Way back in 1998, the San Francisco Chronicle wrote a story on brining meats which I cut out and put into my recipe binder. (Remember those? Back in the dark days before online recipe sites and food blogs?) I hadn’t heard of the technique before, but it sure caught my fancy, and I gave it a go, first with chicken and then with pork chops. Each turned out better than any cooked at home ever before. Yes, just as promised, the meat was juicy and flavorful as opposed to dry and bland. Call me a convert. Now, a brine is always used on these meats.
A few years back, there would be a brined and roasted chicken on our dinner table about once a month. Easy, inexpensive, and delicious were the traits that kept that dish coming back. What caused the habit to fade is a mystery to me. Then, last month, I was browsing my favorite food blogs and ran across Michael Rhulman writing about how he roasts a chicken for dinner weekly and tried the brining method for a change. Memories of lovely roasted chicken came whirling back through my mind!
If you have not yet brined a bird, now is the time. Yes, there are extra steps, but with a little planning, they take very little time. This is the basic plan:
- While making dinner the night before the roasted chicken dinner, make brine while making dinner. Use the same pot that you’ll put the bird in when the brine has cooled. The brine just involves a few ingredients that need to be brought to a boil and can be put together in under 5 minutes. You’re at the stove anyways, just add one more pot for the brine.
- Let the brine cool during the evening and put it in the refrigerator before going to bed.
- In the morning, rise the chicken, remove any innards, and put it in the brine. Leave the brined bird in the refrigerator all day. At this point, you have completed all steps for the brining process and are ready to roast the chicken that night.
Brined Roasted Chicken
1 gallon water, more if need to completely cover the chicken while in the pot
1 cup kosher salt
4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed with the side of a knife to break open
1 to 2 TBS peppercorns cracked with a mortar and pestle
2 sprigs rosemary (can also use oregano or sage)
1. Combine water, salt, garlic, peppercorns and rosemary in a large pot on the stove. Heat to a boil and stir until salt dissolves. Remove from heat and cool. Place in refrigerator overnight.
2. In the morning, remove brine and chicken from refrigerator. Rinse chicken and remove any parts in the body cavity. Place chicken into the pot, breast side down, cover, and return to refrigerator.
3. When ready to roast, preheat oven to 425 degrees, remove chicken from the pot and allow to air dry while coming closer to room temperature. Place chicken, breast side up, in roasting rack or iron skillet for cooking.
4. Set the roasting pan or skillet in the oven. After 15 minutes lower the heat to 350 degrees, and continue roasting for one hour, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Remove from oven and let rest for 15 minutes.
- The roasting method is based on Julia Child’s recommendations. I miss Julia.
- Because the chicken drippings will be salty, homemade gravy just doesn’t work with this method.
- Ruhlman talks about using a cast iron skillet for his roasted birds. I’ll give that a go next time around.
- Once you have the basics of salt, garlic, and peppercorns down, play around with different herbs. The possibilities are endless!
- The Chronicle article provides great information, especially the “What the Pro’s Know” and “How Long to Brine” sections.
- Once that chicken is in the oven, you have time to relax with a glass of wine. Nice!