Brining is any chef's secret to flavorful, succulent, crispy-on-the-outside-juicy-on-the-inside chicken. Read on for how I learned to brine and roast chicken while working at Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bistro in Yountville, California.
No time for a brine? No problem! You can still roast up an amazing chicken. The professional secrets to crispy skin and juicy flesh are a high oven temperature and letting the chicken rest before serving.
- about a gallon of water
- 6-8 ounces/about a ½-¾ cup of kosher flake salt
- 1-2 lemons, quartered
- fresh thyme
- fresh parsley
- 2-3 bay leaves
- a small handful of whole black peppercorns
- ⅓ cup raw honey, optional
Simple Roast Chicken
- whole roasting chicken, 3-4 pounds, any innards removed (no rinsing or washing!)
- melted clarified butter (ghee) or high-temp oil like avocado
- few pinches of fresh thyme leaves picked off the stems
Brine + Dry Chicken
- Combine half of the water and brine ingredients in a large pot, and bring just to a boil. Stir to dissolve the salt and honey, then remove from the heat.
- Pour the hot brine mixture into a very large bowl with the remaining half of water, and cool until chilled. A faster way to cool down the brine is to add an equal amount of ice in place of the cold water.
- Fully submerge the chicken in chilled brine, cover, and brine for about 8 hours. Overnight can be a great way to achieve this time frame. If you plan on brining longer or think you'll forget to take it out on time, use half the amount of salt to be safe.
- Remove the chicken from the brine, and store it uncovered in the refrigerator for up to three days. This will dry out the skin, which will then get wonderfully crispy in the oven.
Roast + Rest
- Let the chicken sit on the counter to come to room temperature. This can take up to an hour or more for a larger chicken.
- Preheat the oven to 475° F.
- Truss the chicken (optional). Take a long piece of kitchen twine and place the center underneath the bottom of the neck (top) of the chicken. Wrap it around the side of the legs, then cross and bring both sides of twine up in between the legs. Wrap around the end of the leg bones, and tie a knot to bring the legs together.
- Brush or drizzle the room temperature chicken with a high-heat oil or melted, clarified butter (ghee).
- Rain down salt from a foot or so above the chicken, covering it evenly and seasoning inside the cavity. Sprinkle the thyme leaves on in the same way.
- Place the chicken breast-side up in a sauté or roasting pan. Or my favorite, sitting upright on the tube of a bundt pan.
- Roast for about 20 minutes at 475° F, then turn the oven temperature down to 400° F.
- Finishing roasting for about 30-40 more minutes. Do not baste the chicken or cover it with foil.
- Remove the chicken when the skin is a dark golden-brown color, and the temperature inside the thickest part of the thigh reads at or almost 165°F on a kitchen thermometer.
- Let the chicken rest in the pan for about ten minutes before carving and serving.
- Store leftover chicken covered and chilled, and reheat in a 350° F oven.
On brining: The formula for a basic, gentle brine is about half of a cup of flake salt (5 ounces) for every gallon of water. Using table salt? Use about half the measure, as table salt is much stronger by weight than kosher or any flake salt. I personally don't recommend iodized or table salt, as it contains fillers and added sugar.
Seasoning with salt: Season the brined chicken with salt all over the outside and inside the cavity. Evenly, excessively, and everywhere. Pinching salt in your fingers and raining it down from a few inches above the meat is a great way to get a nice covering. And prevents random bites with too much salt or any without enough.
For extra crispy skin: Leave your brined (or not) chicken uncovered in the fridge for a couple of days. The skin will go from opaque to translucent. If you really want to get crazy, place a battery-operated fan next to it. No, the chefs at Bouchon don't do this. But the large walk-in coolers at most restaurants are equipped with fans that blow the cold air around. A small battery-operated fan would be the home hack.
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