David Leite’s Best Brined Roast Chicken

This best brined roast chicken is the best method for brining chicken we’ve ever experienced as featured in The Washington Post. Created by David Leite, it brilliantly blends pureed aromatic vegetables and herbs before adding them to the brining solution. We think of it as a refined brine.

A best brined roast chicken in a cast iron Dutch oven surrounded by potatoes, mushrooms, carrots, and a halved head of garlic.

This roast chicken recipe makes brining worth the effort. Honest. It results in some of the most flavorful roasted chicken The One and I have ever made.

The volume of kosher salt varies greatly from brand to brand due to the size of the crystals. The two brands mentioned in the recipe–Diamond Crystal and Morton–which are the two most widely available, will give you perfect results. Don’t even think of using sea salt or table salt.–David Leite

☞ READ THE ARTICLE: A BETTER BRINE FOR CHICKEN


Why our testers loved this

There’s a whole bunch of reasons our recipe testers gobbled this up. They found it to be exceeding juicy, which is saying a lot–especially for chicken breast, which is notoriously dry. Patty Fabian also found the bird to be “perfectly seasoned” and named it the “most flavorful roast chicken that’s ever come out of my oven!”

Annie A. joined in with her comment, “There are almost no words to describe its succulence, chicken-soup-like depth of flavor, and buttery, roasted presentation.”

Notes on ingredients

Two carrots, two onions, two bay leaves, two leaks, two sprigs of rosemary, thyme, celery, salt, and pepper for making the brine for the better brined roast chicken.
  • Whole chicken–(not pictured) A 4-to-5-pound bird is perfect for the recipe. You don’t need the giblets or gizzards. Freeze them then pull them out when making chicken stock or chicken gravy.
  • Kosher salt–Depending on the brand of kosher salt you’re using, you may need to adjust the amount of salt added to your brine. Crystal sizes in kosher salt vary dramatically. So if you’re using Diamond Crystal kosher salt, use 1 1/2 cups, and if you’re using Morton kosher salt, use a heaping 3/4 cup. If you’re uncertain of the brand, weigh your salt. You should have 7.5 ounces or 215 g.
  • Granulated sugar–The addition of a little sugar to your brine improves the flavor of your roasted chicken and helps to give the chicken a golden-brown color.

How to make David’s best brined chicken

A large pot filled with water, salt, and peppercorns for a brine, and a blender with carrots, celery, leeks, onion, and herbs.
  1. Boil the salt, sugar, and peppercorns in water. Boil until the salt and sugar dissolve. Let cool.
  2. Dump the onions, leeks, carrots, celery, bay leaves, and fresh herbs in a blender. Add the vegetables to a high-powered blender. Make sure that all the vegetables are roughly the same size.
Pureed vegetable brine in a blender and a pot filled with vegetable brine with a partially submerged chicken in it.
  1. Buzz the onions, leeks, carrots, celery, bay leaves, and herbs. Blend until the vegetable puree is smooth.
  2. Add the ice cubes and the water to the pot. Stir until the ice cubes are melted. Stir in the vegetable puree. Nestle the chicken in the pot. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.
  3. Heat the oven to 425°F. Set a rack inside a large roasting pan.
  4. Remove the chicken from the brine. Rinse and pat it dry.
  5. Roast the chicken. Place the chicken on the rack. Brush with melted butter. Roast until cooked through to an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C).
  6. Rest. Let the bird sit, covered loosely with foil, before carving the chicken.

Best Brined Chicken FAQs

What does brining do for a chicken?

The overnight soak in a brine ensures that your roasted chicken is juicy. The herbs and vegetables added to the brine give the roasted chicken a boost of flavor. It’s definitely worth the extra effort to brine your chicken and something I do almost all the time.

Can I use this method for turkey?

Yes, you can. Depending on the size of your turkey, you may need to double or triple the brine mixture. You want enough brine so that your turkey can be fully submerged.

What other herbs or spices can I use in this?

You can add or swap in other fresh herbs such as sage or parsley for the thyme and rosemary in this recipe. You could also replace the peppercorns with whole allspice.

Helpful tips

  • To clean your leeks, remove the root end, slice the leeks lengthwise, and then crosswise into 1-inch pieces. Place them in a bowl, cover them with cool water, and let them sit for 15 minutes to allow any dirt and grit to settle. Use a slotted spoon to remove the leeks from the bowl, leaving the dirt and water behind.
  • If you don’t have a pot large enough to accommodate the chicken and brine, use a strong, good-quality resealable 2.5-gallon bag. Stash the filled and sealed bag inside a large pot or bowl, in case it springs a leak.
  • If your chicken is browning too quickly while roasting, cover it loosely with aluminum foil.
A skillet with David Leite's best brined roast chicken in a cast iron Dutch oven surrounded by potatoes, mushrooms, carrots, and a halved head of garlic.olden brown brined chicken with vegetables around it.

More great roast chicken recipes

☞ If you make this brined roast chicken, consider leaving a review, a star rating, and your best photo in the comments below. I love hearing from you.–David

David Leite’s Best Brined Roast Chicken

A best brined roast chicken in a cast iron Dutch oven surrounded by potatoes, mushrooms, carrots, and a halved head of garlic.
This best brined roast chicken is the best method for brining your chicken, as far as I know. It blends aromatic vegetables and herbs to the brining solution before adding your chicken. The meat gets infused with lush flavors and juiciness beyond the average brined chicken.

Prep 20 mins
Cook 1 hr 10 mins
Chilling time 1 d
Total 1 d 1 hr 30 mins
Mains
American
6 servings
193 kcal
4.86 / 21 votes
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Ingredients 

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 melted
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions
 

Make the brine

  • 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.

Roast the brined chicken

  • 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.
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Notes

  1. Salt–If you’re uncertain about the brand of your kosher salt, weigh it. You want to use 7.5 ounces or 215 g of kosher salt in your brine.
  2. Leeks–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.
  3. Pot options–If you don’t have a pot large enough to accommodate the chicken and brine, use a strong, good-quality resealable 2.5-gallon bag. Stash the filled and sealed bag inside a large pot or bowl, just in case it springs a leak.

Show Nutrition

Serving: 1portionCalories: 193kcal (10%)Carbohydrates: 36g (12%)Protein: 1g (2%)Fat: 6g (9%)Saturated Fat: 4g (25%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.3gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0.2gCholesterol: 15mg (5%)Sodium: 63mg (3%)Potassium: 202mg (6%)Fiber: 2g (8%)Sugar: 29g (32%)Vitamin A: 4103IU (82%)Vitamin C: 8mg (10%)Calcium: 69mg (7%)Iron: 1mg (6%)

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

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

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 most 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.

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!

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 piqued 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 for 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!

HUNGRY FOR MORE?

Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This was fantastic! It’s the juiciest and flavorful roast chicken I’ve ever had! Incredible, highly recommended. Thanks for sharing this recipe, everyone loved it!

  2. 5 stars
    Holy moly, David, this is the most succulent bird I have ever roasted! Neighbors came over for a long awaited dinner last night and none of us could stop commenting on how juicy and delicious the chicken was. Then the gravy, oh my, it was superb; I wiped my plate with some baguette. This might be the method for my Thanksgiving turkey if I have a big enough pot!

    1. Danny, I’ve never made a turkey with this method, although this year might be the first time, if we host Thanksgiving. A recipe would depend upon the size of your bird. The easiest way is to figure out how much water is needed to cover your turkey, and then up the recipe in proportion to that. If you need twice the water, double the recipe. Three times the water, triple it.

  3. Reading your recipe and the testers’ and cooks’ comments, my mouth is seriously watering!! I have only one concern. I would like to make it for family, but my brother has a strict sodium restriction for medical reasons. You state that a serving has only 63 mg. of sodium, which seems low given all the salt in the brine. Need I been concerned? Thank you!

    1. Ellen, you are correct, it does seem low, and given the dietary restriction, my advice would be to avoid brined meats in general, including chickens. During brining, about 1% of the sodium is absorbed by the meat, but there are other factors here to consider here, too (like if the chicken has been washed in salt or injected with saline). It’s difficult to come up with an exact number for sodium content with the calculators available to us, so, to be safe, I wouldn’t recommend making this. Hopefully, you can find (and enjoy!) one of the unbrined roast chicken recipes on the site.

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