This is a chicken brine that will yield the most succulent, juiciest roast chicken you will EVER have in your life! Brining injects flavour and moisture as well as tenderising – you will be blown away how juicy the chicken breast is!
Once you learn how to brine chicken and taste the incredible results, you will never look back!
Brining is the process whereby chicken (or other meat) is submerged in a salty liquid (“brine”) and left to marinate to add flavour, tenderise AND add moisture so the chicken stays juicier when roasted.
It injects flavour and seasoning right into the flesh of a whole chicken in a way that no other method can, even by slathering liberally with herb and garlic butter under the skin which is my favourite non-brining way to roast chicken.
It’s a technique widely used by chefs. In Sydney, there are a handful of restaurants famous for their roast chicken – such as Glebe Point Diner, Boronia Kitchen and Restaurant Hubert – and they are all brined!
This brine recipe is adapted from a recipe by Thomas Kellar, one of the greatest culinary masters of the world.
What does brined chicken taste like?
The chicken is seasoned with salt all the way through the flesh, with a hint of the flavourings of the brine. The brine flavourings are not intended to be dominant – it’s more of a subtle perfume rather than a strong flavour. You don’t need strong flavours when the flesh of chicken is seasoned this way because you’ll taste chicken flavour in a way you never have before!
The juiciest chicken breast EVER!
Here’s an up close and personal of the breast of brined roast chicken – LOOK HOW JUICY IT IS! It’s hard to believe your eyes but it’s true, it IS possible to make chicken breast this succulent – but only with a chicken brine!
What you need for Chicken Brine
To make chicken brine, all you need is water and salt. Everything else is for flavour so it’s optional and customisable – see below for substitutions for each.
Salt and water – the only two ingredients that are non negotiable, they are the brine!
Honey – for a touch of sweet, sub with sugar
Parsley, thyme and rosemary – 100% optional, switch with other herbs, or use dried
Peppercorns – use ground instead
Lemons, garlic and bay leaves – for flavour, optional
How to brine chicken
It’s as easy as this:
Bring all the brine ingredients to a boil with a bit of water – just to bring out flavour a bit and dissolve the salt;
Add cold water to bring the temperature down, then refrigerate until fully chilled;
Submerge chicken upside down (ie drumsticks and breast facing down) and brine for 24 hours in the fridge (even 12 hours is terrific);
pat dry, brush with butter and roast!
How long does it take to roast a 2 kg / 4lb brined chicken?
60 minutes at 180°C/350°F or until the internal temperature is 75°C/165°F or until juices run clear.
The formula is: About 15 minutes for every 500g/1 lb. So a 2 kg / 4 lb chicken will take 60 minutes, and a 1.5kg / 2 lb chicken will take 45 minutes (give or take 5 – 10 minutes, also smaller chickens will take about 20 minutes per 500g/1lb).
Brined chicken roasts about 20% faster than chicken that is not brined. A 2 kg / 4 lb chicken that is not brined takes 1 hour 25 minutes (see classic Roast Chicken recipe).
Can you use this for other meats?
Absolutely. I use this for pork, turkey breast and small whole turkey. For large whole turkeys, the better way is using a Turkey Dry Brine – more convenient, better result.
Difference between brining and marinating?
Brining is different to marinating in that there is a much higher liquid to meat ratio – a whole chicken is completely submerged in the chicken brine. Marinades usually have far less liquid and the chicken is mostly coated in it, rather than submerged (examples: my favourite Everyday Chicken Marinade, Greek Marinade, Vietnamese Lemongrass Marinade).
What to serve with roast chicken
Something carby and something green! Here are a few suggestions:
Potato and Bread sides for roast chicken
Potatoes au Gratin – my favourite make-head-looks-and-sounds-impressive option, “it’s French, darling”
Paris Mash – for something sinfully rich, and very fine dining style
Everyday Creamy Mashed Potato which we will never, ever tire of
Creamy Mashed Cauliflower for a low carb option (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it)
Side salad options for roast chicken
Classic Rocket Salad with Shaved Parmesan (aka Arugula) – very fine dining / bistro style and also the world’s fastest side salad
The chicken is so moist, you can serve it as is with a tiny drizzle of the pan juices (which are quite salty, so don’t go overboard!). If you’d like a gravy, make it while the chicken is resting – the recipe is in the notes.
I’ve also been known to drizzle with a touch of melted butter and squeeze of fresh lemon juice – it’s divine! – Nagi x
Watch how to make it
- 2 litres / 2 quarts water , cold tap water
- 1/3 cup kosher or cooking salt, NOT table salt (Note 1)
- 2 lemons , quartered
- 10 sprigs parsley , fresh
- 7 sprigs thyme
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 5 bay leaves, fresh (or 3 dried)
- 1⁄4 cup honey
- 6 garlic cloves, smashed (Note 3)
- 1 tbsp black peppercorns
- 1.5 – 2 kg / 3-4lb chicken , whole
- 3 tbsp / 40g butter , melted
- Salt and pepper to season
- Pour about 1/3 of the water into a large pot (large enough for the brine and submerged chicken) with remaining Brine ingredients. Bring to boil boil 1 minute, stir to dissolve salt.
- Remove from heat, pour in remaining water. Cool completely before using (I cool about 30 min then refrigerate 1 1/2 hours). DO NOT put chicken in before full cool, this is a health hazard (Note 4).
- Flip chicken upside down (so legs and breast are on underside. Submerge chicken in brine, cover and refrigerate for 12 – 24 hours (Note 5). Don't worry if underside of chicken doesn't stay under water – the the breast side is, that is what matters.
Roasting Brined Chicken:
- Remove chicken from brine and pat dry to remove excess moisture.
- Tie legs with string (if desired), tuck wings under. Drizzle/brush with most of the butter all over, including underside (butter will firm up on contact).
- Sprinkle with pepper and the TINIEST pinch of salt, place chicken on a rack in a heavy based roasting tray. Set aside for 20 minutes.
- Preheat fan forced oven to 220°C/430°F.
- Turn down the oven to 180°C/350°F, then roast chicken for 50 minutes to 1 hour (Note 7) or until the internal temperature at the joint between the leg and thigh is 75°C/165°F, or until juices run clear.
- Check at 45 minutes, rotate the pan if not browning evenly, and brush top with remaining melted butter.
- Remove chicken from the roasting tray, cover loosely with foil and rest for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Chicken is so juicy, it needs little more than a tiny drizzle of the juices in the pan (go easy, it's salty). Otherwise, make a gravy while the chicken is resting – see Note 8.
- Honey – sub same amount maple syrup, or 1/4 cup brown sugar
- Fresh herbs – use more of one of them, switch out with sage leaves or other fresh herbs of choice. OR use 1 tbsp dried herbs of choice
- lemons – lime, or oranges, or leave out
- Peppercorns – sub 1/2 tsp ground pepper
3 tbsp / 40g flour (any white)
All liquid from pan topped up with LOW SODIUM / Reduced Salt chicken broth to make up 1 cup
1 cup / 250ml water Melt butter over medium heat, add flour, stir for 1 minute. Add half the liquid while whisking. Once incorpoated and lump free, add remaining liquid & water. Continue cooking for 2 minutes, stirring regularly, until gravy thickens. Season with pepper – I highly doubt you will need salt! 9. Frozen chicken can be put in the brine once it’s partially thawed. It will finish thawing in the chicken while it brines. 10. Source: Brine based on a recipe by Thomas Keller, one of the great masters of the culinary world! Known for high end iconic restaurants such as Per Se in New York and the French Laundry in the Napa Valley. 11. Nutrition per serving, chicken only.
Originally published May 2014, updated November 2019 with fresh photos, video and most importantly, Life of Dozer added!
Life of Dozer
Dozer taking me for a walk in Melbourne’s Bourke Street Mall!
Staying in an Air BNB for a week, cramming in meetings and generally pretending to be a Melbourne-ite for a week. First time I’ve driven down – it’s a long 10 hour drive – but I REALLY wanted to bring Dozer down with me this time and I’m so glad I did. He’s having a blast, more photos to follow – he’s causing a riot down here!