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SmokinOkie 11-21-2011 11:52 AM

Brining 101 -- Can you brine an enhanced bird
I know I have some serious thinkers out there. Want to put this discussion up, see what you think.

I Had this discussion going in a separate thread, but as a frequent author of brining, wanted to start a thread so we could add this to the Ultimate Turkey thread (if needed) and answer the question:

CAN you brine an enhanced bird?

I've seen some guesswork on people's blogs and post. Usually I see the answer that you can't brine an enhanced bird. Sure, common sense seems to think that it wouldn't be good, because it's already enhanced.

But we need to discuss a little food Science. I've tried to get detailed answers from some food scientists. Here's what they're telling me (based on their knowledge, but I did ask if they tested it and they said they hadn't)

You CAN brine an enhanced bird. And no, you don't need to reduce the salt.


Brining works by Osmosis and Diffusion. The idea is that you have a higher concentration (brine) and a lower concentration (bird) and through brining, they achieve equilibrium.

So, that last word is important.

Brining an enhance bird doesn't ADD salt to an already salty bird because the equilbrium will try to be achieved between the % of salt between the two objects.

It's just not an additive effect.

Thus, when you brine, if for example the bird is technically saltier than the brine, it won't take on more salt.

Instead, just the opposite. The brine will draw out salt from the bird.

So, technically, you could soak an enhanced bird in water and it would reduce the % of salt. The problem is it's not just enhanced with salt, but more stuff.

So, I have tested this with the family an friends. I've brined in my Turkey 101/Brining 101 brines my normal 48 hours and no one indicated it was salty.

I've done the test with enhanced birds up to 15%. I haven't test over that percentage (because I didn't want to buy them).

Your individual mileage may vary.

Oh and FYI, the brining 101 link was broken this weekend and should be fixed today or tomorrow. If you want it, just PM me direct.

Appreciate your thoughts and questions.

SirPorkaLot 11-21-2011 12:03 PM

I know nothing abut food science, but i do know what my experiences are.
I have been brinng Turkeys (and chickens) for quite a few years.

The higher the percentage of solution the bird is enhanced with, the more likely you are to get a mushy bird if you brine as normal.

It is all about moisture, not to mention the enhanced meats are all over the charts when it comes to sodium content.

Here is a study done on enhanced Pork (not sure if the results for Turkey are similar or not)

I have in fact seen a bird so moist due to brining an enhanced bird, that is is darn near unedible.

Can you brine an enhanced bird? darn right you can, but why?

if you are wanting to add flavor..inject

bover 11-21-2011 12:08 PM


Originally Posted by SirPorkaLot (Post 1857286)
if you are wanting to add flavor..inject

Amen. I recently gave up brining in favor of injecting and don't regret it at all. It's the way to go.

Teleking 11-21-2011 12:10 PM

Have you seen the info on Meatheads blog by Dr. Greg Blonder? He indicates that osmosis is only a small pathway for transfer with the majority through diffusion.

I don't discredit your vast knowledge on the topic, just some new info.


Grillman 11-21-2011 12:17 PM

Yes, you can Brine an "Enhanced" Turkey.

This is how I've done it; many, many times.
I always cut the Turkey apart...into Legs, Thighs, Wings, and removed the Breasts
from the bone. I figured it would be easier to cook it on the Grill that that
it would be easier to turn the individual pieces, rather than try to turn a whole Turkey.

I put the cut-up Turkey in the smallest container it would fit in; then I added about
2 cups of Worcestershire sauce, 1/4 cup of Balsamic Vinegar, about a 1/2 cup of
seasoning (now I would use Simply Marvelous Season All)......(and I'd use a 1/2 cup
of Simply Marvelous Sweet & Spicy) Then I would add enough water to cover the
Turkey. I would let it Marinate for about 24 Hours; then grill it till it was done. I would
grill it over Direct Heat to get some color on the skin; then move it to Indirect Heat
to finish it.
If always turned out great, and it was gobbled up; long before the oven cooked
Turkey was.

SirPorkaLot 11-21-2011 12:20 PM

The confusion stems from what folks are perceiving to be the goal of brining.

In my case it always has been, and always will be ...moisture.

Smoking low & slow is a drying process (removes moisture). If I am going to take a delicate piece of meat and toss it on the smoker for long periods, I want to introduce extra moisture.

I see all kinds of posts about flavored brines, with the thought being..if you are going to introduce liquid into your turkey, why not make it a flavored liquid..

I don't subscribe to that theory. Not that brining with a flavored won't introduce that flavor you are seeking, but injecting does it much more readily.

Salt is the vehicle which carries your moisture through the bird, and as Russ mentions, it is difficult to get an overly salty bird by brining an enhanced bird, but it is VERY likely you will get mushy meat.

Grillin AK 11-21-2011 12:23 PM

Wow, this is great information folks. Been thinking about injection over brine this year. From what I've heard, injection is the way to go!

Midnight Smoke 11-21-2011 12:34 PM

I have 2 Turkey's for Thanksgiving. One is a Butterball (20LB) and a Jennie'O (14 LB)

I plan on Brining the Jennie'O, it says 8% Enchanced.

The Butterball also says 8% but also says no more than 2% salt.

Studying now for the Brine process. :) Do not want Mushy!

SmokinOkie 11-21-2011 12:35 PM


Originally Posted by SirPorkaLot (Post 1857304)
... but it is VERY likely you will get mushy meat.

Well, that's other one.

If you believe it gives you mushy, then it does.

But having written and tested on Brining for over 10 years now, I've found that the definition of mushy is subjective, very much so.

In one of my classes on Brining, I did two turkeys. I told them one bird was 24 hours and one was 48 and ask them to rate the texture of the bird. Not one person said it was mushy.

And guess what, the 24 hour bird was actually 96 hours.

I've just done a lot of testing, usually on unsuspecting class members, and on the longer periods of brining, they've not said that it was mushy.

That's one of those theories of brining that for me, it's really up to you to decide. But when you don't tell people how long, they didn't seem to focus on mushy.

I do agree with you point about "why would you?" I wasn't trying to answer that question because for the last two months, a lot of the questions are can you.

The latest trend, still developing, is that no matter what flavors you add, it doesn't really matter because of molecule size.

Again, in my practical testing, I've soaked a turkey in Cajun Boil mixed in my normal brine and it has a distinctive "spicy" taste.

But I do think there is something to that theory, I just haven't found any food science to explain it.

I too am a fan of injecting, but here's my concern.


Depending on the injection, it just won't dissipate like a brine would because of the thickness of the liquid. Just inject a bird with soy sauce and you'll see (if have) and the color just stays in the tracks.

I think injections are more dependent on the amount, the flavors and the location of where you inject.

Injection works, it puts the flavors in that spot. I just think it has a different affect.

All great points.

SmokinOkie 11-21-2011 12:38 PM


Originally Posted by Teleking (Post 1857301)
Have you seen the info on Meatheads blog by Dr. Greg Blonder? He indicates that osmosis is only a small pathway for transfer with the majority through diffusion.

I don't discredit your vast knowledge on the topic, just some new info.


No Worries here, no Dr. in my name. :D I just started Brining 101 about 12 years ago to start the discussion so more info is always good stuff.

Yup, that's why I also indicated diffusion, it's important.

I do like that more information is coming out from the experts on the specific details of brining.

Riverside BBQ 11-21-2011 01:24 PM

I'm getting a fresh turkey (free range) this year. I was thinking of doing a salt brine for moisture, then inject for added flavor.

Sounds like I should brine for both... added flavor and moisture? forget the injecting. I would much rather it be an even flavoring throughout the turkey rather then spotty areas.

Your thoughts?

SmokinOkie 11-22-2011 07:30 AM

Go with the simple salt/water/sugar brine and inject the flavors you want. That seems to be a new technique.

I hate to say practice on TD. I know the brine will work, the injection would too.

cliffcarter 11-23-2011 06:50 AM

I gave up injecting "enhanced" birds because I found that it took longer to get to temp and the meat had too much moisture for my liking (and yes some of the meat had a mushy texture.)

SteevieG 11-23-2011 07:00 AM

I put a 20 pounder in the brine about 36 hours ago. I'm going to take it out in a few minutes, rinse and dry it. I've heard people say they put it in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours to dry the skin some which makes it less rubbery. Anyone do this for this purpose and does it work well?

Ag76 11-26-2011 09:57 PM

Smokin Okie: I realize you said that you can brine an enhanced bird, but do you recommend it, and does it help any?

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