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The Cuban

Juiciest Chicken We Have Ever Had 
Aug. 31, 2011 4:19 am 
Updated: Jan. 31, 2012 4:29 am

I watch the Food Network so often that Kelly calls it my “Food Porn”.

To explain why it fascinates me so much would be rather difficult but I could watch for hours and hours. Immediately after I watch a show though I want to try cooking what I just watched them make on television.

Last year, just before Thanksgiving, I saw a show about brining meat such as turkey and chicken and how it makes it tastier and juicier than preparing it any other way. It made Kelly super nervous that I was bound and determined to brine our turkey for the first time we had Thanksgiving in our new house.

If you haven’t heard of brining meat it is a very simple process, similar to marinating, only you use a very high concentration of salt. I know what you’re thinking, “Gah!! Salt is bad for you! You can’t do that!” That’s what Kelly said anyway. But she soon found out that the salt simply acts as a chemical reaction and doesn’t make the meat too salty or cause you to feel like you just crossed a desert and need water.

But she has learned to let me be when it comes to cooking. If for no other reason than I will whine about it long enough she finally gives up on trying to talk me out of it.

The resulting turkey was an amazingly succulent, moist, great-tasting bird.

Since last November I have tried probably dozens of different brines and, if last night’s chicken was any proof, I have the recipe refined enough now to share it. So…

Here’s the stuff you need to get together:

§  A pan big enough to hold however much poultry you are cooking

§  About a gallon of warm, almost hot, water

§  A cup of regular table salt (other salts don’t seem to work as well)

§  About a half cup of powdered sugar (again, other sugars don’t work as well)

§  ¼ cup or so of poultry seasoning

§  ¼ cup or so of smoked paprika

§  ¼ cup or so garlic salt

§  A good sprinkle of ground black pepper

You can fool around with any other spices you’d normally season your poultry with. I’ve used ground chipotle, seasoning salt, ground mustard, etc. The thing to remember is that whatever you put into the brine will be all the seasoning you will be using. After the meat comes out of the brine you do no further seasoning.

Dump all of the seasoning into the warm water and stir long enough that most of the seasoning is dissolved. Not all of it will actually dissolve. (If it does you didn’t use enough salt). Then place the chicken (or whatever poultry you’re using) into the brine. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for no less than one hour depending on the weight. For bigger things like turkey you will want to get a brine bag and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight.

*Key safety point here. Remember you are handling raw poultry so clean your hands, counters, etc accordingly*

When it’s time to remove the chicken from the brine, take a pan big enough to hold the amount you have and layer it with paper towels. Remove the chicken and immediately place on the pan. Then cover with more paper towels. Make sure to pat the chicken dry because any moisture left on the outer skin will boil. When this happens you end up boiling the meat instead of baking or grilling it.

Kelly and I both prefer the grill to the oven but either way is the same as you would normally make any poultry.

The biggest thing to remember is to not overcook the chicken. I fully believe that most people cook a bird till it’s dead and not necessarily until it’s done. If you overcook your chicken it won’t be juicy no matter how you prepared it.

The next thing to remember is that chicken, or any meat for that matter, needs time when it comes off the heat for the juices to redistribute throughout the meat. Before I learned this I would cut into a chicken breast right when I took it off the grill. I couldn’t understand why the bed of rice the chicken was sitting on tasted so good but the chicken breast was dry.  It was because the rice soaked up all the juicy goodness that should have been in the chicken.  And I wasn’t hearing the comments I do now like, “Oh. My. God. This is the juiciest chicken I have ever tasted!” and, “Would you look at that! This chicken is so juicy it’s dripping!”

All in all, I can assure you that both Kelly and I are pretty pleased that we experimented with brining. Actually we have even brined pork chops and steak as well as chicken. It just seems to have a greater effect on poultry. Has anyone else ever tried brining? Any other recipes?

If you haven’t tried it, I can’t stress enough how easy it is. Try it tonight and see if I’m right.

brining chicken
Photo Detail
Aug. 31, 2011 2:09 pm
Do you leave the meat out at room temperature while it's in the brine or put the whole thing into the fridge? I'd worry about leaving it out...
Aug. 31, 2011 2:39 pm
If it's a couple of pounds or less I usually only brine them an hour or so and leave it out. If it's more than that then I will put it in the fridge. Thanks for the question!
Aug. 31, 2011 4:56 pm
I'm a big believer in brining birds. After many years of bland, dry poultry I was so afraid of chicken that I never cooked it, and would only do a turkey for the holidays, when my family made me. Then I discovered brining (thank you CI) and no longer fear poultry. I hope everyone takes your blog to heart, because it really is the VERY BEST way to prep a bird. Great blog, great explanation.
Sep. 1, 2011 9:28 am
Ever since brining my turkey several years ago, it's the only way I'll prepare it. I've brined a few chickens and a pork roast with great success. I have a large round cooler (used only for this purpose!) that I place the turkey in and fill it with ice & brine. I read somewhere that it's not a good idea to do it this way because you aren't sure about a constant temp but I feel that as long as there is a generous amount of ice around it, it's going to be OK. Takes a little playing with the brine recipe to account for the melting ice but it hasn't failed me yet!
Sep. 2, 2011 12:31 pm
Well--Thanks! I have never read a better explanation of the brining process. I think I will try it!
Sep. 20, 2011 8:07 pm
I have heard countless times and now on this post how effective brining is. Thanks for sharing your method. I guess that Thanksgiving bird is a tad too large for the beer can method!
Sep. 22, 2011 1:05 pm
I always brine my turkey for thanksgiving and then my hubby smokes it with a cherry or apple wood..I like to stuff the turkey with apples and orages celery and one onion to add more flavor i use differt juices along with the salt water brine...very yummy every year
Jan. 31, 2012 4:29 am
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The Cuban

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Springfield, Illinois, USA

Member Since
Mar. 2011

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Baking, Grilling & BBQ, Frying, Slow Cooking, Mexican, Italian, Southern, Mediterranean, Dessert, Quick & Easy

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