Food tips • recipes

The Benefits of a Whole Chicken Brine

Written by Emily Fawcett
9 Minute Read
Published on Jan 30, 2023

A dry chicken is never something we want to serve to those we love, but how do we combat that lean meat that tends to dry out easily? 


Brining is a surprisingly simple way to get that whole chicken juicy and flavorful. There are multiple ways to brine, and we are going to talk not only about the best ways to do it but also why brining a whole chicken is the way to go.

Why Should You Brine Your Whole Chicken?

You may be thinking, “Why brine chicken at all? It’s just another step I’ll have to add to the cooking process.”

Trust us, though; brining is totally worth it. Brining is an easy way to turn your chicken into the most tender, juicy, and flavorful main course you’ve ever had. 

Brining is something a lot of people do for holidays like Thanksgiving, but why not do it for weeknight meals as well? With a little bit of planning, your whole chicken will be special for any occasion.

Of course, if you don’t want to brine a whole succulent chicken, brines are also ideal for:

How Does Brining Work?

So, how does brining work? What’s the magical ingredient? Well, put simply, the magic ingredient to a wonderful brine is salt. No matter if your brine is wet or dry, the salt helps the chicken keep its moisture before cooking.

Salt breaks down proteins in the meat, which means it will not contract while cooking. In other words, pieces of brined meat will lose less water in the cooking process, which leads to a juicier meal. It also seasons the chicken — which means even more flavor.

Wet or Dry Brine: What’s the Difference?

Here’s the big question: do you use a wet or dry brine? Which is better?

Wet and dry brines are both wonderful options that yield delicious results. It really just depends on the amount of prep time you want to factor in before cooking and how you want that juicy chicken to taste. These methods each have different benefits as well.

Here’s a quick rundown of wet brine:

  • Takes a bit longer
  • Helps with moisture
  • Adds a lot of flavor

Now, here are a few points about dry brine:

  • Helps retain the natural juices
  • Quicker process
  • Crispier skin

No matter which brining technique you choose, the most important factor is time. 

For a dry brine, they can be left on for a short time if you're cooking small cuts of meat (or if you’re in a hurry). However, for the best dry brine results, we recommend leaving it on for 12 to 24 hours or even up to three days.

On the other hand, your chicken should be left in a wet brine for at least 12 hours and up to two days. 

What Are the Best Chicken Brining Methods?

You know the main ingredient of a good brine — salt — but what else do you need to transform that whole chicken into the tender chicken of your dreams? Let’s take a look.

Wet Brine Ingredients

Almost like a saltwater bath for your chicken, brining is an easy way to add a lot of flavor to your bird. However, it doesn’t stop at salt. 

You can add a bunch of different flavors to your brine, such as:

  • Fresh herbs
  • Bay leaves
  • Lemon pepper
  • Garlic cloves
  • Black peppercorns
  • Paprika

The ingredients you use to brine your chicken can even change the nutritional value of your bird. Many herbs contain vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, vitamin A, and potassium, all of which can make your dinner even more nourishing and nutritious.

Wet Chicken Brine Recipe

When you make your saltwater brine, make sure to have about five tablespoons of salt for every four cups water.

Here’s how you create the perfect wet chicken brine:

  1. In your large pot, pour in your water (or buttermilk) and put it over medium heat, bringing it to a boil.
  2. Stir in the table salt or kosher salt until it dissolves. Mix in any other ingredients you want to add (we love adding smashed garlic, pepper, and brown sugar).
  3. Turn off the heat and let all of those ingredients steep for 30 minutes.
  4. Cool the liquid in the refrigerator or add some cold water before you submerge the chicken. Water must be cold before brining to avoid the development of bacteria.
  5. Cover the stock pot and let the chicken brine in the refrigerator for 12 hours to two days. You can brine for more or less brining time, depending on how much flavor you want.
  6. Once the chicken is brined, remove it and rinse off the excess salt before patting it completely dry (inside and out).
  7. Refrigerate chicken for an hour to dry out the skin before roasting.
  8. Make sure to dispose of the brining liquid after brining is complete. Never reuse a brine!

After your whole chicken is brined and ready, roast it in the oven and get ready for the best, most succulent chicken you’ve ever tasted.

Dry Brine Recipe

If a wet brine isn’t for you, dry brines are a quick and easy method for getting all those delicious flavors out of your whole chicken.

Here’s a simple recipe to follow:

  1. Mix ½ cup of kosher or table salt, two tbs of baking powder, and any spices or herbs you want.
  2. Pat dry using paper towels.
  3. Sprinkle the brine mixture over the bird generously and rub it into the skin until the outside is completely covered. Make sure not to cake it on, or it may end up over-salted.
  4. Cover chicken loosely with plastic wrap and keep in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours or up to three days.
  5. Rinse off all the brine, pat the chicken dry with paper towels, and cook. Make sure the chicken is completely dry before cooking.

After you use this brine for chicken, bake or roast it and get ready for deliciously crispy skin and tender meat.

What Should You Do After Brining a Chicken?

We truly believe that a brined whole chicken tastes best when roasted. Again, different flavors can be infused into the brine, but one thing stays the same — the importance of a well-cooked chicken. 

There are so many ways to roast a whole chicken, but below, we are going to share our favorite roast chicken recipes.

Garlic Butter Roast Chicken

Garlic and butter on chicken? What could be better? 

Here’s what you need for this recipe:

  • 3 to 4 lb whole chicken
  • ½ medium onion
  • 4 sprigs of fresh thyme (can be replaced with one sprig of rosemary or parsley as aromatics)
  • 2 tbsp softened unsalted butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Garlic Butter Roast Chicken Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Make sure the cavity of the chicken is empty.
  3. Check and see if the chicken is dry after brining, and season inside and outside with salt and pepper.
  4. Cut half of the onion in half again and put the onion and thyme inside the cavity. If the chicken legs are not tied together, tie them together using kitchen twine.

  5. Mix butter, olive oil, and garlic in a small bowl with 1 tsp kosher salt and 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves or ½ tsp dried thyme leaves. Mix well.
  6. Spread the butter mixture over the skin and under the skin. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Put the chicken in a baking dish or roasting pan. Add herbs, onions, lemons, and garlic to the pan.
  8. Place the chicken in the oven and turn the heat down to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake for 45-55 minutes and until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
  9. After removing the chicken from the oven, let it rest for 10-15 minutes before serving.
  10. Serve with the melted garlic butter from the pan.

Serve with creamy mashed potatoes and some asparagus (or any other delicious veggie), and you’ve got a well-rounded, tasty meal. 

Moroccan Roasted Chicken

Coated in warm spices, Moroccan roasted chicken is a delicious option to spice up your weeknight dinner.

Moroccan Roast Chicken Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp softened unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 4 lb whole chicken at room temperature
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 12 pitted dates
  • 12 dried apricots
  • ½ cup chicken stock or low-sodium broth

Moroccan Roast Chicken Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and put the rack on the lower third of the oven.
  2. In a bowl, mix the butter, cumin, coriander, sweet paprika, cayenne, salt, pepper, and cinnamon.
  3. Pat the chicken dry after the brine.
  4. Rub half of the seasoned butter under the skin and the rest over the chicken.
  5. Put the chicken breast-side-up on a rack in a roasting pan.
  6. Scatter the onion, garlic cloves, dates, and dried apricots, and add ½ cup of water to the roasting pan.
  7. Roast for 30 minutes, then using tongs, turn the chicken breast-down and roast for 20 more minutes.
  8. Using tongs, turn the chicken breast-side-up again and add ½ cup of water. Roast for 20 more minutes until the internal temperature of the inner thigh is 175-180 degrees Fahrenheit.
  9. Tilt the chicken over the pan to drain the cavity juices, move the bird to a cutting board and slice it before serving.
  10. Set the pan over high heat, add the stock, and cook, scraping up any brown bits. Use this as a jus with the chicken.

Serve with some Moroccan zaalouk (eggplant and tomato salad) or some chickpea salad, and you’ve got yourself a tasty Moroccan meal. 

Use a Whole Chicken Brine for the Best Bird

Chicken is a perfect weeknight dinner, but what’s even better than just chicken pieces? A moist, tender chicken filled with tons of flavor. Making a whole chicken taste amazing is easy when you’re willing to spend a little more total time making a simple brine. Your taste buds will thank you for your extra effort!


How To Brine a Chicken (So It’s Nice and Juicy) |

How To Brine Chicken |

Moroccan Zaalouk (Cooked Eggplant and Tomato Salad) | The Spruce Eats 

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