Christmas Dinner Question for the Chemists.

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Christmas Dinner Question for the Chemists.

Postby Roy Hunter on Fri Dec 10, 2010 7:18 pm

A question that may or may not be for the chemists, or the cooks, or whoever else fancies having a go.

This year we plan on brining a turkey. We will be soaking it in brine with spices overnight, then washing it and roasting it. Now, all the advice says we will not get salty turkey, but if we make gravy from the juices from cooking the turkey, the gravy will be salty.

The advice says that you should make the gravy first, before cooking the turkey, but that does not seem to be the natural order of events to us. So here is my question:

How can we get all of the salt out of the turkey cooking juices, so that we can make non-salty gravy on the day? We have a pretty advanced kitchen, my wife is a proper science graduate, we all have a good understanding of chemistry, physics, and cooking. Can it be done? If so, how?
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Re: Christmas Dinner Question for the Chemists.

Postby Tigger_the_Wing on Fri Dec 10, 2010 7:19 pm

Leave the salt out of the spicy water? :confused:
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Re: Christmas Dinner Question for the Chemists.

Postby Roy Hunter on Fri Dec 10, 2010 7:30 pm

Yeeeeesssss.... If you leave out the salt... it's not really brining the turkey, is it?

Apparently the salt makes a big difference to the cooking process, the turkey comes out of the oven really moist and tender; but it makes the cooking juices taste salty, so we want to remove the salt from the juices so we can have normal gravy (Mrs. H. is very sensitive to salt in her food, and I have acquired similar tastes in salt-free food).
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Re: Christmas Dinner Question for the Chemists.

Postby Tigger_the_Wing on Fri Dec 10, 2010 7:38 pm

Cooking the turkey in a covered roaster with whole onions (peeled and topped-&-tailed, of course!) also keeps the bird moist.

We cut salt out of most of our cooking decades ago, as we prefer the flavour of low-salt food too. :zen:
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Re: Christmas Dinner Question for the Chemists.

Postby daftbeaker on Fri Dec 10, 2010 7:40 pm

I can't see any easy way of removing the salt. Classically to remove salt you distill the solution which will leave behind the salt but it would be difficult in a kitchen and would probably ruin the flavour.

Unfortunately NaCl solubility isn't particularly affected by temperature so cooling it wouldn't do very much either.

You might be able to do an oil-water extraction by shaking your salty water with some oil, decanting off the oil, then mixing with some clean hot water. That might get some of the flavour across and should keep the salt out but might be a bit oily.

I'd suggest making the gravy first, it'll probably taste much nicer.
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Re: Christmas Dinner Question for the Chemists.

Postby Edd on Fri Dec 10, 2010 9:34 pm

Hmm, according to Wolfgang Puck (and other results from a quick Google search), you will not get salty gravy when making it the usual way.
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Re: Christmas Dinner Question for the Chemists.

Postby TwistedSister on Fri Dec 10, 2010 9:58 pm

My "sister in law" always does a brine turkey. Even though she has NO idea of the proper way to make gravy, it's never been salty using the juices from cooking the bird.
I don't think it will be an issue Roy.
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Re: Christmas Dinner Question for the Chemists.

Postby bacon on Fri Dec 10, 2010 10:10 pm

I don't really cook with salt much anymore, however, if you are used to having a salty diet, Wolfgang is correct, your gravy will come out just fine (but I wouldn't advise adding extra salt to it).

While you are making your gravy, if it does taste too salty to you, just balance it out with other ingredients or diluting it a bit with water (of course, with a thickening agent, don't want watery gravy now).
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Re: Christmas Dinner Question for the Chemists.

Postby PKMKII on Fri Dec 10, 2010 11:09 pm

Here's my suggestion if you're trying to avoid saltiness:

Image

Use stock to make the gravy, and add a bit of the pan dripping to said gravy. I know, I know, it sounds like cheating, but truth be told a good turkey or chicken stock (not canned crap with msg) is going to have a lot more flavor from the veggies and spices than straight ahead pan drippings.

However, as a Scot, you should wrap the turkey in the stomach of another animal and then deep-fry the whole thing.
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Re: Christmas Dinner Question for the Chemists.

Postby Roy Hunter on Sat Dec 11, 2010 7:51 am

Thanks for all your replies. Mrs. H. is really, really sensitive to salt, so we have to choose the restaurants we eat in carefully, otherwise she will spend the rest of the night drinking pints of water and going to the loo all the time. After 17 years of sharing the same diet, I have also become quite sensitive to salt, although not quite so badly.

We have never had a problem cooking the turkey before, we just fancied trying something different this year. At the moment the plan is to make the gravy first, but I just wanted to see if there was a simple way to leach the salt out of the turkey juices after we cooked the bird. Even if the resulting gravy doesn't taste salty, if it's got much salt in it, Mrs. H. will notice (not the taste, the physical reaction).

I guess we'll pass by Marks & Spencer later and grab some turkey stock, if there's any left on the shelves...
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Re: Christmas Dinner Question for the Chemists.

Postby PKMKII on Sat Dec 11, 2010 1:20 pm

Question: is her salt sensitivity due to a reaction to iodine?

Also: make sure the salt type your recipe calls for matches the kind you use. Salt might be the same by weight, but by volume it's a different story. A tablespoon of kosher salt has a lot less salt in it than a tablespoon of table salt.
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Re: Christmas Dinner Question for the Chemists.

Postby bacon on Sat Dec 11, 2010 1:37 pm

... and kosher salt has no iodine
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Re: Christmas Dinner Question for the Chemists.

Postby TwistedSister on Sat Dec 11, 2010 4:06 pm

I've noticed the older I get, the more sensitive to salt I get. So I understand Mrs. H's concerns about the gravy tasty salty. Maybe you should make the gravy both ways and compare them for saltiness.
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Re: Christmas Dinner Question for the Chemists.

Postby Roy Hunter on Sat Dec 11, 2010 4:32 pm

Hmmm... we'll check out the iodine/kosher salt thing. There's a Jewish deli near my folks' house.
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"To argue with a person who has renounced reason is like administering medicine to the dead." ~ Thomas Paine.
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Re: Christmas Dinner Question for the Chemists.

Postby ET, the Extra Terrestrial on Sun Dec 12, 2010 2:13 am

Why not just use salt-free salt? :idiot:
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