Try this twist on a roast chicken, or check out our easy roast chicken.

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


  • 1.5-1.75kg corn-fed chicken, wishbone removed
  • 150g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • a small bunch tarragon, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 onion, cut into large pieces
  • 1 carrot, cut into large pieces
  • 1 stick celery, cut into large pieces
  • 1 lemon


  • 3 tbsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp soft brown sugar
  • ½ a bunch lemon thyme, leaves picked
  • ground to make ½ tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp garlic granules
  • 1 lemon, zested


  • STEP 1

    Put all the dry-brine ingredients into a mortar and grind to a fine powder with a pestle, then add to a large bowl. Add the chicken and rub the brine in really well, ensuring it is well covered inside and out. Put a cooling rack over a tray and sit the chicken on top. Chill uncovered in the fridge for at least 4 hours and preferably overnight, but no longer than 24 hours.

  • STEP 2

    Heat the oven to 220C/fan 200C/gas 6. Pat the chicken all over with kitchen paper, removing as much moisture as possible.

  • STEP 3

    Put the butter, tarragon and garlic into a bowl with some seasoning and mix well. Carefully pry the skin on the chicken breasts and legs away from the meat with your hand, being careful not to tear the skin. Spread the butter underneath the skin, pushing right down and around the legs.

  • STEP 4

    Put the onion, carrot and celery into the bottom of the roasting tray and put the chicken on top. Cook for 15 minutes then reduce the oven temperature to 180C/ fan 160C/gas 4 and cook for 1 hour, basting the bird with the butter every so often.

  • STEP 5

    Put the chicken onto a plate and, with several pieces of tin foil, cover the legs tightly, but don’t cover the breasts. Leave for 20 minutes to rest, then carve. Squeeze the lemon into the roasting tin and serve these buttery veg and juices alongside the chicken

*This recipe is gluten-free according to industry standards

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Adam Bush Chef Portrait
Adam BushDeputy food editor

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