You probably know that brining your chicken helps impart a rich, savory taste and creates an unbelievably moist, tender texture. But how often do you brine your chicken? Once a year, except that chicken is a turkey? Only when you remember the night before?
I’m no good at that “let marinate overnight” junk – I’m just not that organized, and honestly, most of the time I don’t decide what we’re eating on any given night until that morning! Cravings rule our home, but I haven’t figured out a way around that just yet. This quick brine is everything I ever wanted and more (no hyperbole, I swear). It’s flavorful, simple, and quick.
You only need a couple hours for this brine, making it totally doable when you remember that, oh yeah, you have to cook dinner tonight, just like every night. You know that’s how it happens…at least in our house. The salt solution is the perfect ratio to infuse the chicken with flavor and tender tenderness in just a few hours, without over-salting the bird. The original recipe comes from Mark Ruhlman, who wrote the book “Ratios”, so the man knows his ratio-related stuff.
You can include garlic, peppercorns, herbs, citrus, or any other aromatics you might fancy, but it works wonders on the taste of your lowly chicken without all the fancy add-ins, too. Especially if you’re stretching a chicken to use over several recipes, this basic salt+water gig can be the best choice, so you don’t find yourself with rosemary-infused chicken in, I don’t know, a Thai dish. Could be cool, but… probably not your favorite.
I like to brine my chicken in the morning, then drain after a few hours, and let air dry in the fridge until I’m ready to use. Air drying allows the skin to really dry out, so that when you sear, fry, or roast it, the skin gets unbuh-buh-believably crisp and delicious. Is there anything worse than flabby, rubbery skin? No, there’s nothing worse, except that new Miley Cyrus video. Am I the only one finding myself begging for Hannah Montana to make a comeback? Like.. a permanent comeback? I digress.
This brine is elemental in my Gourmet Budget eBook, as it so easily and quickly heightens the taste and quality of your chicken in any dish, turning “another chicken dish” into an “ohhhmmmyyyynomnomnomnom is this… ohhhhh man.. really? really chicken?”…. dish. We eat a chicken every week over a couple to a few meals, and I make sure to brine that sucker every time. It’s so worth it.
- 15 ounces water (or 1/2 liter)
- 3 ounces salt (or 100 grams)
- fresh herbs, couple sprigs (I used rosemary above, but try thyme, sage, etc., too)
- 4 cloves garlic
- 15 ounces ice (500 grams ice), or 15 ounces of ice water
- 1 chicken (3 to 4 pounds)
- Combine water and salt in a medium saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil. Cover and remove from heat. Let stand for 10 minutes.
- Place ice (or ice water) in a large bowl (or very large measuring cup) and pour brine over ice. Stir until ice is melted.
- Place chicken in a large plastic bag and pour brine over chicken. Seal and let sit at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours, or refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours.
- Drain chicken and pat dry. Let sit out at room temperature for one hour and then cook, or refrigerate until needed. I keep mine out on a baking rack over baking sheet in the fridge to really dry out the skin.
- 1 small onion sliced
- 1 lemon halved
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 teaspoons black peppercorns, cracked beneath a saute pan
- Try these extras or think up your own! I kept mine simple - that works beautifully, too.