Best Chicken Brine for Juicy Flavor
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.
I wanted to love this recipe, but after about 22 hours of brining, it was sooooo salty, my husband and I couldn’t eat it, even though we are both big fans of salty food. Perhaps there are significant typos in the recipe??? Other brining recipes I reviewed after I tasted this one are MUCH lower salt to water ratios or recommend shorter brining times. I’m guessing there’s an error in the recipe and am hoping to save others the wasted, inedible food.
Thanks for the feedback. I actually really appreciate it because I want these recipes to be good!I re-checked my student book from when I took my culinary course last fall, and the measurements are exact. So I’m wondering how thick your chicken breasts were. Did you use breasts or tenderloins? I know I used tenderloins in the post (but I actually like things pretty salty). But in my class we used full breasts (very thick ones).Could that be the problem?