Servings: 4 Prep: 15 min Cook: 45 min Total: 7 hrs
Chicken doesn’t have to be “just chicken”. Chicken doesn’t have to be dry or tough. Chicken can be transformed into something MORE than “just chicken”, through the act of “brining”.
Brining is different than marinating. Marinating is often a way to hide flavors, or to create a complex flavor profile that rises above and often complements the meat and accompanying side dishes. The end result of a marinade is a strong presence of the marinade. However, a brine is for little more than adding moisture, and a little “salt” into the meat. This saline solution helps to trap water inside the meat, while it cooks, while also serving to enhance the flavor of the meats, throughout the entire interior of the meat, rather than simply having salt rubbed on the exterior.
A brined piece of meat is still just a piece of meat, but it’s got more moisture and more flavor. It’s important that the meat doesn’t overstay its welcome in the brine, and it’s also important that the brine not be too strong … turning it into a marinade.
A very simple brine is little more than salt and water. A standard ratio is a gallon to a cups worth of Kosher salt (or ½ cup of regular table salt, which has a finer grain, thus … less air between the grains resulting in a denser salt). Within this simple ratio, all sorts of things are added, usually as aromatics. Just little “essences” of flavor, to enhance the meat, rather than overshadow it. Common ingredients are citrus fruit, citrus zest, wine, small amounts of vinegar, a variety of herbs and spices, onions, garlic, celery and/or carrots. Sugar, in the form of sugar, brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, molasses, etc. is also a VERY common brining ingredient. This also aids in the osmosis process within the meat, but also helps the surface of the meat get a deeper coloring, or caramelization, as it cooks.
Our brine will be without sugar.
Note: Make sure your chicken is not already flavored, smoked, brined, marinated, injected, etc. You should have a nice, natural, un-tampered-with bird.
Second Note: Birds vary in sizes and the brine is mostly thrown away. I’m not really sure how to handle the nutrition on this one, so I’m just going to set the amounts to zero for everything.
Juicy Brined Whole Roasted ChickenPrint Rate
- 3 cups water
- 1/2 cup kosher salt (or ¼ cup table salt)
- 8 each garlic cloves crushed
- 1 each small onion chopped
- 2 each bay leaves
- 1 sprig fresh thyme
- 1 tbsp fresh cracked black pepper
- 5 cups ice water
- 1 each whole chicken
- 1/4 cup butter melted
- salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
- In a large pot (large enough for a gallon of liquid), bring your 3 cups of water to a boil.
- Add the salt and whisk the water, until the salt dissolves.
- Remove the water from the heat and add the remaining ingredients, except the ice water, chicken and butter.
- Allow it to sit for about 15 minutes, to cool.
- Add the ice water and stir. Make sure the brine is cold.
- Add the chicken. Make sure the chicken is completely submerged. If it's not, you can weigh the chicken down, or add a little more ice water.
- Brine the chicken for between 2 and 10 hours. Any brining is good, even an hour. Longer is better, up to 12 hours. After 12 hours, the chicken starts to deteriorate. Note: Portioned chicken, such as chicken breast and thighs also benefit from brining, but should be brined for much less time, between 1 and 6 hours, for larger pieces of chicken.
- When the chicken has been brined, remove it from the brine and wash thoroughly under cold water. Discard the brine. It cannot be re-used.
- Dry the chicken well, and allow it to air dry for 30 minutes. This will help the skin tighten and form a nicer skin, as it roasts.
- Pre-heat your oven to 425° F.
- With butcher's twice, tie the legs together, or cut a slice a hole into the fatty area near the tail and slide the two legs into the hole.
- Fold the wings tips behind the upper portions of the wings. They will lock into this position.
- If you would like, you can lightly season the surface of the chicken with a little salt and pepper. This can make for an extra tasty skin.
- Place the chicken, breast side up, on a rack above a baking pan with enough water to cover the bottom of the pan.
- Baste the chicken with some of the melted butter.
- Place the chicken into the oven and roast for 15 minutes.
- Baste the chicken with the butter, and lower the temperature of the oven to 325° F.
- Roast for approximately 10 minutes further, per pound. A 3 lb chicken will take roughly 45 minutes to roast and a 5 lb. chicken will roast for a little more than an hour. Brined birds cook faster than natural birds. In all cases, continue basting the chicken, periodically. When the juices run clear, inside the chicken's main cavity and/or the internal temperature of the thickest part of the chicken is 160° F.
- Remove the chicken from the oven. Cover with foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes, before slicing.
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