Dry Brine Chicken begins with a bright lemon herb dry brine and ends with a mouthwatering, super moist roast chicken. There’s so much flavour, you’ll never buy a rotisserie chicken again.
Lemon Herb Dry Brine Chicken
Have you ever wanted to learn how to dry brine a chicken? This post will give you all the salty details on how to make the BEST ROAST CHICKEN EVER. I’ve used a wet brine for both turkey and pork but for the tastiest roast chicken, it’s go dry or go home. Up your roast chicken game by making the juiciest, home cooked chicken for your family using this simple dry brine recipe.
What is a Dry Brine?
A dry brine is a simple coating of salt (and sometimes dry herbs and citrus zest) that is rubbed into the surface of a protein. Over time, the salt draws moisture away from the surface and locks it into the meat. This technique will result in a juicy roast chicken with amazing crispy skin.
Battle of the Brines
So which brine is the right brine to use? It actually depends what job you are using it for. A wet brine is much more involved that a dry brine but it works best for turkey. If you have the time and space, boiling up the brine then cooling it is worth it because it will actually ADD moisture and flavour to your turkey. Herbs, citrus (both juice and zest), spices, and aromatics can all be added to add oomph to the wet brine
A dry brine works best when you are shorter on time and space. It’s simpler in flavour, but results in a moist bird with ultra crispy skin and minimal clean-up. The brine can be mixed up in a flash and there’s no boiling or cooling. A dry brine seals the moisture in the meat and provides a barrier to its escape.
How to Dry Brine Chicken
This dry brine chicken is fairly straightforward. Begin with the best roasting chicken you can find. I used a meaty 2 lb local Hutterite chicken and the quality really outshines any grocery store roasting chicken.
Next, place the salt, fresh herbs, and lemon zest inside a mortar. Bash them around for a minute with the pestle so that the salt picks up all that wonderful herb and citrus flavour. Add the lemon juice and olive oil. Stuff the chicken cavity with fresh herbs and half a lemon.
Separate the skin over the breasts by carefully inserting your hand under the skin and gently pushing through the connecting tissue. Try not to tear the skin but it’s not the end of the world if it happens (see photo!). Rub 1/4 of the dry brine on one breast under the skin, then repeat with the other breast.
Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel and truss it up. Trussing the chicken creates a nice tight chicken and keeps the legs from separating from the body during roasting.
How Does a Dry Brine Work?
After the chicken is trussed and dried, rub the rest of the dry brine over the whole chicken. Place it on a rack over a plate or roasting pan so that that air can circulate freely around the bird. Leave it in the fridge for at least 4 hours though 24 hours is ideal. During this time, the surface of the chicken loses moisture in two ways:
- Through evaporation into the cold, dry refrigerator.
- The salt pulls the water away from the skin and into the meat.
After 24 hours, remove the chicken from the fridge. Don’t panic. It will look like it has a sunburn and that is the effect you want. That dry skin is going to seal all the juices inside the chicken while it’s roasting. Even better? It’s gonna get crispy, baby!
How Long Can You Dry Brine a Chicken?
Great news! A chicken doesn’t have to be dry brined overnight. Prep it right away in the morning and leave the chicken drying in the fridge until dinner time. After four hours of dry brining you’ll see a difference but the ideal time to let your bird dry brine is 24 hours. This longer time ensures the most flavourful chicken with the crispiest skin.
Which Salt to Use for Dry Brine Chicken
Many recipes call for kosher salt because it has large flakes and a coarse texture. The structure makes it easy to rub into the skin while also dissolving readily the process. Please note that all brands of kosher salt are not created equal. Some have much denser grains than others, so be sure to double check the measurements according to brand.
Some sea salts may also be used in dry brine as long as they have a delicate, flaky texture that crumbles easily. In this recipe, I used sel gris.
You CAN use regular table salt but it’s not recommended as it can easily clump together, causing uneven brine distribution.
How to Roast a Dry Brine Chicken
If the chicken was dry brined on a rack over a shallow roasting pan, use the same pan for roasting. Remove the chicken from the fridge and let it come up to room temperature while the oven is pre-heating to 425 F. Roast, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
Then, lower the temperature to 375 F. Roast the chicken for another 45 minutes, then use a thermometer inserted into the deepest part of the thigh to test the temperature. The chicken is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 165 F.
Dry Brine Chicken Inspiration
A chef friend once told me that if they were going to serve a simple roast chicken, they would make it the best roast chicken their customer had ever had. This got me to thinking about all the chickens I’ve roasted and how my methods have evolved over the years.
The first chickens I roasted were seasoned with salt and pepper then roasted in closed oval roaster at 350 F. While this method got the job done, it usually produced a pale skinned chicken that was somehow almost always over cooked.
Next, I tried an open roast method with butter and herbs at a higher temperature. This method produces a wonderful chicken on it’s own, but is all that butter really necessary?
Finally, I have found the best roast chicken method yet; Dry Brine Chicken. This method produces the best roast chicken I have ever had. Mission accomplished!