Image Credit: Mike (CC License)
Brining a turkey is a process in which the turkey is soaked in the salt and water solution, as well as preferred herbs and spices, resulting in juicy, flavorful meat. I remember this one time I brined the Thanksgiving turkey in a big aluminum pot and made the bird perfectly inedible.
Turns out you need to revisit your chemistry class from high school if you want to brine the turkey – or any other kind of meat for that matter. By the way, I was never good at chemistry – no surprises there.
Cutting to the chase – can you brine the turkey in a metal pot? What would happen if you do so? How will the turkey taste? Most importantly, will the turkey still be edible?
In today’s vlog, I am going to answer all these questions and some more. I’ll also share insightful answers from other people who love to cook.
Let the fun begin!
Table Of Content
Can You Brine Turkey In A Metal Pot?
No, you cannot brine the turkey in a metal pot. So, you can rule out bronze, brass, iron, copper, or aluminum pots, among others. To say the least, the salt present in the brine solution will interact with the metal and do some funky things. Your turkey will end up tasting metallic.
God forbid, you may end up with heavy metal poisoning. Although rare, it’s a very likely possibility when you eat or drink anything tainted with heavy metals.
If untreated, heavy metal poisoning will damage your kidneys, lungs, and liver and cause memory loss.
Use stainless steel instead.
But wait – isn’t stainless steel metal too?
Is It Safe To Brine Turkey In A Stainless Steel Pot?
It is. Stainless steel is a corrosion-resistant alloy of chromium, iron, nickel, and other metals. Since it is corrosion-resistant, it will not react with the salt present in the brine solution and create taste or health hazards.
As a matter of fact, stainless steel is the safest option to use for brining. It doesn’t emit any toxins nor react with ingredients.
Having said that, if you have a broken or damaged stainless steel pot, it should be immediately discarded to limit your heavy metal exposure. Damaged stainless pots and pans will release a significant amount of nickel and chromium, which you obviously want to avoid at all costs.
Besides stainless steel pots, you can use other alternatives like ceramic or plastic pots, coolers, and food-safe bags that do not contain chemicals or react with the brine solution in any way.
As it goes without saying, do not use garbage bags, laundry buckets, or plastic containers not graded for food. All of these contain chemicals that are harmful if ingested.
While researching for this article, I came across many interesting and useful answers shared by hobbyists on different forums. I have collected them all and pooled them into a section below.
Can You Brine Turkey In A Metal Pot? Real Answers By Real People!
“I’ve been using a large stainless stockpot for brining for years in the past and will do so again this year. Haven’t yet dealt with off flavors.”
“I use medium-sized plastic coolers with success. However, you have to be careful while draining them.”
“You need to use a non-reactive utensil that will not chemically combine with acids like aluminum or copper do.”
“I use a cooler to brine my turkey. I substitute some of the water for ice so as not to dilute the brine. The cooler will keep the meat cold and safe overnight.”
“Although stainless steel is non-reactive, it isn’t impervious to everything. A high salt concentration can cause microscopic pitting in the steel, which may become obvious over time.
“I use a cooler. But first, I put the bird and the brine in an extra-large ziploc bag.I just called the company to confirm they’re food-safe. If you’re worried about reactivity, use ziploc bags.”
“I saw a special zip-locking brining bag in the grocery store last week.”
“I use a small cooler big enough to fit the bird in.”
“I brine my turkey in a clean 5-gallon bucket. If it floats, you can weigh it down with something.”
“I always use glass. I wouldn’t use plastic either.”
“I brine my turkey in a galvanized pot.”
“Aluminum is out. Cast iron, too. I always use stainless steel.”
How To Brine A Turkey?
Applying salt to raw turkey, either by soaking it in a water solution or by sprinkling salt directly on it, will cause the protein strands to break apart, tenderizing the meat in the process and helping it absorb flavors and retain moisture.
When you brine the turkey first, you will end up with a juicy bird even after all the roasting and grilling.
Here are some things you need to wet-brine the turkey:
- 1 whole turkey, thawed
- 2 gallons water
- 2 cups coarse sea salt and kosher salt
- 5-gallon brining container
Optional: onions, citrus fruit, garlic, ginger, herbs, sugar, white wine, peppercorns, and Worcestershire sauce
The first thing to get right is choosing the kind of container. Don’t use garbage bags, metal pots, and low-quality plastic containers.
As we discussed above, opt for something made out of stainless steel, glass, ceramic, or simply a brine bag.
To minimize the cleanup later, you can line the container with a liner bag.
Note: if the turkey isn’t submerged fully, you will have to periodically turn it at different intervals so that each side can rest in the brine.
The general practice uses 2 cups of coarse sea salt or kosher salt for every 2 gallons of water.
I like wet brine over dry brine because it infuses the turkey in a saline solution much quicker. Wet brine can be completed as early as within 24 hours, whereas dry brine can take up to 72 hours.
First, remove the giblets and neck and place the turkey in a prepared container.
Next, dissolve 2 cups of salt into 2 cups of hot water and allow it to cool.
Finally, pour the salt solution uniformly over the turkey. Add the remaining water. If the turkey is floating, weigh it down using a dinner plate.
Refrigerate the turkey for at least 8 hours but no longer than 24 hours.
You need to remove the turkey from the brine at least one hour before you plan to roast it. Also, rinse it under cold water, pat dry inside and out, and clean the sink immediately to prevent cross-contamination.
Make sure to let the brined turkey stand on the roasting rack for at least 1 hour before roasting.
Since the turkey will be salty to begin with, there’s no need to add salt to spice rubs or compound butter during cooking.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Kind Of Container Can I Use To Brine A Turkey?
In line with the answers shared above, you can brine a turkey in stainless steel, ceramic or food-safe plastic containers. You could also use big Ziploc bags and coolers.
Can I Brine A Turkey In A Stock Pot?
If it’s made with stainless steel, you can brine a turkey in a stock pot. However, stock pots are often also made with copper and aluminum. In this case, the solution will react with the metal and make the food inedible.
So, make sure to research what your stock pot is made with.
Can I Brine A Turkey In A Metal Stock Pot?
No, metal will reach with the acid and salt present in the brine solution. Therefore, it’s not a good idea to brine a turkey in a metal stock pot.
However, if the metal stock pot is made with stainless steel, you can safely use it for brining.
Is It OK To Brine A Turkey In An Aluminum Pot?
Brining a turkey in an aluminum pot is not a good idea. The metal will react with the acid and salt present in the brine. Instead, you can use stainless steel, ceramic, or food-safe plastic containers.
Is It Ok To Brine A Turkey In A Garbage Bag?
The garbage bag method, sometimes known as Mississippi Trash Bag Method, is a downright unsafe method to brine a turkey. The garbage bag contains various chemicals that will react with the brine solution and make it toxic.
You should never use non-food-grade materials to hold or store food. Non-food colors and chemicals may leach into the food.
What Can I Use If I Don’t Have A Brining Bag?
Don’t worry – there are plenty of safe alternatives you can use to brine turkey if you don’t have a brining bag. I’d suggest using a big ceramic or glass container.
In addition to these, you can also use food-safe plastic bags and stainless steel pots.
Having said that, the next time you go grocery shopping, pick up some brining bags. They are airtight bags used to submerge different kinds of meat and vegetables in a brine solution.
They really come in handy.
And by the way, don’t confuse brining bags for roasting bags used in an oven to prepare food. Bear in mind that you should never use a brining bag near any heat source.
Do Brined Turkeys Cook Faster?
Yes, brined turkeys cook faster than regular turkeys. You need to take this into account and adjust the cooking time accordingly. The meat will also be juicer with more intense flavors.
Well, I can’t exactly put the finger on why brined turkeys cook faster, but they do. One website claimed that it’s because water is a good conductor of heat, but it’s really not. So, I’m not exactly sure why.
Do I Need To Rinse Turkey After Brining?
You can choose to rinse or not rinse the turkey after brining, depending on how much salt you added initially.
Can You Brine In Cast Iron?
Cast iron is a reactive metal. Therefore, it will react to the salt and acids present in the brine solution. Besides degrading the food quality, this will also lead to a weird metallic taste.
Final Words: Can You Brine Turkey In A Metal Pot?
No, you cannot brine a turkey in a metal pot. Use a pot made with stainless steel instead. Even better is to use ceramic or glass containers. You can also use food-grade plastic bags and pots.
Metal pots, typically made with aluminum, copper, brass, bronze, and iron will leach harmful chemicals into the turkey, making it unpalatable.
Also, don’t brine the turkey at room temperature. It should be done in colder temperatures. Otherwise, harmful bacteria will grow and thrive.