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Does brining chicken make a big difference?

I like to make a roast chicken on the weekends. Until I found this website, I never heard about brining a chicken you were about to roast. I've never done this before. How do you do it, and what ingredients/amounts/timing do you use? Is there that much of a difference in taste? I'd be willing to give it a try if I knew what I was doing and if it make the chicken tast that much better.

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  1. Yes, it will make your chicken taste that much better.

    The most basic brine is just saltwater. (Half a cup to one cup of salt per gallon of water.) Dissolve the salt, submerge the bird in the brine for an hour, then dry and roast. It will be much juicier and flavorful than an unbrined bird.

    Of course, a brine can also bring extra flavors to the party. Try using diluted fruit juice instead of water. Spice it up using crushed peppercorns, allspice berries, juniper berries, dried chiles, star anise, or whatever else sounds good. Just make sure you've got the salt in there and that the flavorants are water-soluble. Osmosis will carry the flavored liquid into the meat.

    This last week I served my family a chicken that hadn't been brined. Everybody was polite, but they made it pretty clear that the bird wasn't up to the usual standard. Next time there isn't time for brining, we're having burgers.

    6 Replies
    1. re: alanbarnes

      Hi, just want to piggyback on this post. Does it work for small birds like cornish hen? And does the brining time matter? Is there such a thing as "too much brining" (too long)?

      Thanks in advance!

      1. re: kobetobiko

        Bigger birds, longer brining. A whole turkey should soak 4 hours to overnight.

        Presumably an over-brined bird would be too salty, but you could adjust for that by reducing the amount of salt in the brine.

        1. re: alanbarnes

          Thanks! I will try to brine my cornish hen next time!

          1. re: alanbarnes

            I've actually brined my turkeys for up to 4 days. Surprisingly not overly salty (brined in salt water, apple cider vinegar, apples, onions, parsley, and whatever else looked good).

            1. re: alanbarnes

              Yep. I brine overnight. I use around 2 tablespoons salt (plus 2 or 3 tablespoons chilli powder and a tablespoon or two of black pepper - boiled together for a couple or three minutes to bring out the flavours of the chilli powder and pepper) in about 3 or 4 cups of water to cover one chicken

            2. re: kobetobiko

              An overbrined bird might be mushy.

          2. I brine chicken all the time....even chicken pieces like thighs and breasts. And, you'll definately want to brine your Thanksgiving turkey. Brining not only seasons the meat, it keeps the meat moist as it roasts/cooks. The formula I use is 1 cup kosher salt per 1 gal. water. You can change the ratio, depending on how long the chicken will be in the brine. Use kosher salt, not table salt. Table salt would make the chicken too salty. And be sure and rinse the chicken after it comes out of the brine to get rid of the excess salt. I usually brine a whole chicken for at least 4 hours, and even overnight.

            2 Replies
            1. re: cookingschool

              You can bring with either table or kosher salt. Table salt won't make it too salty in and of itself. Just use 1/3 to 1/2 less table salt.

              Table salt has smaller crystals so more of it fits in a measuring cup.

              Also, sugar enhances the savory taste of the brine. So try adding about 1/2 as much brown sugar as you do salt.

              1. re: C. Hamster

                But don't used iodized table salt unless you want that special "Morton Girl" flavor in your chicken.

            2. Brining is a great way to prepare poultry. Just make sure the chicken you're buying isn't "enhanced." This will be somewhere on the label, most likely in small letters. What it means is that saltwater has already been added to the chicken. Then, you don't want to brine.

              1. I brined a roast chicken for the first time a few weeks ago and it definitely was a notch up my usual roast. Juicier and more flavorful and not much harder to do than my usual roast.


                1. I always brine . . . for roasted chicken, roasted turkey and also fried chicken. It gives you a much moister bird. But you must make sure that you rinse the bird thoroughly after removing from the brine so that you do not end up with overly salty chicken/turkey.

                  1. I know it's been beaten to death on this board in the past but look into dry brining ala Zuni Cafe. The results are fantastic..

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: King of Northern Blvd

                      Agreed, I like the results for dry brining even better. It takes longer, but it's easy and worth it.

                      1. re: King of Northern Blvd

                        I totally agree about dry brining! I don't really like the "pastrami" taste (my sister's comment) you get with water brining.

                        I do what they do at Cafe Rouge Meat Market in Berkeley: salt and pepper the chicken all over (inside, too), put into a plastic bag and leave in fridge for a couple of days. I do this every time I make roasted chicken. Did one Friday night and it was delicious! You can still put herbs and garlic under the skin or lemons and onions inside the cavity.

                        1. re: oakjoan

                          Here's my question about dry brining: if you dry brine, do you wash off the seasoning before cooking the chicken?

                          Also, after wet brining, I understand I carefully rinse the chicken. I need to reapply seasoning before roasting. Do I use salt again, as part of the seasoning? Typically, I might use salt, pepper, crushed garlic, rosemary, thyme, and maybe some lemons. Do I just leave the salt out of the rub I make?

                          1. re: mschow

                            I don't rinse after dry brining. If you try dry brining, 1/2 t salt per pound.

                            After wet brining, do not salt again.

                            1. re: mschow

                              No, I don't rinse, but I carefully pat off the chicken so that it's completely dry, this takes some of the salt, but a lot of it has already been absorbed.

                          2. re: King of Northern Blvd

                            Highly agreed. I really like dry brining. You get the fantastic crisp skin as well. You also don't get that hammy taste that comes with salt/sugar wet brine.

                          3. I haven't tried the dry brine technique. I use the liquid technique for all poultry & pork. I feel the results are enhanced if you remove it from the brine & let it air dry in the fridge for an hour or so, skin seems better textured. BTY, Cooks Illustrated site has a bit of info on the topic, not sure if its available to non-members though.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: meatn3

                              If you go to CI, they have a free 14day membership. You can do what ever you want in the web site for the 14 days and then cancel, or pay to continue using it. A good deal!

                              1. re: meatn3

                                In a hurry? Blow drier. Also works for Peking duck.

                              2. I don't care for the results of brining chicken. I think chicken should taste like chicken. Brined chicken tastes too salty to me.

                                I find roasting a chicken using the method of placing it breast side down and then rotating it near the end makes fantastic chicken that tastes like chicken.

                                4 Replies
                                  1. re: Hank1

                                    I see your point, insofar as some folks like to use a brine to bring a variety of flavors into the meat. And a chicken brined for too long or in too strong a solution might be unpleasantly salty.

                                    If you prefer your meat without any salt at all, then brining definitely isn't for you. Otherwise, a chicken properly brined in plain saltwater will consistently deliver superior texture, juiciness, and flavor to a bird that hasn't been brined without tasting like anything other than chicken. Consider giving the brine another chance

                                    1. re: alanbarnes

                                      Chiming in here as someone who prefers not-so-salty food (when I lived in America, I found many prepared foods and restaurant meals too salty): I dry brine a la Zuni with 1 tsp sea salt per 700g meat, and leave in the fridge three days before roasting, and I find the dry brine keeps the chicken both moister and seasons the meat from inside. It doesn't taste like salt; seasoning anything with salt should be about intensifying the natural flavours (think about sliced tomatoes salted and unsalted). The brining also allows you to roast at a higher heat without drying out the bird (and simultaneously giving crispy skin). For those who do not wish to add any fat to a roasting chicken, the Zuni method doesn't use olive oil or butter; just the natural juices and fat of the bird itself.

                                      1. re: Gooseberry

                                        Absolutley agree that if it tastes like salt, it's oversalted. Salt's job is to make the chicken taste more like, well, you know... Adding other flavors is great if that's what floats your boat. Sometimes I want a hint of mango and allspice in my chicken, but with a really good bird no extra flavors need be added.

                                        As far as dry brining, it's a bit of a misnomer. Brine is saltwater. A dry "brine" works only to the extent that the chicken's natural juices mix with the salt and osmose (is that a word?) back into the bird. Definitely a more intense flavor, but much more time-intensive than a traditional brine, and subject to more variability based on salt distribution and the bird's physiology.

                                        I wonder if you could obtain similar results by brining in a gallon of chicken stock spiked with half a cup of salt? After dinner, you could toss the bones into the brine and pressure-cook to sanitize and intensify the flavors, then adjust the water and salt levels and refrigerate or freeze until the next victim presents itself. Hmmm, an experiment for the weekend...

                                  2. Brining with a sal/sugar mixture will enhance the savory taste of the brine and help cut down on peceived "saltiness."

                                    Brining pulls the brine into the cells of the poultry, so you can use the brine to deeply season the meat with things like garlic/bay/lemon/thyme/pepper etc.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: C. Hamster

                                      Thats the problem. I want to taste meat.

                                      1. re: Hank1

                                        True enough.

                                        But if you only use salt/sugar you Do taste the meat. A properly brined bird isn't salty and if you don't use other falvoring agents, the taste of the meat is enhanced by the deep seasoning, IMO.

                                    2. I think so, and am a big fan of it for poultry and pork. On note, though...If you can buy a kosher chicken, it is already brined, so you don't have to--a great timesaver. In the northeast, Empire is pretty widely available, and very good. Cook's Illustrated rated it the best tasting chicken a few years back.

                                      1. I find that if you buy good quality chicken or turkey (i.e. not Perdue or Tysons) then you don't need to brine at all. The poultry has wonderful flavorful by itself and you don't end up changing the texture. Mine come out perfectly moist without brining, the trick is to get a good bird (try your local free-range farm).

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: gourmanda

                                          You don't NEED to brine a Tyson's frankenchicken. But unless you forswear salt entirely, a properly-brined high-quality bird will taste better (chickenier?) than one that's is roasted without brining. Getting the salt in the meat--instead of on the meat--is the key.

                                        2. brining makes a big difference. Most people like it, some don't. I find that if done well, it shouldn't taste salty at all. Chicken still tastes like chicken if you season it with some salt before you roast it. The only difference with brining (again, if done right) is that you can season from the inside out.

                                          Now, to dry v. wet. Both have their adherents. And for some reason certain methods have gotten reverential status here on these boards. I've done many, many many birds both ways and side by side. If done right, there's virtually no difference in the final meat. The bigger differences are in the methods, the time it takes and the resulting skin. If wet brining results in "pastrami" flavors, then it's simply been brined too long or with too much salt. There's nothing in a wet brine process that contributes that flavor (afterall, pastrami is generally cured with a dry brine).

                                          Anyhow, give brining a try. If you think it's too salty, cut down on the amount of salt. If you still don't like it, then you know you just don't like brined food. Most likely you'll love it.

                                          1. boston markt brines their chickens

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: foodperv

                                              Sorry to say but you are mistaken. I worked for them for over 5 years (and have family that still works there), and they do not brine their chickens, or any of their meats for that matter. They only dip the chicken quickly into a marinade mix while tying and skewering them. (The mix is a prepared powder marinade that they combine with vinegar.) They do however let the chickens rest in refigeration for 24-30 hours before cooking, which helps give results similar to brining.

                                            2. I having been brining chicken (turkey) for about 5 years. I even brine small (bone-in) cuts when grilling. Upon removal from the brine, I pat it dry and let it "air" dry in the fridge for a couple of hours. I have both rinsed and not rinsed w/no noticable difference.

                                              2 cups water
                                              2 tbl spoons Kosher salt (1 T table salt)
                                              For 2/3 breasts, brine 45 min - 1 hour.

                                              And I think you can brine too long. On 2 different years, I let the bird stay in the brining solution longer that "my" ideal time and it came out - not overly salty, but water-logged and rubbery. Very unappealing texture.

                                              I now grill roast my turkey after seeing America's Test Kitchen a few years ago, but the first year I brined, I oven roasted the bird and made gravy from the drippings - pretty salty!

                                              1. I brine my chickens in molasses, whiskey, salt, and the skins of an onion. Fantastic !

                                                1. Here is my all time favorite brine for any poultry (actually it's good for pork loin too)
                                                  such a world of difference in the taste!

                                                  1. I brine chicken all the time. It definitely helps on those occasions where I am not paying attention to the temp of my chicken. I've *accidently* taken it up to 180 and the brine saved me. This is the basic chicken and pork brine that I use:


                                                    1. If you have had a rotisserie chicken from Costco, you've had chicken that's been brined. I read in another CH thread that their chickens are packed in brine when they arrive from the supplier.


                                                      1. How long would you brine either a whole chicken or a whole chicken cut up?

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: tigerwife0215

                                                          Depends on the size of the bird.
                                                          There is lots of info on Goggle.
                                                          I would offer that if you are roasting your basic store bought roasting chicken from some where like Costco I wouldn't go to the trouble of brining it.
                                                          Nothing you can do will make the bird tastier unfortunately. Actually brining may very well turn the bird into an even mushier offering.
                                                          Save the trouble for when you've invested in a genuine free range roasting chicken.
                                                          THEN brining will definitely add to the tastiness of the bird.

                                                          1. re: Puffin3

                                                            I have to disagree on the later part of your reply

                                                        2. I'm not a fan of it personally. It makes a fresh chicken taste like some processed frozen chicken you got from the freezer section or chicken lunch meat. And if you over do it, it starts to give the meat a mushy texture. Plus the meat doesn't brown as well once it's been brined.