When I was at the grocery store last week, I noticed the meat department was selling plastic buckets for turkey brining that looked like the ones sold at hardware stores. They were probably about five gallons in size and two feet tall. How in the world would you fit that in your refrigerator? Unless you're lucky enough to have a second refrigerator, the only way a bucket large enough to brine a turkey would fit in the fridge is if a lot of the shelves were removed. But, no refrigerator shelves on Thanksgiving? Not very practical!
Instead of squeezing a bucket into the fridge, try this trick: Brine your turkey in a refrigerator drawer.
Why Brine Turkey in the Refrigerator Drawer?
- The drawer is the right shape. You want the turkey to stay submerged in the brine brine, so the high sides and depth of the drawer work much better than a wide cooler or container.
- The drawer is the right size. Your produce drawers might not look very big, but trust me, they can actually hold more than you think, including a whole turkey. A 15-pound turkey will fit in there just fine.
- No extra equipment. If you have a fridge, you have a drawer, so there's no need to buy an extra piece of equipment just to brine a turkey once a year.
- It's tucked out of the way. The brining turkey is snugly tucked away, leaving the rest of your refrigerator shelves free for the rest of the Thanksgiving food.
- It stays at the correct temperature. You never need to worry about temperature since your fridge will keep things cold — no need to think about adding ice like you would if you were brining in a cooler.
How to Brine a Turkey in a Refrigerator Drawer
1. Make sure the turkey fits.
I usually buy a 15-pound turkey, and I've been able to fit that size turkey in a variety of home refrigerator drawers. But just in case you have a monster of a turkey or a really small crisper drawer, keep the turkey in its packaging and place it in the drawer first to make sure it will fit.
2. Clean and check the drawer for leaks.
Even if you're still planning on using a brining bag, which is optional here but I prefer, rinse out your drawer and make sure it isn't cracked. This is insurance against a leaking or poorly sealed brining bag (which happened to me last week!), since the last thing you want is an unexpected pool of turkey brine and juice in the bottom of your refrigerator.
3. Line the drawer with the brining bag.
If you're using a brining bag, loosely line the drawer with the bag to make it easier to fill.
4. Place the turkey in the bag and add the brine.
Place the turkey in first to weigh the bag down and help it keep its shape, then pour your turkey brine in.
5. Press the air out and seal it up.
You want the brine to surround the turkey as much as possible, so get as much air out of the bag before you seal it. Double check the seal!
6. Fit the drawer back in the fridge.
Place the drawer back in the fridge and forget about it until you're ready to cook the turkey. If your brine only goes halfway up the turkey like mine does, just flip the turkey over halfway through the brining time.
This easy little trick is a great one to use the rest of the year for brining whole chickens or other larger cuts of meat and makes good use of those built-in drawers!