For the juiciest, most flavorful chicken, this classic brining recipe can bring your chicken to the next level! Never have dry chicken breasts again!Jump to Recipe
**Edited to add: If you are new to brining, start with 1/8 cup salt + 1/8 cup sugar! Many people think my 1/4 cup is too salty!!
I just started brining my chicken! Why have I eaten dry chicken breasts for the last 49 years? In fact, I always default to boneless, skinless chicken thighs, because I knew I could cook them without them becoming too dry.
But, now that’s all changed! Since starting my culinary program, my protein cooking game has moved up 10,000 notches!
I am now committed to always prepping containers full of chicken, recently cooked and brined.
The Basic Steps to Brining Chicken Breasts or Tenderloins
- Mix water with sugar and salt. For 1 lb of chicken I use 2 cups water, 1/4 cup sugar, and 1/4 cup salt. If you are doing a full bird (like a turkey or whole chicken, use 20 parts water to 1 part salt, and 1 part sugar)* Important disclaimer- this might be too salty for some people. If you want to play it safe, start with 1/8 cup salt and 1/8 cup sugar!
- First, heat sugar and salt into water until the sugar and salt dissolves.
- Add any herbs you want in your chicken to season it (I like rosemary, thyme, peppercorns, a lemon, and garlic)
- Remove the water from your heat source and let cool completely.
- Add your chicken breasts to the brine in an airtight container.
- Brine (or let soak) for 12 hours.
- Cook on a heated skillet with nonstick spray, butter, or oil.
How many calories are added?
So, you made a brine with salt, sugar, and herbs, yet you are on a low sugar/low carb/low salt diet. But, how much of the brine gets into your chicken anyway?
Well, it isn’t that much. In fact, I weighed the chicken before and after brining. Here’s what I found:
- Pre-brine weight of my chicken: 16.7 ounces
- Post-brine weight of my chicken: 19.8 ounces
- Calories and macros of the brine alone:
- 200 calories,
- 52 g carbs, and
- 28,318mg sodium.
- Post -brine, the calories and macros that ended up in the chicken was
- 4 calories per ounce (66 calories for the full pound),
- 1 g carb per ounce
- and 36 mg sodium per ounce of chicken.
To further complicate things, the POST cooking weight of the chicken, when cooked on a skillet was 17.8 ounces. So, we lost 2 ounces of chicken during cooking. This means that the cooked weight of the chicken was:
- 1 ounce raw, un-brined chicken=27.5 calories/0g carbs/11.25mg sodium for the chicken.
- After adding brine, 1 ounce of chicken has= 31.5 calories/1g carb/46.25 mg sodium.
- A 4 ounce piece of raw chicken contains = 126 calories, 4 g carbs/ 185 mg sodium
- After cooking, a 3.5 ounce piece of cooked chicken would have the same as the 4 ounce piece of chicken.
So, in a nutshell! If you have a 3.5 ounce piece of brined chicken, plan on it having about 126 calories, 4 g carbs, and 185 mg sodium!!
Classic Chicken Brine
- 2 cups water
- 1/4 cup salt (use 1/8 cup to start with! Many people have told me 1/4 is too salty for them)
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 sprig thyme
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 1 slice lemon
- 1 clove garlic
Amounts for 1 lb chicken
- 1 lb chicken breast
- Combine all ingredients in a small pot and heat until sugar and salt dissolves.
- Remove from heat and let cool completely.
- Add 1 pound of chicken breasts or chicken tenderloins to a container and pour the brine over the top to cover it.
- Refrigerate for 12 hours and then cook chicken on a skillet over medium high heat till done.