Brined Chicken

A perfect roast chicken in a metal roasting pan that is resting on a kitchen towel, with a bunch of herbs beside it.

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 supper. 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.

Brined Chicken

  • Quick Glance
  • (1)
  • 20 M
  • 2 H, 30 M
  • Serves 4
5/5 - 1 reviews
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  • For the brine
  • For the roast chicken


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.

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    T-shirt Variation

    • Unstuffed Brined Chicken
    • T-shirt variation

      Omit the thyme, garlic, marjoram, and onion but otherwise follow the recipe instructions above.

    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.

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    1. 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.

      1. 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.

      2. 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.

    2. 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.

      1. 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.

    3. 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?

      1. 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.

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