Learning how to brine chicken is a must if you want it to be tender and juicy, especially white meat. Brining will help protect your chicken from drying out in your barbecue pit and will help make it more flavorful due to the addition of the salt. Figuring out how to brine chicken is the first thing you should do prior to learning a bunch of exotic recipes or doing barbecue pit ninja tactics to make better chicken.
According to Cook’s Illustrated, in addition to osmosis from the water, the salt in the brine helps to change the structure of the proteins in the meat, making them more tender and allowing more fluid to pass through by creating gaps from the newly rearranged protein shapes. The salt will also help the meat retain more water throughout the cooking process.
How to Brine Chicken
What you’ll need:
- Large bowl
- 1/2 cup of kosher salt
- 2/3 cup white sugar (optional)
- Gallon of cold water
First, get a bowl large enough to completely submerge your chicken, but that still fits in your refrigerator. Mix in your salt and sugar and stir until they are completely dissolved in the water. The sugar isn’t absolutely necessary, but it will help your chicken caramelize while it is cooking.
You can add other seasonings such as garlic, herbs, pepper or even apple juice for flavoring. I generally don’t bother with adding additional flavors to the brine since I prefer to use a dry rub. If you do use a dry rub though, don’t forget to omit the salt, since there’ll be plenty from the brine.
Next, put your chicken in the brine solution. It should be completely submerged. Put it in the refrigerator for 1 – 2 hours for chicken pieces and 8 – 12 hours for a whole chicken.
When its ready, remove the chicken from the brine and rinse it in tap water. Pat it completely dry with paper towels and you’re ready to go.
Again, learning how to brine chicken will go a long way to upping your game at the grill. Taking that little bit of extra time and effort will make your chicken substantially more tender and juicy. I personally always brine chicken when cooking it. Especially when I’m cooking in my smoker since it dries food out much faster than a conventional oven.