Brining Chicken

How to brine a chicken.

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Brining Chicken - How to Brine a Chicken

how long to brine a chicken
Brining chicken before you cook it improves the flavor, texture, and moisture of the chicken. This page will teach you how to brine chicken on your own.

Once you have learned how easy brining chicken is and the difference that it will make in the flavor of your meal, you will never want to do go without it.

As moms, one thing we have to contend with is preparing healthy meals that our family will love. One staple in most household is chicken.

These days, health conscious moms prefer cooking with leaner, low-fat chicken. The problem is that this type of chicken is more likely to dry out in the oven.

Brining chicken is also particularly useful when cooking the white meat sections of chicken. This is especially common with the chicken breast.

Ever wonder why? When meat is exposed to heat, the fibers begin to contract. When they contract, they squeeze out the natural, internal moisture.

The result – chicken that is often dry and chewy. When you brine chicken before cooking, however, you end up with chicken that is not only flavorful, but juicy.

Brining Chicken: How it Works

The ultimate goal when you brine chicken is to equalize the sodium level between the brine solution and the flesh of the chicken. When the chicken is placed in the chicken brine, juice from the meat is pulled out of the chicken and into the brine.

At the same time, the brine solution (including any sugar and seasonings that you added) are pulled into the chicken.

During all of this, the meat proteins transform – rather than contracting as was mentioned earlier, the meat fibers loosen their grip on each other and so moisture is retained.

Sugar from the brine solution also helps the chicken to retain water and, therefore, helps to keep the chicken moist throughout the cooking process.

How to Brine Chicken

Brining chicken is a fairly simple process, although it does require time so make sure you plan ahead when you do this. First, gather the following ingredients:
  • 1 pound of chicken
  • 1 quart of cold water
  • 1/2 cup of kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • Your choice of vegetables and spices. Some suggestions are chopped onions, garlic, celery, and peppercorn.
Bring the water, salt, and sugar to a boil in a large pot, making sure to stir until the salt and sugar are completely dissolved. Remove this mixture from the heat and add the vegetables and spices to flavor. Allow the mixture to cool completely (to below 40 degrees Fahrenheit). This step is very important, so do not skip it. If necessary, place it in the refrigerator. Do not add ice, because when it melts it will dilute the brine, rendering it ineffective.

Place the chicken in a large container and pour the brining solution on top of it, being sure to cover the chicken completely. Make sure to keep the chicken brine mixture cold during the brining process. It should be between 36 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Again, placing it in the refrigerator is best.

How Long to Brine Chicken

Refer to the following chart to determine how long you will need to brine chicken. You can adjust within the indicated brining times to achieve the level of saltiness that you prefer. Going beyond these times is not recommended and will result in very salty or mushy chicken. Use the following brining time chart for chicken as a guide. Adjust within the brining times to achieve more or less salty flavor.

One Whole Chicken One Half Chicken Bone-in Breasts with Skin On Boneless Breasts with Skin Removed Legs and Thighs with Skin On Legs and Thighs with Skin Removed
4 - 8 hours 3 - 6 hours 1 - 2 hours 30 - 60 minutes 45 - 90 minutes 30 - 45 minutes

Rinse the chicken with cold, running water. At this point you can season the chicken with your favorite dry rub to add more flavor. If not, then you can skip to the next step, which is to pat the chicken dry with a clean towel. This drying process helps to provide a thin, dry, protective layer when it is cooked (thus helping it to retain even more moisture).

If you are not going to cook the chicken right away, you can let it air dry, uncovered in the refrigerator for up to eight hours (or overnight). Doing so will produce a crispier skin when you cook it.

Tips and Warnings

Just a couple of things that you should know:
  1. Always brine chicken in a container that is non-reactive. Safe materials include glass, plastic, stainless steel, crockery, and porcelain. Materials to avoid include wood, copper, and aluminum.
  2. These same basic instructions can be used to brine both turkeys and geese. Rather than using sugar, you can use molasses or maple syrup to add color and introduce a richer flavoring.
Voila! You now have tender, moist, and flavorful chicken that is sure to please even the most discerning palate.

Now that you have seen how simple the process of brining chicken is, what chicken recipe are you going to try out?

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