Vivian Howard From A Chef's Life Shares Her Favorite Buttery Turkey Brine

With the annual day of thanks upon us, have you made your turkey preparations yet? Are you aware of that there are many common mistakes people make with a Thanksgiving turkey? For example, you may not leave enough time for the bird to thaw, or perhaps your basting style is all wrong. Although you've probably heard that basting turkeys keep the meat moist, basting your turkey might actually lead to drier meat because the heat gets out when you repeatedly open the oven.

Instead, a great way to make turkey is by brining the bird. There are two ways to brine a turkey — a wet or dry brine. At the end of the day, both methods use salt so the end result is a juicy and flavorful dish. Katie Lee Biegel prepares her turkey in a dry brine that includes salt, garlic powder, and onion powder, but if you prefer a wet brine, then Vivian Howard's recipe might be the one for you.

On The Splendid Table's podcast, Howard, star of "A Chef's Life," shares this method of making a turkey. Part of her process includes dipping a cheesecloth in butter and letting that sit on the turkey while it roasts. The chef changes the cheesecloth a few times during the roasting process before removing it for the last 30 minutes of cooking. She credits this butter-basting technique to Patrick O'Connell, and although this would involve opening the oven, this turkey stays moist because of the unique brine.

Vivian Howard puts pine needles in her turkey brine

Although the key ingredient to a wet brine is salt, there are a lot of ways to add more flavor to your turkey brine. For example, this recipe for apple-rosemary turkey brine calls for herbs and chili. But Vivian Howard's brine recipe has an unusual ingredient — pine needles. On an episode of The Splendid Table podcast, Howard said that she picks the pine needle herself, explaining, "Yes. Well, you know, I live in North Carolina and our state tree is the longleaf pine."

In addition to pine needles, Howard's brine recipe includes a variety of other spices and herbs like rosemary, thyme, sage, cloves, juniper berries, and star anise. For some sweetness, there's also honey and light brown sugar in the mixture. If you can't get your hands on some fresh pine needles, you could likely make the brine without them and still have a tasty turkey dinner thanks to all the other strong herbs and ingredients.

Brining turkey takes some time, so be sure to start your wet brine the day before Thanksgiving and let the meat sit in the fridge overnight. Need more last-minute turkey help? You can always dial up the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line.