To make this perfectly roasted, brined chicken, which truly is the most tender and moist chicken we’ve tried, you must first brine it before roasting it with lemon, garlic, and herbs.
There is almost nothing more satisfying both to cook and to eat than roast chicken. Michael Symon and I continue our debate on whether to brine or not to brine, and I must say that when we had a taste test, even he chose the brined chicken. This is my best roast chicken recipe, perfect for Sunday dinner. For very crisp skin, it’s always better to brine the day before and allow the bird to dry in the fridge, uncovered, overnight.–Mario Batali
LC Perfect Brined Chicken Note
“Perfect” is a pretty loaded word. Is this brined chicken recipe perfect? Hmm. Perhaps. It certainly passes muster, regardless of whether one deems it perfect. Care to share your thoughts? Let us know in a comment below.
For the brine
- 1 cup kosher salt
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 1 bunch rosemary
- 1/2 cup apple cider
- 2 quarts boiling water
- 2 quarts ice [Editor’s Note: You may need to plan ahead to make this much ice!]
For the roast chicken
- One (3-pound) chicken
- 1 lemon thinly sliced, preferably organic
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 bunch thyme
- 8 cloves garlic peeled
- 6 sprigs marjoram
- 1 small red onion thinly sliced
Brine the chicken
- In a plastic container or stainless-steel bowl large enough to hold the chicken, stir the salt, cinnamon, rosemary, and cider together.
- Pour in the boiling water and stir to dissolve.
- Add the ice and stir. Submerge the chicken in the brine. Place a plate on top of the bird to prevent it from floating. You want the chicken to remain completely submerged throughout the brining process.
- Cover and refrigerate for 1 to 4 hours, but no longer. (If there is any question, always brine for less time, not more.)
- Pour off and discard the brine. Then dry the chicken thoroughly with paper towels.
- If ridiculously crisp skin is desired, place the brined bird on a plate and place in the refrigerator to air-dry, uncovered, for at least another hour or, preferably, overnight.
Roast the brined chicken
- Preheat the oven to 475°F (246°C). [Editor’s Note: Anytime you crank the oven past 450°F (232°C), you’re going to need to first scrub the inside so as to prevent clouds of smoke from interfering with your ability to read the recipe on your computer screen.]
- Let the brined chicken rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Carefully slip 1 or 2 slices lemon under the skin of each breast and center it, using your fingertips to gently nudge the skin from the underlying meat without ripping it. Rub the entire chicken with the olive oil. In a small bowl, mix the salt and pepper and season the chicken inside and out with the mixture.
- Cram the thyme, garlic, marjoram, remaining lemon slices, and onion in the chicken’s cavity. [Editor’s Note: This is a lot of stuff to fit in the cavity of a chicken, so trust us when we say that you may need to rely on a little brute force and cram it in there.]
- Place the chicken on a rack set inside a roasting pan. Roast the chicken for 20 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 375°F (190°C). Continue roasting the chicken until the thigh juices run clear and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, away from the bone, registers 160°F (71°C), about 25 to 30 minutes more (or longer if you’re using a larger hen).
- Transfer the chicken to a warmed platter in a warm place and let rest for at least 10 minutes. Carve and serve.
Brined Chicken VariationUnstuffed Brined Chicken Omit the thyme, garlic, marjoram, and onion but otherwise follow the recipe instructions above.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
A roast chicken is a versatile, easy, and comforting dish to make and eat. I’m always trying different recipes to see which I like the best, and I must say this brined chicken recipe made a darn good roast chicken. The skin was crisp not soggy, yet the meat was moist, tender, and flavorful. I think the brining may have helped some, although I did not brine it for very long. I hated to throw away all the onions, garlic, and herbs, so I made a quick gravy with the drippings and stuffing. I brined the chicken for 2 hours and dried it in the refrigerator for 2 hours. I followed directions and roasted it for 35 minutes, and I had a perfect roast chicken. I let the chicken sit under a tent for 30 minutes before slicing it. I found the stuffing was a bit much for the cavity, but I did manage to get it all in there! I will keep this recipe as one of my favorites.
This brined chicken recipe makes extraordinarily moist, full-of-flavor chicken. Even the part of the breast that was uncovered because of a tear in the skin (oops) was soft and tender. You have to be pretty insistent to get everything in the cavity, so I found that mixing those ingredients before stuffing the chicken was a good idea to make sure everything was evenly distributed. I brined the chicken for 3 hours and air-dried it for 1 hour. And I genuinely thought my neighbors had called the fire brigade on me, there was so much smoke from the hot oven. Maybe my oven needs to be cleaned. Or replaced.
I REALLY liked this recipe’s quick brining and drying process. The meat was moist and well-seasoned, and the skin was super crisp. Although this roast chicken recipe just doesn’t compare to the Barefoot Contessa’s roast lemon chicken recipe. And let’s face it—I compare every roast chicken recipe to hers. That said, I will definitely be using this brining and drying technique for every chicken I roast from now on. That is, when I have the time to brine the chicken for 2 hours and air-dry it for another 2 hours.
What could be more “Sunday Lunch” than a roast chicken? This brined chicken recipe produces a lovely moist chicken with a delicate flavor. The recipe directions are pretty clear, and the ingredients are easily available. I brined the chicken for 4 hours and air-dried it for 20 hours in the fridge. I found that the skin where the lemon slices were placed was much darker than the rest of the skin. Everyone found the meat to be very moist, and we enjoyed the flavor. I think it makes a perfectly good roast chicken.
This brined chicken had a gorgeous sheen, a satisfying flavor, and was delicately infused with the lemon and herbs. I brined the chicken for just over 4 hours and let it air-dry for 1 hour and 15 minutes. It ended up with a pretty crisp skin, but I wonder if it would have been even more so had I dried it overnight. I roasted the brined chicken for 20 minutes and then for 25 minutes more, which was perfect. A nicely crisp skin and very, very juicy, tender meat was the reward.
Now this is a Sunday favorite! I’m always looking for ways to jazz up a roast chicken, and this brined chicken recipe did the trick. The brine is a cinch to make and really imparts a nice flavor to the chicken, even when brined for the minimum amount of time. The meat came out tender and extremely moist with a nice, crisp skin. The lemon slices under the breast skin also made for an attractive presentation. My family gave nothing but rave reviews on how good this was and asked when I’d be making it again! This will now be my go-to chicken recipe. For the lemon, I used 2 slices under each breast since the bird was kind of wide.
I love a good roast chicken recipe, and this sounded very interesting and a change from the ordinary. It came out very tender, juicy, and flavorful. In my opinion, although the active hands-on prep is only 30 minutes or so, it is way too much planning ahead, so I did not find it practical for a weeknight meal. The lemon under the skin added a nice touch of flavor to the chicken and is easily accomplished by pushing fingertips under the skin from the front to loosen and sliding the lemon in place. I was hard-pressed to fit the remaining ingredients in the cavity after mixing them together in a bowl; I had to cram. Wanting the skin to brown a bit more, I left the oven at 475°F for 25 minutes before lowering it to 375°F. I cooked it an additional 30 minutes and let it rest a bit. Having done a lot of roast chickens without the brining and drying, I’d still make it again but without all the extra time and planning and steps. I’d use all the same ingredients but just change the method a bit. It was very good and flavorful. No gravy needed.
What drives me crazy is loving a roast chicken recipe that is absolutely amazing, then along comes another roast chicken recipe which blows your mind. For the brine, I decided to use a large glass bowl. I left the chicken for a little over 3 hours. In terms of air-drying time, I left the chicken in the fridge for a full 8 hours. Adding the slice of lemon under the skin of each breast was pretty easy, though I think we could’ve added 2 slices. I followed the instructions to a T in terms of the timing. The skin was amazingly crisp and golden. I wish I’d taken a photo, though I will the next time I make it, as there WILL be a next time. The meat was very juicy, even the breast, which none of us are fans of most of the time. The lemon taste was apparent but not over the top; same with the herbs.
Altogether it took 13h 40m to prepare this chicken, though hands on it was only 25 minutes. This is indeed a recipe to try and make often as a perfect roasted chicken comes out of it.
Roast chicken is a family favorite, so I couldn’t pass up a chance to try out this brined chicken recipe. The directions were very easy to follow. The results were moist and extremely tasty. The aroma was lovely and the chicken’s appearance was appealing—impressive enough for company. We all enjoyed our meal tremendously.The brine came together easily and the tip to put a plate over the chicken to keep it submerged did the trick.I went to a couple grocery stores but couldn’t find a chicken smaller than 4 1/2 pounds. I made my way over to the organic section of the second grocery store and found the organic chickens did run smaller, so I grabbed the smallest one I could find, which was still more than a 1/2 pound heavier than what the recipe indicated. I kept the chicken in the brine for 3 1/2 hours.My goal was to let the bird air-dry overnight as the recipe recommended. but due to unforseen circumstances I was unable to make the chicken the following night as planned and had to put it off for another 24 hours. So the bird ended up air-drying for 2 nights instead of one. Aside from those snags, the recipe came together without further incident. Once I reduced the oven temperature, the chicken took another 25 minutes to reach 165°F. Although the recipe requires some advance preparation with the brine and air-drying, I still feel it’s simple enough for a weeknight meal yet impressive enough to serve to company.
Originally published March 08, 2015
A 3-pound chicken? Been to a normal grocery store lately? Do I need to adjust anything for a 5 lb. Chicken, which it what is normally for sale.
Yes, yes, I know, Jim. I have the same damn issue with the birds we get at the supermarket. I would suggest making 1 1/2 times the brine. As long as the concentration of salt, sugar, spices, and herbs are the same, you’re fine. You may not need all of it. If The One has too much of his own brine brew for his brined chicken (those 5-pound monsters), he just uses a bigger pot.
Just doing my job, sir.
I had to double it in order to completely cover the chicken, then I placed a stainless pot on top of it and poured water in it until it was completely submerged.
I have not wet brined any poultry since I found Judy Rogers (The Zuni Cafe) and her method of dry brining. And the gravy from the bird is not salty which I have found to be the problem (only of course if you make lakes of gravy with poultry drippings) with wet brining poultry. Any seasoning/herbs I want I stuff between the skin and the breast of the bird and some in the cavity before roasting.
Thanks, Soupçon. Judy’s method with most any recipe or technique tends to be revelatory, I’ll give you that. Still, we did like the subtle flavors of this particular approach, which is why we shared it. But I appreciate the reminder to return again and again to The Zuni Cafe Cookbook.
I have brined many a chicken and also pork chops, but the end product always comes out so salty, we can barely eat it. Can the brine be rinsed off before cooking?
Barbara, we’ve had some brined birds and chops turn out that way, too. It all depends on the length of time the meat is brined and, of course, the specific solution. We’ve had luck with this bird not being too salty. We’ve also had luck with the super simple brine from Momofuku’s fried chicken recipe, though we tend to use it for a super short amount of time. Curious to hear what you think of this hen…I suggest brining it for just 1 to 2 hours the first time you make it, so as to ensure the meat doesn’t become super saturated with the salt solution.
I will try brinning it for less time and see how it goes. Thank you so much for your suggestion.
You’re very welcome, Barbara. Fingers crossed this is the brine that changes your mind…
If you add an equal amount of sugar and salt they offset each other somewhat.