Chicken brine will bring out flavors and juiciness to the meat. June is upon us and grilling season has started. Time to fire up the charcoal and soak some thighs in this simple chicken brine. You’ll be amazed at how flavorful, tender, and juicy this chicken becomes.
You have probably read or heard that brining is good for chicken.
What brining does, is add moisture to the meat and, along with the salt, the water is absorbed into the flesh.
Well, what you can do is take this principle and add to it some additional seasonings that takes the brine to a whole new level. And, as Guy Fieri would say, “straight to Flavortown.”
For this flavoring, we used my traditional Italian-style seasonings: garlic, basil, thyme, oregano, and fennel.
These ingredients get put into a small saucepan along with water, salt, and sugar, and get boiled and made into an herbal tea of sorts.
All the great flavors in the seasonings are infused into the water and as the chicken soaks, all this goodness gets absorbed. It becomes a pot of flavor goodness.
Use Unprocessed Chicken
First off though, make sure that the chicken you are using has not already been injected with saline.
If it has been, there will be a statement on the label that indicates this.
You want to start out with unprocessed or organic chicken. Brining a saline-injected chicken will result in too salty chicken.
How Long Do You Brine Chicken?
These tasty chicken thighs were brined for 3 hours. If you’re brining skinless, boneless breasts, 1 to 2 hours is adequate.
Skin on, bone-in chicken, 2 to 3 hours. A whole chicken should be brined for 3 to 4 hours. Any longer than this, the chicken will get too salty.
Use the time you have…it all adds up to added flavor!
A brine is unlike a marinade. Some meats are left in the refrigerator to marinate overnight, using an acid-based or oil-based marinade. This gives the meat lots of flavor.
If you leave the meat in a brine overnight it will…#1. get too salty and, #2. the watery brine will actually start to pull out some of the natural flavorings of the meat. You don’t want that.
Brining chicken adds moisture and flavor to ensure a tender and tasty piece of chicken.
These thighs were put into a gallon ziplock bag with the brine, placed in a suitably sized bowl, and refrigerated for 3 hours.
To prep them for the grill, remove them from the brine and pat dry. You can leave on any bits of herbs that stick to the chicken when you take it out of the brine.
Very lightly oil the skin with olive oil, then grill, skin side down 7 or 8 minutes to get a nice char.
Turn and let cook 10 or 12 more minutes until the internal temperature is around 160°F. Let the chicken rest for 5 or 10 minutes, then serve it. The chicken brine will have done its work!
Side Dish Ideas For Grilled Chicken
First of all would be a nice green salad.
Next would be a starch of some kind.
- Pan-fried potatoes and onions
- Sauteed shredded sweet potatoes
- Au gratin potatoes
- Roasted red potatoes with onions
- Picnic Potato Salad
Then a vegetable side dish.
- Green beans with bacon and onions
- Roasted cruciferous vegetables
- Parmesan roasted Brussels sprouts
- Insanely good vegetable side dishes
The flavor of the herbs in the meat is amazing. MaryJo even mentioned that this was the tastiest chicken I have ever made.
Simple chicken brine…that’s good enough for me.
Simple Chicken Brine For Grilling
- 2 cups water
- 1/8 cup Morton coarse Kosher salt, (approx. 35 grams)
- 2 cloves garlic, coarse chopped
- 2 tsp dried thyme
- 2 tsp dried basil
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 2 tsp fennel seeds
- 2 tsp sugar
- Place all ingredients into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve the salt. Reduce the heat to a low boil for 2 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and let cool. I placed the saucepan into an ice bath prepared in a skillet. In 10 minutes the temperature of the brine was less than 100°.
- Place the chicken pieces into a covered bowl or ziplock type bag and cover with the brine.
- Refrigerate 1 to 4 hours depending on your chicken. 1 to 2 hours for boneless, skinless cuts. 2 to 3 hours for skin on, bone in cuts. 3 to 4 hours for a whole chicken.
- Remove the chicken from the brine, pat dry and lightly oil. A bit of pepper may be added at this time if desired.
- Grill the chicken until the internal temperature is around 160°F.
- To brine a whole chicken, you may need to double the recipe to fully immerse the chicken.
- Make sure that the chicken you are using has not been injected with saline already.
Try these other tasty chicken recipes
Apricot Chili Glazed Chicken Breast
This brine is amazing, Joe! I have made this twice with bone-in chicken breasts … to die for!! You nailed it! My husband had a stroke 4 years ago so now I’m the “grill master” on a charcoal Weber grill. Thank you so much for a tasty dinner!
Thank you for the nice comment. I’m so glad that you like the brine recipe.
The Chicken tastes amazing,love it
I’m glad that you liked it!
Hi! I doubled the recipe and added a couple of bay leaves, the juice of a lemon, and fresh basil and thyme along with the dried herbs. I had some leftover peach whisky BBQ sauce I had made for ribs, so I finished the chicken off with that. Boy the brine was so flavorful! I ain’t skeered of experiments lol!
That sounds terrific. The brine really makes the chicken tender and juicy. I’m glad you found my website and recipe. And thank you for taking the time to post a great comment.
Can you use other herbs like jerk chicken seasoning in the brine to get a Jamaican flavor vs an Italian flavor?
Jerk seasoning could be added after the salt brine. I think it would be hard to get enough jerk seasoning to impart the flavor you are looking for while brining. Apply your jerk seasonings after patting the chicken dry after the brine.
If you would not like the Italian flavors, just brine your chicken with the salt in cold water. This will give your chicken the added salt to keep it tender and juicy while cooking.
Have fun grilling your bird. Jerk seasoning sounds great by the way.
How much water to use with this brine mixture to be able to cover a whole chicken in a zip lock bag? Can I use the same quantty of ingredients in let’s say two quarts of water? Thank you!
I think you should double all the ingredients in the amount of water you will need to cover a whole chicken.
Thank you for the comment.
Joe, this is so good and so easy. My wife thinks it’s the best chicken I’ve ever made. I’m now required to do it every time I grill!
Thanks for finding my blog.
It’s a little cold in Minnesota to grill right now, but I know that chicken needs this boost of flavor.
Your wife has good taste.
Thank you for the comment.
I’m sure. I’m in San Diego so the weather’s a bit different right now. 🙂
Thank you for sharing your recipes!
Can we brine frozen thighs or the chicken has to be completely defrosted?
The thighs should be defrosted.
Love it . It’s every thing you said it is .I don’t do sugar so I sub stevia brown sugar . worked great . Sorry to change your recipe
Thanks Steve….last weekend I also grilled some brined legs and thighs. Tasty.
Chicken tastes amazing!! My family LOVES it!
Thanks for the nice comment Diane.
I am a widower now for 12 years. I an slowly learning to cook great food. This brine recipe for chicken is exactly what I was looking for. I soaked 5 legs for about 1.5 hours. Patted dry, brushed with olive oil. The flavors were fantastic without covering the taste of the meat. Thank you so much…
Thanks Mark…so glad you liked it.
I followed this recipe (with exception of doubling amount of water…hey, that’s what we do)
This was arguably the best tasting grilled chicken that I have ever made. Chicken was flavorful and juicy. I got a bottle of Sweet and Spicy BBQ sauce, added a can of orange soda, and a tablespoon of good soy sauce, and used that to baste the chicken toward the end of grilling time. As a foodie, this was a religious experience.
Thanks for this recipe, Joe!
Thanks Lou. You’re making my mouth water!
Can you make the brine the night before and put the chicken in it the next day.Ed
That would work just fine Ed.
Once I brine the chicken and then rinse it..can I keep it for two days before grilling?
Hi Pam, I just don’t think that would work very well. By rinsing you would remove much of the herbs which give the chicken flavor. Best to brine the day of grilling. Leave some of the herbs in the brine on the skin of the chicken before grilling. If you want to try this, after rinsing the chicken, strain the solids from the brine and coat the chicken skin as best as you can with the herbs. I’ve never tried it, but it may turn out really great. Store the chicken refrigerated in ziplock bags. Good luck and let us know how it turned out.
Mine was so salty! I followed the recipe exactly. What went wrong? I checked 3 times and it said nothing about rinsing the chicken after brining.
Hi Gail, Sorry the brine didn’t work for you. All I can think of that could go wrong is if you used fine table salt rather than Kosher salt. Table salt weighs twice as much as Kosher salt so the brine would have double the amount of salt. I’m going to make that note in the recipe card right now. Thanks for the comment.
I used Kosher salt and marinated for about 2 hours and it came out tender but is SOOOOO salty….I wound up throwing it in the trash as I could not eat it. Thinking this much salt is not good for people with heart disease/hypertension. I might try this again with much less of the salt as the meat stayed moist.
We’ve had this recipe twice now, and both times the chicken came out so tender I couldn’t believe it ! This is the only way to do chicken on the grill, for sure! The fennel gives it a nice flavor. Next time I might use fresh herbs with the brine. Thanks for the recipe!
We tried your chicken brine recipe this weekend and the entire family loved it. We doubled the recipe for 9 thighs, 12 legs, and 2 breasts. We used two large freezer bags and brined the chicken for 2 1/2 hrs. Excellent!!!!!! We plan to use this a lot this summer,
Wow, do those thighs look good! They happen to be my favorite part of the chicken and your picture makes them look so darn good I could take a bite out of the picture!!!!!! That brine is absolutely on our list for our next grilled chicken (which is coming very soon). Thank you Joe!
I’m not an expert on chicken, so I’m wondering could you just bake this after brining or does that defeat the purpose? Thanks!
Hi Lauren. You can definitely bake the chicken rather than grilling. The flavors will still be great. Thanks for the question.
Megan | 3 Scoops of Sugar
Joe, I am going to have to try this!! Your pictures had me drooling and I love those seasonings you used! I can’t wait to taste this recipe!
Thanks Megan. The brine sure adds another level of flavors.
I swear, this was the best grilled chicken I’ve ever had! This is the only way to prepare chicken on the grill.