Find out what it means when you see the words "self-basted", "pre-brined", or "tender & juicy" on the packaging of a turkey. Should you buy or avoid these turkeys?
There was many terms that you can find on the packaging of a whole turkey you buy in the store.
While a lot of these terms are purely subjective, one that can be defined is self-basted. And that is what we are talking about in this blog post.
🙋 What is a Self-Basted Turkey?
A self-basted turkey is a turkey that has been injected with some type of salt solution, sometimes just water, sometimes broth or stock. Other seasonings can be added as well.
Any whole turkey that has an ingredient list beyond just turkey could be considered a self-based turkey. It's becoming more common for the turkey to be labelled as "pre-brined" with the popularity of brining in the last 10 years.
Here are the ingredients you may find:
- Turkey broth
- Sodium Phosphate
- Natural flavoring
These turkeys will often have words on the package that say things like "tender & juicy".
❔ Should a Turkey Be Basted?
The idea behind the terms seems to be this turkey doesn't need to be basted because it's already been flavored. But does a turkey need to be basted at all?
What does basting a turkey accomplish? Nothing that is good. Basting a turkey is a great way to ensure your skin will not be crisp.
Now someone may argue that it adds flavor. However you can flavor the skin yourself by adding salt, pepper, herbs, or any other seasoning. And you can do this without having to re-open the oven door. Opening the oven door over and over again is like trying to dry your hair after a shower and every few minutes you squirt your hair down with more water. It slows the process down which leads for a great possibility of a dried out bird.
💲 Should You Buy Self-Based Turkey?
I do NOT recommend buying these types of turkeys if you can. They are often the cheapest turkeys so if you are on a tight budget, don't stress about it.
Take this under consideration - these turkeys have a water solution added. This causes increased weight for bird. You are actually paying by the pound for that extra water. I have seen the percentage of solution range between 4% up to 9.5%.
Look on the package of the turkey and see if says anything about an added solution. If it doesn't, then this is a bird I would buy.
Sometimes these are labeled as all-natural, but I would not just trust that as a definite sign this turkey is solution free. So read the package, read the package, read the package!!!!
RELATED - Where to Buy a Non Self-Basted Turkey
🧂 Can You Brine One?
Often I see that people say to never brine a self-basted turkey. However I can admit I have done it before. I have gotten the cheapest frozen turkey I could find and still brined it. I never thought it was too salty. And the brine definitely added more flavor to the turkey than if I never did it.
If you are worried about it being too salty, then reduce the salt that you use in your brine. I wouldn't leave it out completely though. You also could try the dry brine method that Alton Brown recommends.
🦃 More on Turkey
Here are some other posts on the blog that will help you learn more about buying and cooking turkeys.