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The Best Dry-Brined Roast Chicken

The Best Dry-Brined Roast Chicken


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Dry-brined roasted chickens are the best way to get succulent, juicy meat, and crispy, golden skin! The best part? You only need 5 minutes and some space in the fridge!

Dinner doesn’t have to be full of bells and whistles. As a matter of fact, sometimes it’s better when it’s not.

This whole roasted chicken recipe is easy to make, has only 6 ingredients (two of which are salt and pepper), and only takes 5 minutes to prepare.

The real secret to this chicken, however, is giving it a 24-hour rest (or longer!) in the refrigerator before roasting. This gives the skin a chance to dry out (dry skin=crispy skin) and for the seasonings to flavor the meat. If you can let it sit for 72 hours that’s even better!

I love this recipe because it gives me room for spontaneity. The chicken might be in the refrigerator for 24-hours, but if a friend calls and wants to go out to eat I can shift gears and roast the chicken the following night, and my home cooked meal will be all the better for it!

DRY BRINE FOR THE BEST CHICKEN

To make this chicken, we are actually combining two techniques:

  1. Dry brining (also known as curing), which we used for our Thanksgiving turkey
  2. Air drying, which we also used for our turkey and for some crispy skin experiments we did a while back.

Dry brining allows the salt and seasonings to penetrate into the meat of the bird without all the fuss of soaking it in salt water for 24 hours. Air drying reduces moisture on the skin and makes it extra crispy!

Curious about the methods of our madness? Check out those other posts linked above. If you just need a chicken recipe, then read on!

Go ahead and give the chicken a good rub down a day or three before you want to roast it. When you’re ready to make dinner rub a little additional oil on the outside of the bird, add another sprinkle of salt and pepper then pop it in a hot oven.

BASTE YOUR CHICKEN

I will freely admit basting keeps you in the kitchen and tied to the stove, but I think it’s worth it. Basting helps to keep the meat tender and moist, while flavoring the surface of it with those lovely seasoned juices. It also creates a more deeply colored bird that is a site to behold.

That showstopper moment is practically a requirement for Thanksgiving, but not so much for weeknight chicken. If you forget to baste or you just don’t want to do it, the chicken will still taste and look great.

Also, chickens are processed in different ways. Some chickens have more fat than others. Your chicken may or may not release a lot of juices in the first hour while it’s roasting. Either way is ok.

Once your chicken begins to release the juice, even if it’s at the 45- to 60-minute mark, start basting. If the juices release later rather than earlier baste every 15 minutes rather than every 20.

OTHER WAYS TO SEASON YOUR CHICKEN

Consider this chicken your starter package! Dress up or add to the seasonings anything that suits your fancy. Try:

  • Orange, fennel and garlic
  • Thyme, parsley, rosemary, sage and lemon juice
  • Try using butter instead of oil

WHAT TO SERVE WITH THIS CHICKEN

  • I love mashed potatoes with anything, including chicken!
  • Lemony Broccoli Rabe is always on the rotation at my house.
  • Roasted Carrots go well with everything!
  • The crisp, crunch of a Classic Wedge Salad is a refreshing side

And don’t forget to save the bones to make chicken stock! You can make your stock on the stove top, in the slow cooker, or the pressure cooker.

Need to know how to prep this chicken for the oven? Check out our guide on How to Truss a Chicken.

CHECK OUT THESE OTHER ROAST CHICKEN RECIPES!

  • Keller’s Skillet Roast Chicken with Root Vegetables
  • Honey Glazed Lemon Roast Chicken
  • Roast Chicken with Carrots
  • Herb Stuffed Roast Chicken
  • Roasted Garlic Chicken

The Best Dry Brined Roast Chicken Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 5- to 6-pound chicken
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons freshly cracked pepper
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons dried thyme

Method

1 Prepare the pan: Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and set a baking rack on top or use a roasting pan with a roasting rack.

2 Make the spice rub: Zest and quarter the lemon. Combine the lemon zest, juice from 1/4 of the lemon, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 1/2 teaspoons salt, pepper and thyme together in a small bowl.

Save the lemon quarters (even the one you squeezed dry) to insert into the cavity.

3 Season the chicken: Pat the outside of the chicken dry with a paper towel. Slide your fingers between the skin and the breast meat to loosen the skin. Try to separate the skin from around the legs as well.

Rub 3/4 of the spice mixture under the skin and into the breast and leg meat. Rub the remaining spice mixture inside the cavity of the bird. Insert the lemon quarters in the cavity.

4 Truss the chicken: To truss the chicken, cut a piece of kitchen twine about 15 inches long. Tuck the wings under the bird as best you can. Center the twine under the back end of the chicken so equal lengths of twine are where you tucked the wings in.

Lift up each side of the twine crossing it over the top of bird’s body, wrap it around the legs. Tie the legs together.

5 Let the chicken air dry for 24 hours: Place the bird, baking sheet and all, into your refrigerator uncovered for 24 to 72 hours. If you don’t have the room in your refrigerator it’s ok to put the chicken on a plate and transfer it to the baking sheet when you’re ready to roast the bird.

6 Prepare the oven: When ready to roast, move your oven rack to the second lowest spot in the oven. Preheat the oven to 375° F degrees.

7 Add extra seasonings: The chicken will look a little desiccated after the 24-72 hour rest. That’s a good thing! It means your chicken will have crispy skin!

Transfer the baking sheet from the fridge to the counter. Rub the outside of the chicken with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, a 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt, and a few cracks of fresh ground pepper.

8 Roast and baste the chicken: Place the baking sheet into the oven and roast for 1 hour at 375° F degrees. Then turn the oven up to 425° F degrees for the remaining 20 minutes or until the temperature in the thickest part of the breast reaches 160° F degrees.

Check the chicken at the 45-minute mark and baste it. You may have to tip the pan a little to the corner to get to the juices. If you don’t have a baster don’t worry, just use a long-handled spoon to scoop up and pour the drippings over the chicken.

Continue to baste every 15 to 20 minutes until it reaches a deep, rich, golden color, the skin is crispy, and the chicken has finished cooking through.

9 Rest the chicken: Remove the chicken from the oven when the temperature in the thickest part of the breast reads about 160°F. Let it rest for 5 minutes. The temperature will continue to rise to reach 165°F.

If you don’t have a thermometer that’s ok. The chicken is cooked through when you slice into it and the juices run clear.

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The Best Dry-Brined Roast Chicken

Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and set a baking rack on top or use a roasting pan with a roasting rack.

Zest and quarter the lemon. Combine the lemon zest, juice from 1/4 of the lemon, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 1/2 teaspoons salt, pepper and thyme together in a small bowl. Save the lemon quarters to insert into the cavity.

Pat the outside of the chicken dry with a paper towel. Slide your fingers between the skin and the breast meat to loosen the skin. Try to separate the skin from around the legs as well. Rub 3/4 of the spice mixture under the skin and into the breast and leg meat. Rub the remaining spice mixture inside the cavity of the bird. Insert the lemon quarters in the cavity.

To truss the chicken, cut a piece of kitchen twine about 15 inches long. Tuck the wings under the bird as best you can. Center the twine under the back end of the chicken so equal lengths of twine are where you tucked the wings in. Lift up each side of the twine crossing it over the top of bird&rsquos body, wrap it around the legs. Tie the legs together.

Place the bird, baking sheet and all, into your refrigerator uncovered for 24 to 72 hours. If you don&rsquot have the room in your refrigerator it&rsquos ok to put the chicken on a plate and transfer it to the baking sheet when you&rsquore ready to roast the bird.

When ready to roast, move your oven rack to the second lowest spot in the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F degrees.

The chicken will look a little desiccated after the 24-72 hour rest. That&rsquos a good thing! It means your chicken will have crispy skin! Transfer the baking sheet from the fridge to the counter. Rub the outside of the chicken with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, a 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt, and a few cracks of fresh ground pepper.

Place the baking sheet into the oven and roast for 1 hour at 375 degrees F degrees. Then turn the oven up to 425 degrees F degrees for the remaining 20 minutes or until the temperature in the thickest part of the breast reaches 160 degrees F degrees. Check the chicken at the 45-minute mark and baste it. You may have to tip the pan a little to the corner to get to the juices. If you don&rsquot have a baster don&rsquot worry, just use a long-handled spoon to scoop up and pour the drippings over the chicken. Continue to baste every 15 to 20 minutes until it reaches a deep, rich, golden color, the skin is crispy, and the chicken has finished cooking through.

Remove the chicken from the oven when the temperature in the thickest part of the breast reads about 160 degrees F. Let it rest for 5 minutes. The temperature will continue to rise to reach 165 degrees F. If you don&rsquot have a thermometer that&rsquos ok. The chicken is cooked through when you slice into it and the juices run clear.


Dry Brined Chicken: Frequently Asked Questions:

Will it get too salty?

If you use the correct amount of salt per weight of chicken, and distribute the salt evenly, the chicken should not be too salty. Just be sure that the chicken that you use is not already pre-brined or pre-seasoned in any way.

Do I need to rinse the dry brine before cooking?

No. In addition, leaving the meat un-rinsed results in a crispier skin.

What type of salt should I use?

Morton’s kosher salt is most readily available in the supermarket however I prefer Diamond Kosher salt because it is less salty. If you do use Morton’s, use slightly less than the recipe calls for.


How to Dry Brine Chicken

This dry brine chicken is fairly straightforward. Begin with the best roasting chicken you can find. I used a meaty 2 lb local Hutterite chicken and the quality really outshines any grocery store roasting chicken.

Next, place the salt, fresh herbs, and lemon zest inside a mortar. Bash them around for a minute with the pestle so that the salt picks up all that wonderful herb and citrus flavour. Add the lemon juice and olive oil. Stuff the chicken cavity with fresh herbs and half a lemon.

Separate the skin over the breasts by carefully inserting your hand under the skin and gently pushing through the connecting tissue. Try not to tear the skin but it’s not the end of the world if it happens (see photo!). Rub 1/4 of the dry brine on one breast under the skin, then repeat with the other breast.

Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel and truss it up. Trussing the chicken creates a nice tight chicken and keeps the legs from separating from the body during roasting.


The Non-Solution Solution: The Science of Dry-Brining

Dry-brining cuts out the unnecessary added water by using the natural moisture content of the meat to create a concentrated brine that, when given enough time, is naturally absorbed back into the meat before cooking. If you've ever made eggplant Parmesan or zucchini fritters, you know that salt draws out moisture from ingredients, and the same applies to proteins.

Season a steak with kosher salt, and within a few minutes, you will witness osmosis at work: Liquid from the steak will bead up on the surface of the meat, drawn out by the salt. Wait another ten minutes, and that liquid from the beef will have started to dissolve the salt, forming a concentrated brine. That concentrated liquid brine, formed from the meat's natural juices, is what makes this process "brining" and not just a ridiculous rebranding of mere salting.

That dissolved salt is then absorbed by the meat through diffusion, moving from an area of high concentration (the surface of the steak) to a lower concentration one (the steak's interior). As with a traditional brine, the salt re-shapes and dissolves muscle proteins, allowing the meat to absorb and retain moisture.

To complete the dry-brining process, the moisture that was initially drawn out of the meat is reabsorbed to counteract the shift in salt concentration from surface to interior, leaving you with a well-seasoned piece of meat that will now better retain its natural moisture content during cooking. You're tricking your food into brining itself with its own juices, and all it takes is some salt and a little patience.


What to serve with roast chicken

Something carby and something green! Here are a few suggestions:

Potato and Bread sides for roast chicken

Potatoes au Gratin – my favourite make-head-looks-and-sounds-impressive option, “it’s French, darling”

Paris Mash – for something sinfully rich, and very fine dining style

Everyday Creamy Mashed Potato which we will never, ever tire of

Creamy Mashed Cauliflower for a low carb option (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it)

Warm homemade No Knead Dinner Rolls or an easy, crusty, no yeast Irish Soda Bread

Side salad options for roast chicken

Classic Rocket Salad with Shaved Parmesan (aka Arugula) – very fine dining / bistro style and also the world’s fastest side salad

The chicken is so moist, you can serve it as is with a tiny drizzle of the pan juices (which are quite salty, so don’t go overboard!). If you’d like a gravy, make it while the chicken is resting – the recipe is in the notes.

I’ve also been known to drizzle with a touch of melted butter and squeeze of fresh lemon juice – it’s divine! – Nagi x


David Leite's Best Brined Roast Chicken

Ingredients US Metric

  • For the brine
  • 11 cups cold water
  • 1 1/2 cups Diamond Crystal kosher salt OR a heaping 3/4 cup Morton's kosher salt (see headnote)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
  • 2 medium yellow onions, coarsely chopped
  • 2 medium leeks, cleaned* (see *NOTE below) and coarsely chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, scrubbed well and coarsely chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, coarsely chopped
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • Leaves from 6 stems thyme
  • Leaves from 6 sprigs rosemary
  • 9 cups ice cubes
  • One (4-to 5-pound) chicken, giblet/gizzard packet removed
  • For the roast brined chicken
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 oz), melted
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Add 3 cups of the cold water to a large Dutch oven or pasta pot. Pour in the salt, sugar, and peppercorns. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring until the salt and sugar dissolve, and then turn off the heat.

Meanwhile, add 2 cups of the water to a high-powered blender or food processor. Working in batches as needed, add the onions, leeks, carrots, celery, bay leaves, thyme, and rosemary. Purée until liquefied.

Add the ice to the pot along with the remaining 6 cups of cold water. Stir until the ice cubes melt and the water is cold. Add the puréed ingredients. Submerge the chicken, cover the pot, and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Preheat the oven to 425°F (218°C). Place a rack in a roasting pan.

Rinse the chicken and pat dry with paper towel. Discard the brine.

Place the bird on the rack in the pan and tie the legs together with kitchen twine, if desired. Brush with the melted butter and season generously with pepper. Roast (middle rack) for about 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thigh meat (away from the bone) registers 165°F (74°C). The skin should be brown and crisp. If it starts to overbrown, loosely cover with a large sheet of aluminum foil.

Let the chicken sit, loosely tented with aluminum foil, for 15 minutes before carving.

*What You Need To Know About Cleaning Leeks Note

Clean the cut leeks by letting them sit in a bowl of ice water for 15 minutes so the grit can settle. Lift the leeks out, letting the grit remain in the water.

Recipe Testers' Reviews

Patty Fabian

This unique brining method was a great hit! I’ve never taken the time to brine a chicken for 24 hours before, so I definitely wanted to try this recipe. As promised, it certainly did produce the most juicy, tender, and flavorful roast chicken that’s ever come out of my oven.

I understand the use of salt, sugar, and herbs in brines, but I couldn’t wait to see how the pureed veggies affected the flavor. The result, a perfectly seasoned flavor permeated the meat all the way through to the bone, but I couldn’t detect what specific flavor it came from, it was just simply really good! While one might think it would be salt forward, it wasn’t, there was the slightest hint of sweet and savory at the same time, which I suspect came from the veggies. The sugar, of course, created the uniformly beautiful brown and crisp skin.

Preparing the brine was a very easy process, especially with the assistance of my food processor. The pureed aromatics smelled wonderful as they were all whizzed together! The biggest challenge for me was finding a pot big enough to hold all the brine this makes along with the chicken. I ended up using my Dutch oven for the brine and after adding the ice cubes and additional water, the pot was completely filled. I put a 2.5-gallon Hefty zip lock bag into a tall pasta pot and added the cold brine and the pureed veggies into the bag to combine. Fortunately, there was still room for the chicken, so I plopped it in the bag and extracted the air out before zipping the bag up, so this kept the chicken completely submerged in the liquid. This all went into the fridge for 24 hours to do its thing.

The chicken was beautifully brown with a crispy skin at 50 minutes, so I tented it with foil so it wouldn’t burn during the remaining 20 minutes it was in the oven. The roasting time at 1 hour, 10 minutes was spot on for an internal thigh temperature of 165 degrees. I let the chicken sit, tented, for 15 minutes while preparing my side dishes.

It does take some planning, time, and fridge space to prepare this roast chicken, but the effort is certainly worth it, and you will be rewarded with a really great tasting chicken dinner!

The skin was beautifully browned and crisp at 50 minutes, so I tented it with foil for the remaining time in the oven so it didn’t burn.

Annie A.

Wow. This chicken is INCREDIBLE. There are almost no words to describe its succulence, chicken-soup-like depth of flavor, and buttery, roasted presentation. This would be such a great dish to make in winter (it'll fill your house with a rich, rosemary-tinted aroma like Thanksgiving). Honestly, I don't see why everyone shouldn't make this FOR Thanksgiving. I think once you did, you'd be hard-pressed to find a reason to make any other recipe again.

Also. I can't wait to make chicken sandwiches with the leftovers!

Erica V.

Roast chicken was a Sunday staple growing up. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until I was an adult with several culinary classes under my belt that I realized the secret to moist, succulent chicken (and most importantly breast) is brining it. My husband was worried when he saw the amount of salt I put into the boiling water, but after one taste he went from using utensils to hands!

I’ve done many different methods, with the salt and buttermilk being one of my favorites. Unfortunately, buttermilk is difficult (impossible) to find in Italy. So finding a new way to infuse both flavor and moisture peaked my interest! Finding the best produce in Italy is never a problem, but the genius of this recipe is that you can use vegetables that are on their last legs (I hate waste!).

My only obstacles were locating kosher salt, so I substituted it with Sale Grosso (a coarse salt) and the dried bay leaves became dried salvia leaves.

The instructions were pretty spot on. and simple (boil water- ✔️, dump veggies in a blender- ✔️).

After the chicken was submerged in its brine bath for 22 hours, I removed the pot from the fridge the last 2 hours to remove some of the coldness, in order to help it cook more consistently.

The chicken was then drained, patted dry with paper towels, and placed on the rack inside of my roasting pan. Melted butter and cracked pepper soon followed.

The chicken was a beautiful brown color and the meat easily pulled away. Most importantly, the meat was beyond juicy and moist with so much flavor!

If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.


How To Make Brine Chicken?

Use a pot big enough to hold you meat. Dissolve kosher salt in water in the pot on slow simmer for about 2 minutes. The basic ratio is one tablespoon of salt for every one cup water.

Now throw in all the fancy flavor enhancing ingredients into water. Add crushed garlic, pepper corns, bay leaves, lemon slices, honey and fresh herbs – rosemary, thyme and parsley.

Bring water to boil for about a minute, stir to dissolve salt.

Remove pan from stove. Allow water to cool completely.

IMPORTANT NOTE: DO NOT put chicken in the brine before it’s completely cool. Warm temperature of the brine will make scary harmful bacteria’s in the chicken. It can lead to serious health hazards!

Cook’s Tip: To help brine cool down faster, allow the pot to cool down a bit and then place the pot in fridge to cool brine faster and cool it completely.

Place whole chicken in cooled brine.

NOTE: chicken should be fully immersed in brine.

Cover pot with lid and brine chicken inside refrigerator for 8 to 24 hours. Do not go past that. Chicken will begin to absorb salt and will turn overly salty.

Note: if chicken isn’t fully immersed in water, go ahead and add 1 to 2 cups of extra water (room temperature water).

After brining, remove chicken from brine. Rinse under tap water.

IMPORTANT: Don’t skip rinsing brined chicken under tap water. This will wash off some of the salt over the chicken. I found when not rinsed, brine chicken after roasting turned a bit salty.

DISCARD THE BRINE. Raw meat in the brine marinade can cause contamination if used. Discard brine after removing chicken from it.

How To Roast Brine Chicken?

Remove chicken from the brine. Rinse it under tap water.

Pat dry chicken with paper towel to remove excess moisture.

Rub softened butter (unsalted) all over the chicken.

Sprinkle pepper powder on top.

Tie the legs of the chicken with a string.

Place the chicken over a rack lined over baking tray or any other heavy based baking pan like cast iron pan. Set aside in fridge uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes.

Roast chicken in pre-heated oven at 400 degree F for 30 minutes.

Remove from oven. Using tongs inserted into the chicken, flip chicken to breast side up. Continue roasting for about 30 to 40 minutes.

Rotate the pan half way through if not browning evenly. And keep brushing the top with butter atleast 3 to 5 times in between roasting time.

Stick a thermometer around the thighs and if it read 165 degree F chicken is cooked.

Note: Brined chicken cooks faster.

Remove chicken from oven. Cover it with aluminum foil and rest it for 15 minutes. It’s important to let the chicken rest before carving.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Do not use the liquid from the pan to drizzle over chicken. It’ll turn chicken salty.

Serve this crazy-juicy roast chicken as a meal with sautéed beans and mashed potatoes on sides.


Pro Tips/Recipe Notes For Perfect Paleo Roast Chicken

  • This recipe is based on the Very Classic Dry Brine Roast Turkey recipe from Bon Appetit which makes the best turkey you have ever truly had. I&rsquove adapted it to our tastes and for making a much smaller bird.
  • Feel free to nestle some potatoes, carrot chunks, or other veg in the roasting pan while the chicken is cooking. This makes it an awesome one-pot meal! Even better, add some pressure cooker caramelized onions for amazing flavor.
  • I know 2 tbsp of kosher salt sounds like a lot, but it will all be rinsed off prior to cooking.

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