How Long to Brine Chicken – An Ultimate Chicken Brining Guide

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 should you let chicken brine.

3 Different Chicken Brining Methods

Choosing the right chicken brine method 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.

Dry Rub

Image Credits: Week of Menus

  1) First we have a dry chicken 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, tender and juicy.

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.

Personally, I like to use the buttermilk chicken brine when I am cooking chicken breasts. It works perfectly with their texture, making them very tender and juicy.

3) Finally, the third chicken brine method and also the most time consuming, is the wet chicken 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.

Boiling Water

While it is still hot, throw in the sugar, the kosher 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 when Brining Chicken

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 the Brining Process

After you have finished reading the important upper mentioned points, it's time to get back to the brining process.

Wet Chicken Brine

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

When the chicken brine process is finished, allow the meat 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.

Final Thoughts

Brined Chicken

Image Credits: Mac's BBQ

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.


About Kendrick

Kendrick is an outdoor cooking enthusiast, living in Kansas. He loves to share his passion about outdoor cooking with everyone on various Social Media platforms (Read More)

17 thoughts on “How Long to Brine Chicken – An Ultimate Chicken Brining Guide”

  1. I made this tonight. While the chicken, a3lb local fresh bird, turned out ridiculously flavorful and tender, it was also internally salty. I bring it for 20 hours, and rinsed it off and dried prior to grilling. I salted it before grilling. We could eat it, and is live to do it again, but whoa! To much salt. Should I decrease the time? Salt? All?

    • Hello Laura,
      In your case, I think that there are two factors which made the chicken over salty.
      First, you have left the bird for 20 hours in the brine, which is more than recommended. I have stated in the article and suggest to leave in brine up to 12 hours for a whole chicken.
      Also, another thing which I think may have caused the salty flavor is that you have used too much salt before grilling. This, combined with the over brining are probably why your chicken was over salty.
      I hope this helps. Cheers, Kendrick

      • “A whole chicken should take a minimum of 12 hours and up to 24 hours.”

        You did NOT state “up to 12 hours” in the article.

        • Hello,
          As I have previously said, there are several factors which impact how long you should brine chicken, but in general, it is recommended to let it brine from 12 to 24 hours for a whole chicken or around 8 hours for quartered chicken.
          You can also find it in the final thoughts section: “the wet brine will require about 8 hours for a quartered chicken and about 12 hours for a whole chicken.”
          Hopefully this helps,
          Cheers, Kendrick.

    • “To much salt”
      “If you get anxious when waiting for your water to cool down and decide to add the chicken to soon, …”

      Can anyone spell the simple word “TOO” anymore?

      • It also matters what kind of chicken you use. Is it air chilled or water chilled? Air chilled chicken absorbs WAAAY more wet brine than a water chilled chicken and air chilled wet brines much faster… That may be the issue and should be noted in the info on brining about the difference because they are pretty significant. Water chilled takes so much longer (which is typically what most people get as it’s much cheaper chicken, generally). Anyway, that sounds like the possible issue and hope this helps in the future.

    • You’re using chicken that is not water chilled, it’s fresh and I’m assuming Air chilled and this chicken absorbs wet brine way faster and far more. Water brining times are significantly lower with these quality birds.
      Most people buy good ole cheap water chilled birds from the store which are full of solution and the wet brine takes much longer to work it’s way thru osmosis into the bird.
      Why the article doesn’t mention this I’ve no idea but that is definitely the issue. The extra salting was certainly not needed but extra dry rub seasoning and oil with no salt perfectly fine. You should of only needed a max of about 8 hours to wet brine a fresh bird depending on size and strength of brine for an air chilled bird whether local fresh or store bought.

  2. Hi Kendrick

    I’m looking at getting crispyer skin on my chicken after a brine, can I brine for 24 hrs, then remove from brine dry chicken out for 24 hrs (in fridge uncovered) then cook? The process I use for cooking my chicken is low and slow, to keep moist and super juicy! Any advice would be much appreciated..



    • Hey Carl,
      Yes, you can do that. The key to getting a crispy chicken skin is to let it dry out for 24 hours. If you want to be sure, you can leave the chicken to dry out for up to 72 hours, but I think that 24 hours is enough.
      There are a few threads online which I have previously read where people were using a hairdryer to dry out the moist skin but I think that air-drying in the fridge is the best way to go.
      Hope it helps,
      Cheers Kendrick

  3. My friend is serving us chicken (whole) that has been in a marinade for 7 days in the fridge. She says it is in a buttermilk solution. Will it be safe to eat? I don’t know if she has been turning the chicken each day or it it is completely covered. I think it is in a bag.

    • Hello Barb,
      While using buttermilk solution for marinatind chicken is totally safe, what I am a bit concern is the length 7 days.
      I have heard and personally tried to leave the chicken for up to 48 hours and was completely fine but 7 days seems a little too long for me.
      I read online that leaving for more than 48 hours in a acidic marinade such as buttermilk, might start to “cook” your chicken ceviche style. Also, meat left in buttermilk for such long period of time I don’t think it will taste as good as expected as it will probably end up being mushy.

      Also, You should ask your friend maybe she has left the chicken on marinade for 48 hours and then removed it, leaving the other days just refrigerated out of the buttermilk solution. In this case, it is totally fine.

      So, it is recommended to leave up to 48 hours but anything longer than that, I have never heard or tried and probably it is not completely fine.
      I hope it helps,
      Take care, Kendrick

    • Hello,
      I have actually tried brining the chicken with lemon and it has worked somehow, making the meat juicer and tender but not as much as a buttermilk brine. As for vinegar, I have never tried it.
      Cheers, Kendrick

  4. I brine for about 12 hours. I use half sugar and half molasses for sweetener and instead of vegetables, I use thyme, sage, parsley, pepper, onion, and garlic. I’ve also stuffed my birds with sliced apples and oranges with good results. I roast for 90 minutes with foil and 30 minutes without foil to brown the skin.

  5. Do you have to boil the water for some sort of bacterial reason, or can you just use hot water right out of the tap to dissolve the salt and sugar?


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