Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Basics of Brining Chicken

When eating chicken, do you prefer the breast or the thigh?  I was a dark meat person preferring chicken thighs to breast because breasts were always dry; that was until I discovered brining. Brining is the process of marinating meat in a solution of salt and water prior to cooking. This process allows the meat to absorb the brine and retain moisture as the meat cooks.  Meat can be brined and then frozen prior to cooking. Also, brined meat cooks faster.

Chicken, turkey and pork can be brined; the marinating time varies by the cut and weight of the meat and must be refrigerated while marinating.  The basic brine I use most often contains a mixture of salt, sugar and water.  Not all brines contain sugar, so it is optional; however the sugar works to counteract the flavor of the salt and helps the meat brown when cooking. Additional herbs or seasonings can be added to a brine such as garlic, onions, herbs or even fruit juices

Basic Chicken Brines




Table Salt


1 to 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken

30 mins to 1 hour

2 Quarts

¼ cup

½ cup

4 pounds bone-in chicken pieces

30 mins to 1 hour

2 Quarts

½ cup

1 cup

Your brine solution must be cold prior to adding the meat, but dissolving sugar in cold water can be a pain, so I use one cup of warm water to dissolve the salt and sugar and then I add enough cold water to make 2 quart of brine.  Brine your meat for the recommended time and then rinse thoroughly.

Brining Tips
  • Be careful when adding additional salt and seasoning to meat that has been brined, the meat has absorbed the salt from the brine and it is easy to over salt the meat when cooking it. The general rule of thumb is not to add any additional salt to brined meat. If you are new to brining, I recommend cooking a small piece of the brined meat prior to adding additional seasonings; this will allow you to taste the saltiness of the meat. 
  • The salt you use also matters, one cup of table salt is not the same as one cup of kosher. 1 cup of table is equivalent to 1 1/2 cups of Morton Kosher salt or 2 cups of Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt.
  • Use a plastic, glass or stainless steel container for your brine; do not use aluminum. Always cover your meat when brining.
I am by no means an expert in brining and there is so much more to brining than I will cover in this post. But I hope this is a good introduction to the technique. I do not cover brining a whole chicken here because I have not done it yet myself and the guidelines for how long to brine range from 1 hour to 8 hours, so I want to try it first to give better instructions to my readers.

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