How-To's · Recipies

How to Brine a Chicken

For years I thought brining was some colossal pain in the tushie.  I don’t cook a lot of meat and I didn’t want to bother with anything that involved.  Being faced with a couple dozen tougher-than-they-should-be farm chickens forced me to face the brining demons in my mind.  Braising is awesome, but sometimes you just want to put a whole roasted chicken on the table, you know?  Brining my chickens – for even a few hours – takes them from being tough and ordinary to being something people say, “Wow, that is super moist!” about.  Try it next time you have a hankering for something new…


  • 1 whole chicken or turkey
  • 16 cups (or 1 gallon) warm tap water
  • 3/4 cup salt (any will do, I use kosher)
  • 3/4 cup sugar (I use white granulated, but use brown or turbinado if you like)
  • 1/4 cup pickling spices*

Set aside the chicken for a minute.

Mix the water, salt, sugar, and spices together in a large bowl or stockpot.  I find the flavors of the spices come through more strongly if I BOIL the brine solution before adding the chicken, but you can just use hot tap water and stir them up if you are pressed for time.


Once the salt and sugar are mostly dissolved, add your bird.  The liquid should cover the bird.  You may need to change to a smaller bowl or place a plate on top of your chicken to make this happen.  You can also add up to a few cups of water.  The keyword to remember in this part is SUBMERGED.

IMG_8403 IMG_8405

Place the bowl (with chicken) in the fridge and let it do it’s magic for between 4 and 10 hours. Rinse off all the little bits and prepare your chicken as you normally would for roasting (or frying).  Here’s the Baked Lemon Chicken recipe I use, if you’re looking for ideas.

The last time I did this was for a Christmas party and I had a question about how long I could brine before it had a damaging effect on the bird (was hoping to brine overnight, and bake around 1pm the next day).  Here’s what I found out.  Short brining is fine (3-4 hours), overnight brining is fine (8-10 hours).  Brining more than 10 hours is NOT a good idea.  What you can do if you are in a similar situation is brine the chicken, RINSE the chicken, put the chicken back in the fridge until you are ready to bake it.

* You can use a combination of peppercorns, bay leaf, mustard seed, and crushed red pepper flakes if you don’t have the pre-combined “pickling spices” at the ready.



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