How to Brine Chicken
The Easiest Way to Make the Best Roast Chicken You Have Ever Tasted
Fall is in the air, the leaves are changing color, and soon, the cool weather will settle in. It's the time of year for pies and cinnamon and all things delicious and warm. It's also the perfect time of year to perfect your baked chicken. When cooking a chicken in the oven, it's remarkably easy to overcook it. A dry bird is no good, no matter how great it smells. What if we told you there was a simple way to get a moist, delicious roast chicken each and every time? It's true. Today, we're sharing with you the secrets of brining a chicken. After your first taste of a roasted chicken that you brined, you'll never go back to any other method.
Why do you brine chicken?
Brining chicken is essentially nothing more than keeping a chicken immersed in very salty water that is flavored with herbs and spices. Basically what happens is that the salt allows the chicken to absorb moisture and locks it into the meat. When you roast your brined chicken, it won't dry out, and you'll still get that delicious crispy skin. You can use this brine recipe for whole chickens, skinless chicken breasts, chicken pieces, waterfowl and gamebirds, even a turkey. There are lots of different brine recipes out there, so we are going to share the one we rely on at home.
Chicken Brine Recipe – Overnight vs Quick Brining
The first step you need to consider for your brine recipe is whether you will be brining your chicken overnight or in just a few hours. Overnight produces the best, most moist, flavorful chicken, but a quick brine will give you great results, too, you just need to adjust the salt content.
Brining really is just all about salt and water. In fact, you can brine a whole chicken in just those two ingredients and have juicy tender chicken that's versatile for different recipes.
When we are brining our chicken, we like to use fresh herbs in our recipe. Our favorites are whole sprigs of rosemary, thyme, and oregano. We also add two or three bay leaves and a whole head of crushed garlic. Be careful not to use too many bay leaves because the flavor quickly becomes overpowering. You can also add black peppercorns and many other ingredients.
How long to brine chicken? What is the salt to water ratio for a brine?
Overnight Brine: Use 2/3 cup kosher salt to 1 gallon of water, brine for 12-24 hours.
Quick Brine: Use 1 1/2 cups kosher salt to 1 gallon of water, brine for 4-6 hours.
Why Kosher Salt instead of Table Salt?
Kosher salt is a coarse grained salt, intended for baking and cooking. Table salt isn't ideal, but you can use it in a pinch, just reduce the amount. Avoid any salt that has additives including anticaking agents. Pink Himalayan salt is also a great option for your recipe and it adds a slightly different flavor to the chicken brine.
Steps For a Wet Brine
Bring about 1/3 gallon of cold water to a boil. Turn off heat and add salt and aromatics. Stir until salt dissolves. Add remaining cold water. Cool water completely in refrigerator 1-1 1/2 hours. The chicken brine must be cool to prevent the growth of bacteria. Once the brine is completely cool, submerge the chicken breast-side down in the liquid. Place a plate over the top so that the weight keeps the chicken submerged. You may need to add weight to the plate to keep the chicken in the brine solution. Return the chicken and brine to the refrigerator.
After the appropriate time has passed, remove the chicken and discard the brine. Do not rinse the brined chicken. Simply pat dry with paper towels and place on a rack to air dry in the refrigerator. Once you make sure the chicken is completely dry, it's time to roast or bake the bird. That's all it takes to wet brine a chicken.
Steps for a Dry Brine
If the idea of having a bowl containing a whole chicken and a bunch of salt water in your fridge all day or night isn't going to work, try a dry brine, also called a rub. You've probably done a dry rub on ribs, steak, or some other protein, but did you know it's great for chicken? A dry brine will give a different flavor and texture, but still ensures a tender and juicy chicken – with the added bonus of the most amazing, crispy, salty chicken skin you've ever had. It may be a new way for you to experience cooking the best chicken.
This is a great opportunity to use the Bearded Butchers Blend Seasonings when you brine the chicken. Our Original is a classic, but feel free to get creative with your recipe. Our seasonings are 100% natural, gluten free, and delicious.
The steps here are beyond simple. Just rub kosher salt all over the bird, making sure to get under the wings, thighs, and everywhere. With a dry brine, you will mix your herbs with the salt when you rub it on. If you are dry-rubbing smaller pieces, like chicken wings, you'll reduce the salt a little since there is less to flavor. This method works because it draws moisture out of the skin. the fat layer beneath the skin keeps the meat from drying out, and locks moisture into the bird. A rub can work in an hour, but don't let it go longer than 24 hours or you'll have turkey jerky.
Can you brine chicken too long?
It's really important to avoid leaving the bird in the brine for too long. Eventually, too much salt will get into the meat and you will have a mouth-puckering, salty chicken. It's also possible to use too much salt. If you look at the recipe above, you'll see that the salt in the quick brine is much higher. That's how it gets done quicker.
Roasting the Chicken
We like to roast our chicken in a deep pan on a rack. Preheat your oven to 350 to 400 degrees. Set the chicken on the counter and let it come to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Place the chicken breast down on the rack and roast for 20-25 minutes or until the back is starting to crisp.
The first round of roasting gets the back good and crisp and lets the juices run down to the breast. The total time will vary depending on the size of the bird, but shouldn't take much longer than 1 hour. Flip the chicken over and return to the oven for 30-35 minutes or until the skin is crisp.
We often brush our roasting chicken with garlic butter a few times as it cooks. Use a meat thermometer to check the temperature at the joint of the thigh and leg. Internal temp needs to reach 165 degrees. Remove and let rest for 15-20 minutes, then slice and serve. The chicken will be so tender, it'll taste like you made it in a slow cooker, but with the crisp skin only roasting can make.
While the roasting is happening, you can make some great side dishes to go along with the meal. Try mashed potatoes and mushroom gravy, a fresh garden salad, and some beautiful flakey rolls for a complete meal.
We almost always do a whole chicken brine, then use the meat for other recipes. Our favorite recipes for chicken salad always use a roasted chicken. Something really fun to do is use roast chicken to make a quick fried chicken sandwich in mere minutes. Just be sure to only fry long enough to crisp the batter, that way the pre-cooked chicken will still be tender. Yum!
Wet Overnight Brine Recipe
- 2/3 cup kosher salt
- 1 gallon of water
- Black peppercorns
- Bay leaves
- 1 whole head of garlic, crushed
Brine for 12-24 hours. This will make enough brine for a whole chicken.
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