To brine or not to brine is the question? When cooking poultry, whether it be chicken, turkey, quail or some other sort of bird – does brining bear good results and is it necessary? I have mixed feeling about brining, especially when it comes to preparing a whole chicken, so I took it upon myself to do a brining experiment and to see once and for all if I should brine.
Brining doesn’t have to be complicated, but in order to bump-up flavor and to achieve maximum moisture, I wanted to put together a brine that would have some kind of impact – not just salt and water. I have been saving a few recipes about some unique brines that I thought would do the job and I decided to go with a brine that I had read about months ago in Food & Wine Magazine.
This brine is a combination of apple juice, kosher salt, soy sauce, garlic, brown sugar and kombu (dried seaweed you make Dashi broth for Miso Soup) and fresh herbs. I’ll be honest, this mixture does not look very appealing in the pot, but I dunked my bird in anyways for an overnight nap. The next afternoon, I patted my chicken dry and placed it in an iron skillet for cooking, but not before I stuffed him/her with sliced lemon, rosemary sprigs, fresh thyme and a bit of butter.
This time around I went with the low and slow method of cooking my chicken, so the brine would have more time to penetrate into the meat. After an hour and a half or so, I placed my bird under the broiler for a semi-quick hit of heat to crisp up the skin and give it a soon-to-be summer tan.
Results – I think my chicken was juicy, tender and I did taste a bit of soy or richness from the brine. Would I say that you need to brine every time? No, but if you have the time on the weekend, it’s definitely worth a little more effort for great chicken. I almost named this recipe “Weekend” Chicken because most of us don’t have the time during the week to brine.
12 cups water
1/2 cup apple juice or cider
1/4 cup soy sauce or tamari
1/4 cup brown sugar
5 cloves garlic, smashed
1 (8 x 5) inch piece of kombu
10 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 rosemary sprigs
2 bay leaves
4 pound organic chicken
1 tablespoon kosher salt, divided
1 lemon, sliced in half
4 tablespoon butter, divided
4 sprigs thyme, divided
2 sprigs rosemary
- In a large Dutch oven or stock pot, add all brine ingredients and cook until simmering. Stir liquid to dissolve dry ingredients. Turn off heat and let cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.
- Place chicken in brine, breast side down and cover pot with lid. Place in refrigerator overnight.
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Remove chicken and pat dry with paper towels. Place chicken in a 12-inch iron skillet. Salt inside of cavity of chicken and stuff lemon, half of thyme and rosemary inside. Tie up legs of chicken and tuck wings under. Place 2 tablespoon butter inside of cavity and smear remaining on outside of chicken. Drizzle with olive oil over top and sprinkle with remaining salt. Grease a large piece of foil and place it, grease-side-down on top of chicken – tuck around edges of pan.
- Place skillet in oven to cook for 1 hour 40 minutes, or until chicken reaches 155 degrees. Remove chicken and turn oven heat to broil. Remove foil from top of skillet and place under broiler for 10 minutes to darken skin (you may need to rotate skillet a few times for optimal browning).
- Remove skillet from oven and place chicken on a cutting board to rest. Place skillet on top of medium-high heat and reduce chicken juices for 5 minutes. Strain juices to remove any chicken bits and place back into skillet to keep warm over simmering heat. Add remaining thyme leaves to pan juices.
- Remove lemon and herbs from inside of chicken cavity. Slice chicken as desired and serve with pan juices. Enjoy!