We know that bringing may look like an expert cooking process that only expert chefs can do. But a lot of people do it at home too. Brining is not only for commercial purposes. Many people also brine their turkeys at home. Do you desire to brine a turkey? Then you would need a brine bag. But how sure are you that brine bags are safe? Well, we will explain all you need to know about the safety of brine bags. In simple terms, you should use the appropriate strategy and follow safety steps with a safe brining bag. That will give you not only a delicious turkey but also a safe and healthy meal.
Brining is quite a simple process. It involves soaking your turkey inside a salt and water solution. This solution is what is called “the brine”. Many times, people add other ingredients like sugar, corn syrup, honey, or molasses to their brine. The brine achieves one main purpose. It makes the turkey more flavorful and tender. We saw from published research works that salt breaks down some of the muscle fiber proteins of the turkey and, therefore, makes it very tender. As a result, the meat would better retain moisture and absorb the salty brine. What do you get in the end? You get a juicier poultry juicier with improved flavor. But then, while trying to enjoy the tantalizing brined turkey, we must not forget to tend to our safety. This is where we need to ask what kind of bag you intend to use for your brining.
What is a Brine Bag?
Something quite funny happened shortly before the last thanksgiving. An official statement issued by the FDA warned citizens not to use garbage bags for brining or cooking their turkey. Talk about a timely warning. A lot of brining goes on during the Thanksgiving celebration.
Do you know that millions of extra garbage bag tons are generated by Americans between Thanksgiving and January first? What does that tell you? A lot of brining goes on in that period. And it seems that people are using the wrong bag.
Garbage bags are not in any way food-grade. So you should not use them for anything that will go into your mouth. Oven bags, on the other hand, are made to be food-grade. Some people also call them roasting bags. There are also other specialty brine bags with food-grade nylon or polyester.
A brine bag is typically a phthalate-free, BPA-free, nylon, or polyester bag that you can use for brining. You can also use these bags for other cooking purposes.
We really can’t tell how many people use brine bags. But then, lately, people have been asking questions about the safety of using these bags. Those who use brine bags say that they are quick to use and don’t need much clean-up. They say these bags also yield supremely juicy turkey.
Safety Concerns with Brine Bags
The main concern with brine bags is that they are not ooze-free. Several expert studies show us that when you subject brine bags to high temperature (or heat) levels, they leach out chemicals. However, some other studies say that so long as the bag is BPA-free and Phthalate-free, the leeching chemicals should not constitute a health hazard.
Experts tell us that most of the leeching chemical stays in the turkey’s skin, as well as in the brine juice. So if you want to go the extra mile to ensure safety, you can do away with the juice and the skin.
Breastcancer.org recommends that we should avoid using brine/roasting bags. They say that when we are talking about plastic items, we should not be deceived to think that BPA-free means risk-free. They say that estrogenic chemicals leech out from almost all plastic products.
Experts also warn that we should avoid non-stick roasting/brine bags. These usually have Teflon treatment. They also call them PTFE. Well, Teflon may not harm you. But they are harmful to parrots. So if you own a parrot or there is one around your vicinity, the toxic fumes from Teflon can kill them.
The bottom line is that brine bags may not necessarily be harmful. These food-grade plastics indeed leech out some chemicals. But these chemicals should not cause any health hazard for you. Perhaps, you should bother less about brine bags. Bother more about how farmers raise the turkey and not eating too much turkey for your good.
Other Safety Measures for Brining
Remember that when you are brining (soaking your turkey in brine), you should keep the turkey in a refrigerator. And you can only keep fresh turkeys for 1 to 2 days in a refrigerator.
While brining, your turkey should not be left to sit out under room temperature conditions. What you should do is to place the turkey in a large-size brine bag or any other food-grade plastic. You could also use food-grade glass or stainless. Just make sure that the container can fit well in your fridge.
Some recipes may require you to brine for only a few hours. But some require a longer duration. But then, avoid brining for more than 2 days. Remember, you can only keep fresh turkeys for 1 to 2 days in a refrigerator.
Here are a few safety measures to take when you are brining your fresh turkey:
1. Ensure Cleanliness
Begin by making sure your hands are clean. Wash your hands thoroughly using soap and warm water. The right way to wash is for at least 20 seconds. Then you should also sanitize all surfaces, including the sink and countertops.
You can sanitize surfaces by using a special cleansing mixture. Mix 1 tbsp. unscented chlorine (liquid) with water (1 gallon) to make a cleaning solution. Leave this solution for some minutes on all the surfaces and pat dry or air dry after.
2. Separate your turkey
If you wash your turkey around your cooking area, the turkey may be clean but you would cause cross-contamination. The raw juices from the turkey may contain some harmful bacteria. Now, as you wash the turkey, these harmful bacteria will spill or splash onto your countertops or even other foods.
Unlike garbage bags, a brine bag is generally safe and harmless. But if you still have serious concerns, you can refrain from eating the skin of the brined turkey, as well as avoid the brine juice too.