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 roast chicken like Chef Keller. 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
- 8 ounces/about ¾ cup of kosher flake salt
- 1-2 lemons, quartered
- fresh thyme
- fresh parsley
- 2-3 bay leaves
- a 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 the water and remaining 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 brine mixture into a bowl with the remaining half of water, and cool until chilled.
- Fully submerge the chicken in chilled brine, cover, and brine for about 8 hours, and not much longer. Overnight is 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 less salt.
- Remove chicken from brine, and store uncovered in the refrigerator for up to three days to air dry it. 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, or tie, the chicken up with butcher's twine (see video above).
- Brush the room temperature chicken with high-heat oil or melted, clarified butter (ghee). The milk solids in butter will burn in the oven at higher temperatures, so if you don't have ghee, use oil.
- 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 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.
- Remove the chicken when the skin is a dark golden-brown color, and the temperature of the thickest part of the thigh reads just about 165°F on meat or digital 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, loosely covered with foil.
The formula for a brine is about a cup of flake salt (10 ounces) for every gallon of water. Broken down into smaller amounts, that's about a quarter-cup of salt for every four cups 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/table salt, as it contains fillers and added sugar.
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