Brining Poultry

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By The Paula Deen Test Kitchen

Brining poultry, especially breast meat, adds moisture and flavor to the meat. Brining consists of preparing a salt water solution in a 1:8 cup ratio of salt to water. The bird is then soaked in the brine for a period of time, much like a marinade. To put it scientifically, the brine hydrates the muscle tissues allowing them to retain moisture during cooking which helps the meat stay moist.

You don’t have to be cooking a whole bird to use this technique. In fact, because boneless skinless chicken breasts dry out so easily during cooking, they benefit greatly from a quick (30 minute) soak in a brine solution.

The simple 1:8 cup ratio if salt to water can be enhanced by steeping fresh herbs in the liquid so as to infuse the meat not just with moisture, but flavor as well. Additionally, you can substitute part of the water for other liquids, such as lemon juice or apple cider.

You must keep the salt to liquid ratio the same, but you can increase or decrease the full amount in order to accommodate the size of what you plan to brine. The recipe below is for brining a whole chicken.

1 cup kosher salt
4 bay leaves
2 tablespoons fresh thyme or 2 teaspoons dried thyme
4 cloves garlic
3 cups water
5 cups ice cold water

Bring 3 cups water to boil in a pot. Mince the garlic. Remove the thyme leaves from stem, if using fresh. Add garlic, thyme, bay leaves, and salt to boiling water. Stir until all the salt has dissolved, and then turn off heat.

Allow mixture to steep for 30 minutes. Stir in 5 cups ice cold water. Pour the cooled brine into a heavy duty sealable zip top bag. Gallon sized freezer bags work great for small chickens. For a turkey, use a larger bag, such as a 1.25 ft. x 1.25 ft. zip top bag or a bag specifically designed for brining turkeys.

Submerge the bird into the brine, making sure the brine fills the cavity and that the breasts are fully submerged. Seal and place in the refrigerator.

Small chickens can be brined in just a few hours, 3 at most, where as a turkey should be brined for 12-24 hours.

After the brining time is up, remove the bird from the liquid, drain and pat dry. You will not need to salt the bird, but you may wish to place additional herbs underneath the skin, rub the bird with butter, and/or stuff the cavity with onion, carrot, and celery.

To roast: bird should start out roasting breast side down, this helps prevent dry white meat, followed by roasting breast side up. A perfect roasting is achieved best by monitoring the bird with a thermometer to ensure neither under or over cooking occurs. A temperature reading 165 degrees F indicates a safe done-ness for poultry. Allow bird to rest for 5 minutes before carving (10 minutes for a large turkey).

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Reader Comments:


Paula how do you make your silly salt? Please email me. Thank you Linda Bell

By lb1007 on March 28, 2014


I have brined a few times and I brine my turkey overnight. 8 - 10 hours, and I sub 4 cup apple cider for cold water. In my head the sweetness of the cider counteracts the taste of the salt.I have also fried the brined turkey. just make sure you dry it off good before droping it in the oil. Hope this answers your questions.

By Jim Stoneburner on November 18, 2012


Hi there! I just read the Easy Breezy Bringing recipe. Im going to be brining for the First time and am kind of nervous!!! I did not see how long to brine the Turkey? This seems to be the Easiest recipe online! Im just want to be sure my turkey does not come out Salty (scared lol) If you can just let me know how long to brine my turkey...that would be appreciated! Take care and i look forward to your reply! Linda

By LINDA M on November 15, 2012


Anyone ever fried a brined turkey?

By Joan Mitchell on November 05, 2011


Hi Paula, I saw you on the food tv show last week in your fat lady costume. Hilarious laughed all week Luv you

By Marjorie on November 04, 2011


With Thanksgiving coming up, would this work with a turkey as well??

By David Collins on November 04, 2011


Hey Debbie! Thank you so much for catching this error!!! We have amended the recipe to read correctly.

By Libbie Summers, Senior Food Editor on April 02, 2011


Confusion ... ingredient list states 4 cups Boiling Water ..... directions state Bring 3 cups water to boil in a pot????? 3 cups with 5 cups of ice cold - make sense for the 1:8 ratio

By Debbie Selcz on March 21, 2011

Turkey Brine

By Tonja on December 23, 2011

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Paula, I love watching you and your family. I miss seeing your show, I watched you everyday. My son lives in Charleston S.C. He took me to the Lady & Sons to eat. Oh my goodness! People are always telling me that I look just like the cooking lady Paula Deen. I always tell them that you are my hero. May God Bless You Mary Ann
Mary Ann Tharp in A Summer of Burgers on August 15, 2014 at 10:48 pm

Add a few spoonfuls of parmesan cheese to the flour and cornmeal breading and it kicks the tomatoes up another notch. Bev
in Crispy Fried Green Tomatoes on August 15, 2014 at 10:33 am

I just bought Paula's Peach Salad Dressing and wondered if anyone has a good recipe that they use it in?
Melissa in Taste Testing 101 on August 13, 2014 at 8:36 am

Congrats Bobby. Loved the family picture miss you Paula on TV will be watching online. Jack is getting big. Looks like his mom but Matt aka moose has your face. Your eyes cheeks hair even falls to his face like yours except to the left. Good luck on your next venture. You give us other 60+ yr women strength to move on. Keep up the good work.
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