While pastured chickens are incredibly healthy birds, sometimes they can be a little tough due to all that running around outside. To rectify this, I brine the chicken overnight before roasting. It does add a step to the cooking process, but it really tenderizes the meat and keeps it very moist. A simple brine is just salt water. Some recipes add sugar to the brine, but that is not something I would do. By soaking the meat in a salt solution, it allows the cell membranes to open up and the salt can enter the cell, followed by the water. This plumps up the proteins and allows it to retain moisture while cooking.
Use coarse Kosher salt measured at one cup of salt per gallon of water. Use a non reactive container, like a stock pot and be sure it will fit into your refrigerator. The chicken will be much juicier and more flavorful than an unbrined bird. You may also add other flavors to the brine, such as herbs, slices of lemon, peppercorns, or allspice berries. Add whatever flavors you like. Brining is also appropriate for chicken parts and, of course turkeys. The larger the bird, the longer the brining time. However, ten hours is the upper limit for any brine, as too long will cause the meat to get too salty and/or mushy.
3-4 pound chicken
1 cup Kosher salt (make sure there are no additives to the salt)
Large stock pot 3/4 full of water
Other seasonings of your choice (optional)
- Dissolve the salt in a small amount of warm water in a separate pot
- Add it to the large pot of water and stir until combined
- Be sure the water in the pot is cool before you submerge the chicken
- Place chicken in the pot and put a plate on top to keep the chicken under the water
- Cover the pot with the lid
- Put the pot into the refrigerator and let soak for 8 – 12 hours
- After brining, remove chicken from pot and rinse
- Let the chicken air dry for 30 minutes before roasting or wrap and keep refrigerated until you are ready to cook
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