turkey.
Look for a sticker or certificate stating it is brined or has an added salt solution.
You should also check the list of ingredients on your turkey.
Read further for the ingredient glossary.
Ask Your Butcher or Supplier
If buying fresh from a butcher or supplier, it might not have any packaging.
Ask your butcher if it has been brined or treated with excess salt.
Is Your Turkey Kosher?
Kosher turkeys are treated with lots of kosher salt during processing.
This removes the blood in the meat required under Jewish Law before consumption.
A Kosher turkey isn’t treated with a sodium solution for brining purposes.
But technically it still has the same effect. Note: the preparation of kosher turkey does make them more expensive.
What Does Brining Meat Do?
When meat is brined and exposed to salt it penetrates on a cellular level.
Right into the muscle fibers and protein structure.
The salt molecules permeate the meat in the same way by extracting moisture.
This also stops muscle contractions.
Adds new flavor profiles and tenderizes.
The two main types of brining are wet and dry.
If you buy a pre-brined turkey it will have been wet-brined.
A wet brine is created by adding sodium into cold water which in turn makes a water and salt solution.
A dry brine is applying a concentration of kosher salt to the meat before cooking without water.
It is liberally covering every area to form a crust which is then removed.
Ingredient Glossary – Common Phrases to Indicate Brining
If the packaging for your turkey isn’t clear then check for the below ingredients.
These will indicate if it has been processed and brined or not.
A turkey packaged as natural has little to no artificial ingredients.
This suits a meat buyer looking for good quality meat without any additives.
It is pretty safe to presume that this labeling will be on unbrined turkeys.
Meat with salt added will have sodium solution in the ingredients list.
This reflects a brine liquid added to your meat for extra moisture and weight.
Pay attention to the percentage of sodium used.
If it is more than 5% then this reflects a brine recipe solution has been used.
Enhanced meat is a term used by some manufacturers to confuse the consumer.
As they may want to market it as natural or with less salt.
Enhanced meat is just another word for an added salt solution.
If you read enhanced meat on your ingredient list then you can be sure it was treated with sodium.
Are Frozen Turkeys Likely to Be Pre-brined Than Fresh Turkeys?
Yes, they are but not without some exceptions!
Turkeys are frozen to prolong shelf-life.
This reduces costs for the manufacturer and consumer.
As the turkey is frozen it may require additional stabilizers and additives.
Salt not only helps with flavor but is also used for curing.
Fresh turkeys can be brined as well to also prolong shelf-life.
However, this is less likely.
If you decide to buy fresh I would always go to a local butcher.
This helps promote local business and understand where your product comes from.
Note: some pre-brined turkeys will have a pop-up button, which allows you to tell if the turkey is cooked.
Should I Brine a Pre-brined Turkey?
I do not advise brining a pre-brined turkey.
An overly salty bird will not taste nice and you can risk mushy meat.
Sodium is also harmful in large quantities and can cause a variety of health concerns.
Author: Charlie Reeves
Hi, I’m Charlie, I am head taste tester at Simply Meat Smoking! I love it grilling, smoking, and getting out in the yard with the kids! The family also love to test all my recipes (especially my EXTRA CRISPY pulled pork, smoky pork loin, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill)
You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling adventures with you!
You can read more on our About Us page.
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