Try this twist on a roast chicken, or make our classic roast chicken recipe here.
What is dry-brining?
Dry-brining meat – where you heavily salt meat up to 24 hours before cooking – is a technique that many home cooks leave to the professionals, as it can seem a little daunting (all that salt!) and time-consuming. Trust me though, it’s easy and it will take your Sunday roast to the next level.
Recently I went to a cooking demonstration by American chef Samin Nosrat, and she conducted a simple experiment to show how beneficial salting in advance can be. She sliced up a ripe tomato, salted it and left it for five minutes to sit. After the five minutes she then sliced another ripe tomato and salted it, and then got us to eat both, to directly compare the two. The one that had been salted longer was sweeter, with a much more pronounced depth of flavour, whereas the recently salted tomato was seasoned but lacking in that same deep tomato flavour.
What are the benefits of dry-brining chicken?
The main misconception about dry brining is that covering meat in salt will make it dry. Salt does draw water out of the meat, but this is eventually re-absorbed along with the salt, meaning the meat will be moist and beautifully seasoned throughout (it will also pick up the flavours of any herbs or spices you use in the dry brine). Also, the salt changes the structure of the protein, starting to break it down, meaning juicier, more tender meat as it retains moisture more effectively.
Dry-brining the chicken also means crispier skin. The salt will draw moisture from the chicken skin to the surface, but once you have patted this away, the skin will be bone dry and ready to get crisp in the oven.
Finally, what may have put many people off brining before was how much room it requires. With a liquid brine you would simply dissolve salt and sugar into water and then suspend the chicken in this, but that needs space – I’m sure most cooks have heard stories about brining turkeys in (hopefully clean) baths.
How do you dry-brine chicken?
With a dry brine, a large bowl to mix everything up and get the meat salted inside and out is all you need. After this, make sure you leave the chicken uncovered in the fridge. Modern fridges are designed to be as moisture-free as possible, so being uncovered will help dry out the skin and ensure it crisps up during roasting.
To sum up, dry-brining is a foolproof way of getting perfectly seasoned, crisp-skinned, tender, juicy roast chicken.
Dry-brine chicken recipe
- corn-fed chicken 1.5-1.75kg, wishbone removed
- unsalted butter 150g, at room temperature
- tarragon a small bunch, finely chopped
- garlic 1 clove, crushed
- onion 1, cut into large pieces
- carrot 1, cut into large pieces
- celery 1 stick, cut into large pieces
- lemon 1
- sea salt 3 tbsp
- soft brown sugar 1 tbsp
- lemon thyme ½ a bunch, leaves picked
- black peppercorns ground to make ½ tsp
- garlic granules 1 tsp
- lemon 1, zested
*This recipe is gluten-free according to industry standards
- Kcals 703
- Fat 53g
- Saturates 25.7g
- Carbs 7.8g
- Sugars 6.1g
- Fibre 2.1g
- Protein 47.7g
- Salt 5.85g