How to Brine a Chicken

A chicken in a salt water brine

To brine or not to brine a chicken is actually a big debate in the food world. I’d like to settle this debate for you, the humble home cook, so you don’t have to waste time thinking about it. Do the brine. Trust me.

Why Brine?

I’m definitely a brine kinda guy for a few reasons. If you brine a chicken the meat will be much juicier and lot harder to overcook, which is exactly the kind of help you need over the holidays. When you’re cooking at home it’s always nice to have a method that makes cooking a little easier – especially if you have one too many alcoholic beverages and forget about your poor bird in the oven!

The brining process keeps the chicken juicier longer, so it’s more difficult to overcook. That’s why most professional chefs use this technique. It’s practically cheating.

All the flavours and salt inside a smaller pot to boil

You can add whatever spices or herbs you like to the brine to add a little extra flavour.

What is a Brine Actually?

When you brine a chicken or turkey you are submerging the whole bird in a saltwater solution. This salt travels into the center of the meat which also helps it to retain moisture.

The Downside to Brining

When you brine you need to be careful because the extra salt can ruin a turkey or chicken gravy. But this brine is not too high in salt so it is still possible to make a delicious gravy from the drippings of the roasted chicken or turkey.

To solve this, I recommend using extra unsalted chicken stock to balance the saltiness from the drippings and not adding any extra salt to the gravy.

If you need a recipe for a solid mushroom gravy – try this one.

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How Long to Brine a Chicken or Turkey?

The bigger the bird, the more time it will need for the salt to slowly penetrate the meat. Without getting too technical here’s my advice:

  • Chicken – Overnight to 1 day in the brine
  • Turkey – 2-3 days in the brine

A chicken in a salt water brine

The Importance of Using a Scale

Using a scale is super important in making a brine because it allows you to be accurate. If you measure by hand you run the risk of over-salting or under-salting the chicken.

If you are looking for a reliable and precise scale I recommend this one. It’s actually two scales built in one that and they’re both very precise. I use the Heston Blumenthal precision scale by Salter and absolutely love it.

In case you don’t have a scale I’ve made a rough version using measuring cups you can use below.

Can I Brine From Frozen?

It’s not ideal but you can brine a frozen bird. Although you will need an extra day for it to properly defrost. I would also recommend a less salty brine otherwise you run the risk of over-salting the bird.

If you are defrosting in a brine then try this ratio:

If you are defrosting a turkey then make a 2x or 3x batch depending on the size of your container.

3% Brine for Defrosting a Chicken:

  • 3L luke warm water
  • 90g (approx. 1/4 cup) sea salt
  • + desired spices or herbs

Stir everything with a spoon. Place the frozen bird in the brine and set in the fridge.

Because the brine is 3% we do not need to heat it to dissolve the salt.

Tools Needed for the Brine

A chicken in a salt water brine

How to Brine a Chicken or Turkey

Here's a quick rundown on how to brine a chicken or turkey with step by step instructions.
5 from 3 votes
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 1 Chicken
Cost: $2/2€

Equipment

  • scale
  • ice
  • Strainer
  • Large measuring cups
  • Large pot big enough to fit a chicken inside

Ingredients

  • 2 liters ice water fill the cup with ice, then measure to 2L

To Boil

  • 1 liter water
  • 150 g sea salt
  • 50 g honey
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns (optional)
  • 5 pc cloves (optional)
  • 2 pc bay leaves (optional)
  • 1 sprig sage (optional)

Instructions

  • Fill one small pot with all the ingredients under the "To Boil" section. Bring to a boil and remove from heat.
    All the ingredients with 1/3 of the water in a small pan.
  • Fill a large measuring cup with ice and cold water up to the 2L. Add this to a pot or vessel large enough to fit a chicken in.
    A large pot with ice water in it
  • Combine the ice water with the boiled ingredients and stir to combine. Check the temperature to make sure it's not warm. If it's still warm then you will need to let it cool completely in the fridge before adding the chicken.
    The brine ready to go
  • Once the liquid has cooled, add the chicken to the pot. Make sure the entire bird is submerged.
    A chicken in a salt water brine
  • If the chicken meat is not completely submerged then use a plate to weigh it down.
  • Refrigerate the chicken in the brine overnight or for up to one day.
  • Remove the chicken from the brine and let dry on paper towels in the fridge for up to 3 days. Discard the leftover brine.
    The Chicken drying after its been brined.
Tried this recipe?Leave me a comment below 🙂

This post contains amazon affiliate links to products I love using!

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