This Chicken Brine is the key to moist, tender, flavorful roast chicken! This recipe is a simple mix of salt, sugar, herbs, and seasonings and takes just 10 minutes to make!
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Have you ever wondered how some people absolutely nail their roast chicken every. single. time?!
I’ll let you in on a little secret. They’re probably using chicken brine. Seriously.
Believe it or not, brining a chicken before you cook it could be the difference between a dry, flavorless roast chicken and a moist, tender, deliciously flavorful one.
This Chicken Brine recipe takes 10 minutes to whip up and is guaranteed to take your Roast Chicken to a whole new level. It adds tons of moisture and infuses the meat with so much flavor—with very little extra effort!
Why should you brine chicken?
There are a few major reasons that brining chicken is totally worth the extra time:
- Moisture: Since chicken is a lean meat, it is more prone to drying out if it’s even slightly over-cooked. Soaking the meat in brine first adds tons of moisture so even if you over-cook it, you’ll still end up with moist, juicy meat.
- Flavor: As the chicken soaks in the brine, the herbs and seasonings infuse the meat with flavor all the way throughout, not just on the exterior.
- Texture: The ingredients in chicken brine help break down the meat so it’s ultra tender. The salt and sugar also change the texture of the skin and help it get that crisp, golden-brown finish.
What is chicken brine made of?
At its simplest, chicken brine is just a mixture of salt and water. However, brine can be made up of a variety of different ingredients, all of which can add so much flavor to chicken!
In this chicken brine recipe, we’re using salt and water along with garlic, lemon, and loads of herbs and spices!
- Water and Salt: the brine base. For an even more flavorful brine you can swap the water out for chicken broth.
- Granulated Sugar: sugar adds a touch of sweetness and helps the exterior of the chicken achieve that delicious golden-brown color.
- Italian Seasoning and Black Peppercorns: I keep it simple with Italian seasoning and black peppercorns but feel free to use fresh herbs in place of the Italian seasoning if preferred.
- Garlic: you’ll use whole garlic cloves in the brine. No need to mince first!
- Bay Leaves: give the brine a subtle minty flavor and works to enhance the other flavors present.
- Lemon: adds a subtle brightness to the brine. The acidity in lemon also helps break down the meat as it sits for a more tender texture.
- Ice Water: this is used to cool the brine to room temperature before you add the meat.
- Chicken: I use a 4 pound whole chicken for this recipe.
- Salt, Pepper, Melted Butter, and Water: additional ingredients needed to roast the chicken after it’s brined!
How to brine chicken
The flavor that this chicken brine adds to the meat is totally worth the 10 minutes it takes to make! Trust me!
- Boil water with herbs and seasonings: In a large pot, bring water, salt, and sugar to a boil. Reduce heat and whisk until the salt and sugar dissolve. Add in the Italian seasoning, peppercorns, garlic, bay leaves, and lemon.
- Cool it down: Remove from heat and stir in ice water. Add more ice if needed to bring the mixture to room temperature.
- Brine the chicken: Add the chicken, breast side down, then cover and refrigerate for 18-24 hours.
- Roast it: Once the chicken is brined, remove from the mixture and pat it dry. Set into a roasting pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Chill it for 1-2 hours in the fridge (optional), then roast at 425ºF for 1 hour or until 165ºF.
- Rest, slice, and serve: Remove the chicken from the oven, cover with foil, and let it rest for 15 minutes before slicing and serving.
Chicken brine FAQs
A whole chicken should brine for anywhere from 8-24 hours. I usually let it soak for for anywhere from 18-24 hours and it comes out perfectly! Definitely don’t brine the chicken for more than 24 hours. It can become too salty if it sits in the brine for too long.
Nope! I like to sprinkle the chicken with a little extra salt and pepper before I cook it but that’s totally not necessary. The brine adds plenty of flavor on its own!
Yes, but smaller cuts of meat won’t need nearly as long to brine. For bone-in chicken breast, brine for 4 hours. For boneless, brine for 2 hours.
Absolutely! Brine is a great way to add flavor and moisture to any lean meat. Try it with pork or turkey or check out my turkey brine recipe instead.
Absolutely! Brine can be prepped up to 2 weeks in advance. Just simmer the aromatics in water, cool the brine fully, then store it in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.
To store the leftover roast chicken, slice it into smaller pieces then place it into an airtight container. It can be stored in the fridge for 3-4 days or in the freezer for 2-3 months. To reheat, thaw in the fridge if frozen then microwave or warm in the oven until heated through.
Tips and tricks
- Use kosher salt. Kosher salt and table salt measure differently. If you do use table salt, reduce the amount to ¼ cup.
- Cool the brine completely. The brine should be completely cooled to room temperature before you add the meat. You want the turkey and brine to be in the same temperature range.
- Fully submerge the chicken. Make sure the brine covers the chicken completely in the pot so the flavor is evenly distributed. If it’s not quite covered, you can add water until it is completely submerged. It may float a little, so make sure the breast is down.
- Dry the chicken. At the very least, be sure to gently pat dry the chicken after you remove it from the brine to get rid of excess moisture. If you have some extra time, set it in the fridge for 1-2 hours to dry it even more. The dryer the chicken, the crispier the skin!
- Roast at high temp. Some recipes use lower temperature but I’ve found that the crispiest, juiciest chicken comes from roasting at a higher temperature for a shorter cook time!
- Check the chicken after 45 minutes while it’s cooking. If the skin is too dark, cover with foil so it doesn’t burn and continue cooking.
- Let it rest. After the chicken is cooked, let it rest for at least 15 minutes before slicing into it so the moisture and flavor can redistribute.
What to serve with roast chicken
More whole chicken recipes you’ll love:
This chicken brine is a great way to add flavor to any chicken recipe! Here are some more ideas:
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Chicken Brine recipe
To brine chicken:
- 2 cups water
- ⅓ cup kosher salt (reduce to ¼ cup if using table salt)
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning *
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- 3 garlic cloves
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 lemon (cut in wedges)
- 1½ litres ice water (divided)
- 4 lb whole chicken (giblets removed)
- salt and pepper
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- 1 cup water
- Find a very large pot — you'll need room for 2 litres of water and a whole chicken.
- Bring 2 cups water, salt and sugar to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and continue boiling, whisking until salt and sugar are dissolved.
- Add Italian seasoning, peppercorns, garlic cloves, bay leaves and lemon and cook on medium heat for 1-2 minutes.
- Remove from heat and stir in ice water.
- When brine is cool to room temperature or colder (you can add more ice if necessary or refrigerate until ready — make sure it is not at all warm), add the chicken, breast side down. It might float slightly, but as long as the breast is down it's okay.
- Cover and refrigerate for 18-24 hours. Drain and pat dry.
- Place chicken on a rack in a roasting pan and tie the legs together. Sprinkle with a small amount of salt and pepper (don't overdo it! It is already seasoned)
- Place in the refrigerator, uncovered, for 1-2 hours to dry slightly — OPTIONAL but this will give you the crispiest skin.
- Remove the chicken from the fridge and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Brush chicken with melted butter and pour water into pan under the rack.
- Roast chicken for 1 hour, checking at 45 minutes to see if it is darkening too quickly. If the skin is getting dark, cover loosely with foil and continue cooking.
- Check the internal temperature (it should be 165 degrees F in the thickest part) and if it is done, remove from the oven, cover loosely and allow to rest 15 minutes before slicing. If it is not cooked through, continue cooking 10-20 minutes.
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