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Brine Recipe for Chicken
Brining is such a simple thing to have such awesome results. All a brine really has to have is salt and water - it's the salt that makes it a brine. However, your imagination is the only limit to the other aromatics or flavoring agents that can be added to a brine.
A brine is just a salt water solution in which you soak meats before cooking, in order to insure that the meat is as flavorful and juicy as possible. This works by osmosis - the semi-permeable membranes of the muscle tissue in the meat soak up the dissolved flavoring agents in the water. They hang onto them too, through cooking. The result is meat that is far more flavorful than without the brine. It especially works well with roasting and grilling, although you can use it for other techniques. Try it on chicken, pork and seafood. Skip the beef though - there not only isn't much benefit to brining beef, it can actually make it mushy.
Remember - the other flavors in a brine are adaptable. Start with salt and sugar, and tweak it as you like it!
1/2 cup of kosher salt
1 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon of thyme - or a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme
1 - t bay leaves
1 tablespoon or so of whole peppercorns
2 cloves of minced garlic
Toss these into a saucepan with a quart or two of water. Bring it to a boil and stir to dissolve the salt and sugar. Pull off the stove and add to about 8 cups of ice cubes. I honestly don't measure the ice. This brings the brine down to temperature so that raw meats can be safely added. It also adds enough liquid to make sure your bird is submerged during the brining process.
All kinds of things can be added to brines depending on what you like. Sage,ginger, onion, vegetable broth, rosemary, thyme - you name it. This is a very basic brine and will work for all poultry. Heck - works with pork just as well. I like to soak meats in the brine for at least two hours, but I've done less, especially with boneless, thin cuts, such as pork loin or chicken breasts.
At holidays I brine huge birds, and those I do allow to go overnight, but otherwise 6-8 hours is as far as I go. Otherwise the poultry or pork will get too salty.
An additional little bonus, the saltiness of the skin on a whole bird helps insure that the skin gets crispy. Mmmm.
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