Brining Basics For The Best Roast Chicken

It’s taken me years to learn that brining chicken is far easier than anyone lets on. Distilled to its essence, it’s just mixing salt and sugar with water, and soaking a bird in it overnight.

Yet if you googled “how to brine a chicken”, a slew of articles made up of A LOT of words will appear, each instructing percentages for the brine, the merits of a dry brine versus a wet brine, the types of chicken to brine, the type of salts to use… it’s a rabbit hole that once descended, can leave you reeling.

Over the years, one of the most important lessons I’ve learnt about cooking is that kitchen work is easier when you don’t overthink it. I wanted to brine a chicken and I wanted to do it with little fuss. So I googled something like “percentage of salt in a brine”, and out popped the numbers 6.25% to 8%. So that’s what I went with.

It’s been several months since I started brining my chickens for roasting. And it is impossible to go back to roasting chicken without brining. The resulting bird is plump, succulent and utterly saturated with flavour. For years I roasted my chickens breast side down, allowing the juices to dribble onto the white meat as it cooked. And that method consistently yielded good, tender roast chicken. But brining yields great roast chicken, and it’s easy peasy — don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Here’s how I do it:

  • Put a whole chicken in a large Ziplock bag and then fill the bag with water.
  • Place a large bowl that would fit the bag of chicken and water onto a digital weighing scale. Hit the “tare” button to reset the weighing scale to zero.
  • Pour the water from the bag into the bowl. It should weigh between 1-1.4kg.
  • Now calculate 6.25% of the weight of the water. I usually call on Siri for this. “Hey Siri, what is 6.25% of 1,400.” And good old Siri always has the answer — in this case, 87.5g.
  • So, you pour 87.5g of salt into the water, along with a quarter cup of sugar. And that’s my basic brine.
  • Now whisk the brine solution so that most of the salt and sugar dissolves. Then pour it back into the bag with the chicken.
  • Rinse out the bowl, and place the bag of chicken and brine back into the bowl. Refrigerate overnight or for 12 hours.
  • Half an hour before roasting, remove the chicken from the brine, pat it dry, stuff it under the skin with butter and then rub the chicken with oil and a bit of dark soy for colour.
  • Roast it at 180°C for an hour or slightly longer, depending on the size of your chicken (I find 1hr and 10 mins is usually sufficient for standard local chickens that you buy from the supermarket or wet market in Singapore). Once out of the oven, rest your chicken for at least 10 minutes before carving.