If you have enjoyed a chicken meal at your favorite restaurant recently, you probably asked your dinner guest, “How do they get this great flavor to come out?” The answer in no uncertain terms has to be brining.
Whether you are smoking, grilling, roasting or, frying your chicken, we suggest that you brine it to take the flavor up to the next level.
In this article, let’s look together at all the chicken brining methods, which is the most recommended one, the steps it takes, and more importantly, how long to brine chicken properly.
Chicken Brining Methods
Choosing the right brining method for chicken and actually knowing how long to brine it, will enhance the natural juices, will make the meat so much tender and will bring out its best qualities.
There are three basic methods to consider using; the dry brine, the buttermilk brine and the wet brine.
1) First we have a dry brine. This is basically in the form of a rub. You combine your dry seasonings and apply them to the chicken meat and allow the chicken to rest in the refrigerator or cooler for four to six hours. That is how long you brine your chicken with a dry rub.
After four to six hours in the refrigerator, remove the chicken and rinse it dry and let it sit for about thirty minutes to reach room temperature. Prior to cooking make sure that the chicken is dry so that you don’t end up with a soggy piece of meat.
2) The second chicken brining method is a buttermilk brine. It is a quick and simple method and is great specifically for frying chicken. Buttermilk, salt and pepper to taste, and you are done. Keep the chicken in the refrigerator during the brining process and give it three to four hours.
That’s how long it takes to brine your chicken with the buttermilk method.
This method has a lot of great benefits because the acid in the buttermilk tenderizes the chicken, making it very delicious.
- Also Read: How to Tenderize Steak with Salt
When frying your chicken after brining in buttermilk, you can shake the excess buttermilk off and go right to dredging in seasoned flour, then right into the fryer.
3) Finally, the third brining method and also the most time consuming, is the wet brine.
This is our favorite method and also the most recommended chicken brining method from chefs around the world.
Let us show you the ingredients and supplies you’ll need to make this method work and also the steps you have to take, so you can figure out how long to let your chicken in this wet brine.
Required Ingredients & Supplies
- Pot to Boil 1 Gallon of Water
- 2 ½ Gallon Water Tight Zipper Lock Bag
- Chicken; Whole or Quartered
- 1/2 Cup of Kosher Salt
- 1/3 Cup of Sugar
- Vegetables (1 Onion cut in half, 2 cloves of garlic minced, 3 carrots diced, 2 branches of celery diced)
How to Brine Chicken Using Wet Brine
First, start by bringing your water to a boil. When it reaches the boiling point, turn it off and remove from the heat.
While it is still hot, throw in the sugar and the salt and dissolve them.
After you finish dissolving the sugar and the salt, allow the water to cool to the room temperature and then add your vegetables. Make sure that the garlic doesn’t clump together in one area by mixing it well.
Pour the boiled water with vegetables into a zipper lock style bag that is big enough to contain the brine solution and the chicken and then add your chicken.
The required brining time is highly depended on whether you use a whole chicken or a quartered chicken. We have tried using a quartered chicken versus a whole chicken and found that the quartered chicken accepted the brining process a little quicker than the whole chicken, making it for a shorter brining period.
- Quick Kitchen Tip: When you are using vegetable for a dish such as a brine, we suggest dicing them. This creates more surface points with the water and the vegetables to infuse the overall dish with the flavors that you are looking for. Some folks will just break the veggies in half, but we have found in our kitchen, the diced method is the most effective application.
Important Points to Consider
If you get anxious when waiting for your water to cool down and decide to add the chicken to soon, you are opening the door to a potential bacterial nightmare. The warming water, will create the perfect conditions for bacteria to grow in, so you better wait a few minutes and follow every recommended step.
Also you can substitute dry seasoning for actual vegetables if you need to, but we always recommend using the fresh vegetables when you can. Fresh veggies are sure of not being expired, and they have more aromatic qualities to them then the dry ingredients offer.
Back to Brining
After you have finished reading the important upper mentioned points, it's time to get back to the brining process.
We suggest that you take the bag with all your goodies in it, place it in a large bowl and place that into the refrigerator.
If you are using a quartered chicken, allow this to brine for a minimum of 8 hours, and probably not longer than 24 hours. A whole chicken should take a minimum of 12 hours and up to 24 hours. That is how long you should brine a chicken.
On a side note, you can use this whole process for other poultry. For example, if you applied this to a turkey, increase the water, and vessels to hold the whole package. With a turkey you should expect to brine for a minimum of 24 hours, and no more than 48 hours.
Finishing the Brining Process
With the brining process finished, allow the chicken to come to room temperature prior to cooking.
With paper towels or a kitchen towel dry the chicken off completely. You should try to dry underneath the skin if possible. You can leave the skin attached at the top and bottom of the piece of meat and work your way under the skin, without detaching the skin.
This process of removing the water or brine from throughout the chicken is important. A dry chicken should yield a tasty skin that is easy to bite through. Water left on the chicken will steam the skin. This makes the skin a soggy inedible piece of meat that has a rubber band texture.
If you want to properly cook a delicious chicken, then choosing the right brining method can make a big difference. Each brine method requires different time periods but the most recommended brine method, the wet brine will require about 8 hours for a quartered chicken and about 12 hours for a whole chicken.
After you have finished brining the chicken, you can choose prior to cooking to add sauces or marinades to flavor the chicken to your taste. A simple salt and pepper seasoning is always great, and allows the natural flavors come out.
Feel free to slow cook, baste, or grill the meat to your liking. You can even glaze the meat. The brine is designed to complement how you cook the chicken, not limit what you want to do to it. Compliment your chicken of any style with smoked vegetables, a white wine, a pale ale, or sweet iced tea.