Thawing a brined turkey is no picnic. The process is long and full of potential pitfalls, but is it worth the effort? It depends on a lot of things.
First, how well was the turkey wrapped when you brined it? If you used air-tight packaging and a good brine, thawing the bird shouldn’t be too difficult. However, if you used cheap plastic wrap and your brine didn’t contain enough salt to season the turkey properly, thawing could be a real pain.
Second, how wet was your turkey when you finished brining it? If there was enough moisture in the bird to create juice that would drip into the brine below (and not just through its skin), thawing takes much longer than necessary.
Finally, how old is your turkey? Thawed turkeys that have been sitting out for more than 24 hours are much more likely to get freezer burn than their fresher counterparts (and any exposed exterior will develop blackish spots). Today we’ll look at whether or not it’s safe to freeze a brined turkey and what the risks are if you do so.
Is it safe to freeze a brined turkey?
When you freeze a brined turkey, you are attempting to make sure your bird stays as cold as possible while it thaws. It’s a great practice to help avoid bacteria growth in the freezer, but it won’t harm your turkey at all if you don’t do it right.
The most important thing to remember about freezing a brined turkey is that you can’t take shortcuts. You must salt the bird properly and allow plenty of time for the bird to thaw in the freezer before your dinner date arrives.
These two items combined can be the difference between a safe and a dangerous freeze. And if you’re really unsure about the freeze, don’t bother. Brining is a great method for producing a safe and tasty turkey, but it’s not an exact science.
The best course of action is to take your time, and don’t try to freeze a brined turkey if you’re not sure it can be done safely.
How long can you safely store a brined turkey?
If you follow the guidelines we laid out above, you can safely store a brined turkey in your freezer for up to one year. After that, bacteria may grow inside the bird, but it won’t be dangerous to you or your family.
Beyond one year, the turkey will continue to keep the same safe quality as it did the first year, but the longer it stays in your freezer, the more freezer burn it’s likely to develop on the exterior. Freezer burn can be a real problem for cooks who don’t monitor their food safely.
The sad part is that it’s easily fixed with something as simple as a oven cycle. Simply remove the turkey from your freezer, thaw it completely in the fridge, then place it back in the freezer for a few hours or a whole day. This little trick will bring your turkey back to life, fresh and ready to be cooked again.
The best way to thaw a frozen turkey
When you’re ready to thaw your frozen turkey, don’t just set it on the counter and hope for the best. It’s important to handle the bird as little as possible to prevent injury and to allow the thawing process enough time that bacteria doesn’t begin to grow inside the bird.
In fact, the USDA recommends thawing your turkey in the refrigerator, not on the counter, so that the thawing process isn’t interrupted. This will help to keep bacteria inside the bird at bay, while also keeping it safe from any dangerous bacteria lurking in the fridge’s perishable foods.
When you do finally reach the point of thawing your turkey, you’ll have a few options. You can either leave it in pieces and slowly thaw it in the fridge or you can defrost it in the microwave. But defrosting in the microwave isn’t the best option.
While you can defrost a turkey in a microwave, you can’t thaw it in the same way. Microwaved turkeys must be eaten frozen, and this effectively burns the turkey while thawing it.
To prevent either of these issues, only thaw your turkey in the fridge and keep it in a bowl or other container. This will allow the thawing process to happen slowly, while also reducing the chance that bacteria from other foods will contaminate the bird.
What are the risks of freezing your turkey?
Freezing a brined turkey has its risks, but in most cases, they’re mild. The biggest risk is freezer burn, which is caused when excess moisture builds up in the bird and causes the exterior to develop black spots.
Once this happens, removing them is as simple as running the turkey through the oven cycle. Beyond that, only bad bacteria from the bird itself may be a problem. If you don’t allow your turkey to thaw in the fridge and you defrost it in the microwave, the worst-case scenario is that the food inside is ruined.
This is a significant risk, but it can easily be avoided by thawing your turkey in the fridge and allowing it to thaw slowly while in the safe environment of your fridge. If you do this, you can be sure that your turkey is safe to eat.
So should you freeze your brined turkey?
If you want to freeze your brined turkey, go right ahead. The turkey will taste great, and frozen brined turkeys are safe to eat without any special preparation, according to the USDA.
While freezing is an option, brining the turkey is much easier and safer. It will be just as tasty, with a much easier and faster prep time. And the best part? It’s cheaper, too. Brining your turkey is a great way to ensure a delicious meal every time, but it’s also an excellent way to save money during the holidays. You can easily save hundreds of dollars by making your own brined turkey every year.
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