Simple brine for chicken can be as easy as dissolving salt in water or as complicated as a two-day process of an herb infused brine and then allowing for an air dry for the perfect, crispy chicken skin.
This article will give you the basic tools on how to brine chicken, the best chicken brine recipe and tips for brining a chicken regardless of what recipe you use.
Chicken Brine Recipe
Is it just me, or did brining not become a “thing” until a few years ago? It started with brining turkey for Thanksgiving and has since become trendy for other meats like chicken and pork.
Brining has been a chef’s trick for years and for good reason.
ONE. Brining adds moisture- While the protein is sitting in the brining mixture, it’s slowly absorbing the water, a process called osmosis.
Now it will have more moisture available when the heat starts to draw it out. More moisture from the start = more moisture after cooking.
TWO. Denatured Proteins – Um, what did you say? That sounds way too much like science. Well, it is!
The brining mixture helps to swell and unwind muscle fibers, assist them in binding with water and prevents them from rebonding, which can create chewy meat.
THREE. Flavor- All of that brining liquid is chalk full of flavors. Even if you just use a basic salt and water combination, salt helps to bring out natural flavors.
Add aromatics, citrus or other flavors and all of those will also infuse into the fibers of your protein.
Because there are so many benefits, I set out to find the best brine recipe for the juiciest chicken. Here it is, I am teaching YOU how to brine chicken with these easy brining tips and tricks.
Make sure to scroll down to get the full recipe.
You can use this simple brine recipe for turkey, chicken or pork and can be used before any other full recipe to add moisture.
Tips for Brining Chicken
Wet Brine– This technique is called wet brining. If you’ve ever wondered how to keep chicken from drying out, wet brining is the answer and will result in the juiciest chicken ever! Wet brining adds moisture to your chicken.
A dry brine uses all the salt, but no liquids.
The only downfall to wet brining is not getting crispy skin. But don’t worry, I have a solution so you can have a juicy chicken and browned, crispy turkey skin.
Use Coarse Kosher Salt- Not all salt is created equal. Salts have different flavor profiles, chemical structures, shapes, ability to dissolve (although they all will eventually) and sizes, resulting in varying density.
One tablespoon of coarse Kosher salt is not the same as one tablespoon of table salt. Make sure to use Kosher salt with larger crystals to get the correct salt to water ratio for brine, which is 1 heaping tablespoon of kosher salt for every cup of water.
PRO TIP: You can use dried herbs instead of fresh herbs. The ratio is generally 1 tablespoon of fresh herbs for every teaspoon of dried herbs.
Add flavor- The types of flavor you can add to your brine are endless. For a simple brine recipe using just salt and water, there is no need to boil because the salt will dissolve regardless, but for more flavor, boiling is ideal to infuse water.
How Make the Crispiest Chicken Skin– Because brining adds to much moisture and flavor, it also makes the skin super wet and prevents browned, crispy skin.
Pro Tip: Brining works best on less fatty meats that need the extra moisture.
To get the best of both worlds, brine your chicken for 24 hours, then remove from brine and allow to dry out, uncovered, in the refrigerator for an additional 24 hours.
You can also brine a spatchcocked chicken!
Tools for making a juicy chicken:
Brining Bags– These are helpful to save space or if you have a big chicken! It also makes for easy clean up.
Large Stock Pot– A large stock pot is a kitchen essential not only for making stock, but also for brining and make large batches of sauces and steaming thing like whole lobster or crab.
You can make your brining solution in this pot, but also use it as the vessel for brining (if it will fit in your fridge!).
Roasting Pan– A large roasting pan is perfect for roasting a whole chicken, but also turkey and one pot meals for large parties.
Cooking Twine– Keep those birds and roasts held tight with cooking twine. This ensures even cooking!
Questions you have had about how to brine chicken:
Curious how to brine chicken for smoking? The same way to brine a chicken for roasting! Use this same recipe and then follow your smoked chicken recipe.
Curious how to brine a chicken for frying? The same way you brine one for smoking or roasting! Just make sure you pat the excess liquid off really well. Wet skin causes problems in a fryer. The flavor and juiciness is locked deep within.
How to brine chicken pieces or how to brine chicken breast? I bet you will guess this answer! The same way you brine a whole chicken! If you are only using a small amount, you can cut the recipe in half.
You can brine chicken wings, boneless skinless chicken breasts, thighs and even drumsticks.
Can I marinate brined chicken? You can, of course try, but you won’t get the same flavor from the marinade since the chicken is already flooded with brine. I would suggest using dry rubs or even a basting or dipping sauce.
What is a basic roasting recipe? Lucky for you, I’ve included one in the recipe. Feel free to use my basic roast chicken recipe or use your own. This basic brine recipe can be used with virtually any roast chicken recipe.
You can also make brined chicken in the Instant Pot.
Where do I brine my turkey? You can most likely have some something to brine chicken in at home. There are three main ways people use: a brining bags, a stock pot or a cooler.
Brining bags can be found online or at the store, although they can sometimes be hard to find outside of Thanksgiving.
Why add sugar to the brine solution? Sugar improves flavors and also aids in the beautiful browning of the skin.
Can you brine chicken too long? It is relatively hard to hurt a chicken, but yes, you can brine for too long. The result will be a tougher and salty bird. I recommend only 24 hours or less for an average size chicken.
If you are brining chicken parts, you need even less time, closer to 12 hours.
Can you reuse chicken brine? NO! This is raw meat and a marinade just like others. The brine can be easily contaminated and contaminate your food. Discard chicken brine after one use.
Can you brine a chicken when it is frozen? You want your chicken to be as thawed as possible. If it is frozen, the brine doesn’t have a way to penetrate into the chicken.
It is a little frozen, it is ok, but remember the ice left inside that still needs to thaw will dilute the brine, so compensate by adding a little more salt.
What else can I brine? You can brine just about anything you’d like. I’ve even seen folks brine produce like carrots and potatoes, however most brines are meant for proteins like:
- Cornish Game Hens
Also check our HOW TO BRINE PORK CHOPS and HOW TO BRINE A TURKEY!
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How to Brine a Chicken
To Brine Chicken:
- In a large stock pot or Dutch oven, combine water, Kosher salt, sugar, bay leaves, smashed garlic cloves, black peppercorns, rosemary, thyme and slices lemons.
- Bring to a low simmer, stirring until salt and sugar have dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool fully.
- Add the chicken to the cooled brine. If there is room, you can add to the stock pot, just make sure it is fully submerged in liquid. If you need to add 1-2 additional cups of water to make this happen, go for it! You can also use a brining bag.
- Cover, if you using a pot, and refrigerate for 8-24 hours. Do not over brine, as meat can start to turn rubbery if brined for too long.
- Remove chicken from the brine and rinse with cold water. Continue with your favorite chicken recipe.
- Discard brine.
To Cook Brined Chicken:
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.In a small bowl, combine butter, herbs, Kosher salt and ground black pepper.
- Loosen skin from meat and rub butter under the skin evenly. Use your fingers to loosen skin from the meat and for hard to reach places, you can use the back of a spoon to get down in there with the butter. If there is extra butter, just place it in the cavity.
- Place the chicken breast side down. Truss the chicken by loosely tying the legs together using cooking twine.
- Roast the chicken for 30 minutes, remove from oven. Stick a pair of tongs inside the cavity of the chicken to flip the bird to breast side up.
- Continue roasting the chicken breast side up for another 30-40 minutes or until a digital thermometer registers at 165 degrees when inserted into the thigh.
- Remove the chicken from the oven. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before carving or serving.If you’ve tried this recipe, come back and let us know how it was!