There is active discussion in the culinary world in regard to whether meat should be brined or marinated. But let’s take a look at why brining is pure magic and my preferred method:
Brining—soaking in a saline solution before cooking—helps meat retain moisture throughout the cooking process. Muscle tissue cells (the meat) contain more salt than brining solution, so soaking causes cells to absorb more water. Cell proteins are partly denatured during this process, forming a matrix that traps water molecules, holding them during cooking.
The best things in the food world take time, patience and skill. Brining allows for the addition of moisture and tenderization to take place at the cellular level. Marination, on the other hand, either injects moisture between the layers of protein and fat, or draws the marinade into the first 1/8″ of the exposed surface. Further, marination normally requires the incorporation of a moisture-retention agent to keep it in place: modified food starches, gums, phosphates or others.
But what about the flavor, you ask? There is something truly special about a properly brined, rinsed and cooked turkey. With minimal seasoning on the skin, if any, it will be one of the best food experiences of your life. The brine transforms the leathery skin into crisp chicken-like skin. The moisture inside is endless and you can actually taste real turkey! Our ancestors had it right, folks.