Monday, December 15, 2008

Brined Roast Chicken


I love to cook roast chicken and am always on the lookout on how to improve the process. I discovered brining (soaking in salt water) produces evenly cooked white and brown meat on any fowl. I was surprised that it is simple process - just place the bird into salted water with optional flavourings for a few hours and then dry the fowl in the refrigerator overnight and then proceed as you normally do. It couldn't be easier.

So soaking in brine really improves the taste and the moistness of all fowl (chicken, turkey, goose, duck and guinea fowl). It is simple and will ensure that your Christmas bird will be the tastiest you have ever made. All you do is to brine your fowl and then proceed as normal, you will find that the meat is juicy and the skin is crisp and a lovely colour. I stuffed the chicken with one head of garlic (chopped in half) and one onion (quartered). I chose using spices just as cumin, coriander, fennel, cinnamon,star anise and used half water and half rice wine for the brining liquid.

The results were amazing - super super moist chicken and a lovely crisp skin. The meat from different parts of the chicken were evenly cooked and the chicken didn't taste salty at all.


Brining works in accordance with two principles, called diffusion and osmosis, that like things to be kept in equilibrium. When brining a fowl, there is a greater concentration of salt and sugar outside of the fowl (in the brine) than inside the fowl (in the cells that make up its flesh). The law of diffusion states that the salt and sugar will naturally flow from the area of greater concentration (the brine) to lesser concentration (the cells). There is also a greater concentration of water, so to speak, outside of the turkey than inside. Here, too, the water will naturally flow from the area of greater concentration (the brine) to lesser concentration (the cells). When water moves in this fashion, the process is called osmosis. Once inside the cells, the salt and, to a lesser extent, the sugar cause the cell proteins to unravel, or denature. As the individual proteins unravel, they become more likely to interact with one another. This interaction results in the formation of a sticky matrix that captures and holds moisture. Once exposed to heat, the matrix gels and forms a barrier that keeps much of the water from leaking out as the meat cooks. Thus you have a chicken or turkey that is both better seasoned and much more moist than when you started.

Brining does have one negative effect on chicken and turkey: Adding moisture to the skin as well as the flesh can prevent the skin from crisping when cooked. We found that air-drying, a technique used in many Chinese recipes for roast duck, solves this problem. Letting brined chicken and turkey dry uncovered in the refrigerator allows surface moisture to evaporate, making the skin visibly more dry and taut and therefore promoting crispness when cooked. Although this step is optional, if crisp skin is a goal, it’s worth the extra time. For best results, air-dry whole brined birds overnight. Brined chicken parts can be air-dried for several hours. Transfer the brined bird to a heavy-duty cooling rack set over a rimmed baking sheet, pat the bird dry with paper towels, and refrigerate. The rack lifts the bird off the baking sheet, allowing air to circulate freely under the bird

BASIC BRINE (this is suitable for ½ kilogramme of food or 1 pound of food) max of 2 gallon

1 litre (1 quart) cold water (can use half rice wine or dry sherry and water)
½ cup sea salt (or ¼ cup of table salt)
¼ cup sugar

Optional herbs (use herbs or spices not both)
2 tablespoons cumin seeds, bruised
2 tablespoons coriander seeds, bruised
2 tablespoons fennel seeds, bruised
¼ stick of cinnamon stick, bruised
2 star anise, bruised

Optional spices
1 bunch rosemary
1 bunch thyme
1 bunch parsley
1 whole head garlic peeled
1 onion, sliced
2 lemons, halved
4 juniper berries crushed
2 bay leaves, torn into pieces

Step 1 Mix cold water, salt and sugar in brining vessel and stir to dissolve salt and sugar.
Step 2. Immerse food in brine, seal and refrigerate.

Brining Time guide lines
1 hour per ½ kg (pound), but not less than 30 minutes and no more than 8 hours

How to Roast a Fowl (Guidelines)
1. Chose a smaller sized bird because it has a better skin to meat ratio so providing a constant source of moisture during the roasting. So a 2-3lb (1-1½kg) chicken or a 12lb (6kg) turkey are the best size.
2. Use a high heat to roast the skin for the first 20 mins - also preheat the pan so that the fowl sizzles when first placed into the pan.
3. Lower the heat and continue cooking. If the bird starts to over-brown loosely cover with foil.


Eat4Fun said...

Congrats on your posting to Tastespotting! Very nice looking chicken.

I'm on the road driving down to see my family for Christmas...

Happy Christmas and Happy New Years to you and your family.

Anita said...

This is a great idea - I was wondering whether something like that would work. Thanks for the post. I've tried chorizo under the skin of the chicken, a lemon in the chicken and turning the roasted chicken over to rest (to ensure juices stay in the chicken breast) which all seem to improve the moistness of the chicken. I'll have to try your suggestion too :)

Anonymous said...

Interesting blog you got here. I'd like to read something more about that theme. Thanx for giving this info.
The only thing your blog miss is such photo like on california escorts :)
Sexy Lady
Russian Escorts London

Rose said...

Hello Audax! I miss you!!! We're going to try this gorgeous brined roast chicken this week :D Hope all is well with you.