Herb-Brined Roast Chicken

It's surprisingly difficult to photograph a roast chicken

Currently, whenever I think of roast chicken, I think of the roast chicken I shared with friends, in the rain, in Versailles, France. We had just taken the train in from Paris to visit the eponymous Château. We were hungry and our guide book directed us to the local farmer’s market. We eventually settled on a roast chicken and a loaf of bread. We huddled under an archway and, after the first couple bites, literally tore the chicken apart. I don’t know if it was the setting, the company, or if the chicken was as good as I remember, but it was the best roast chicken I may have ever had.

But, really, is there a need for yet-another-roast-chicken recipe out there? Has there ever been a cookbook published without one? Hyperbole aside, there certainly are enough out there. I’ve even posted one.

So why another one? Well, I originally used this brine for a turkey at Thanksgiving (if you wish to do so, increase the brine time to 24 hours). The turkey turned out excellently so I thought I’d apply to a chicken in the future.

And here we are then. I had a craving for roast chicken and I decided to share it with the rest of the world (or the limited portion of it that reads this blog).

The brine is not for the faint of heart (or pocketbook). I’m half convinced I spent more on the brine than on the chicken (and it was an organic chicken!). I wouldn’t use this as an everyday brine but it works well for special occasions. I plan to use the brine again next Thanksgiving.

For some reason, I feel like I'm wasting everything that goes into the brine

Herb-Brined Roast Chicken
Adapted from Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing

1 gallon water
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 bunch fresh thyme
1 bunch fresh rosemary
1 bunch fresh parsley
2 bay leaves
1 head garlic, cut in half horizontally
1 onion, sliced
3 tbsp black peppercorns, crushed
2 lemons, halved

1 whole 3-to-4 lbs. chicken

  1. Combine all the brine ingredients in a large pot; squeeze the lemons as they are added. Bring to a simmer over high heat to dissolve the salt and sugar. Remove from the heat. Allow to cool to room temperature and then refrigerate until chilled.
  2. Add the chicken to the brine and weigh it down with a plate to keep it submerged. Allow to brine for 8 to 12 hours.
  3. Remove the chicken from the brine, rinse well, and dry with paper towels. Let it rest in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
  4. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator an hour before cooking.
  5. Preheat the oven to 450ºF.
  6. Roast the chicken in a roasting tray until it reaches an internal temperature of 160ºF. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 15 minutes.
  7. Serve immediately.

Serves 3 to 4.


12 Responses to “Herb-Brined Roast Chicken”

  1. 1 michelle June 8, 2008 at 6:33 pm

    one can never have enough recipes for a well-roasted chicken.

    we brine chicken and turkey as well, although we only pull out all the stops for the t-giving bird. for a weeknight roast chicken, a soak in salt water is all we bother with.

    also, i would like to eat more chicken with friends under an archway in france.

  2. 2 DocChuck June 9, 2008 at 10:05 am

    We brine all of our chicken now except when we are frying. Then we soak it in buttermilk for several hours or overnight.

    Do you think that brining and THEN soaking frying chicken would be beneficial? I haven’t tried it (the double soak) yet, but have thought about it.


    • 3 Manju Modiyani May 18, 2014 at 6:42 pm

      We brine the chicken strips for 7 hours before coating it with egg wash and corn starch and frying it. It turns out better. We add home-made spice powder, garlic, salt and sugar in the water to make the brine. I think you can add the spices and herbs in buttermilk instead of water. Double soaking makes no sense. Combine the both instead.

  3. 4 PaniniKathy June 9, 2008 at 11:14 am

    I love to brine turkey and chicken, although I haven’t tried the whole bird yet. This one sounds delicious!

  4. 5 Matt June 9, 2008 at 12:41 pm

    michelle – The only problem with too many roast chicken recipes is that there isn’t enough time to make them all. I’d also highly recommend eating roast chicken with friends under an archway in France.

    DocChuck – I wouldn’t recommend brining and soaking in buttermilk. The soaking in buttermilk is brining (particularly if you add salt to the buttermilk). You’re likely to just end up with the overly salty chicken.

    PaniniKathy – I also like brining chicken and turkey (whenever I can plan far enough in advance to do so). I also tend to brine pork (really important) and shrimp (which can be done quickly and really improves the texture of the shrimp). I like this brine for chicken and turkey because the flavors of the brine compliment the flavor of the poultry and don’t overpower it.

  5. 6 Daniel's Critical Corner June 9, 2008 at 2:02 pm

    WOW ! I can’t wait to try this ! 🙂

  6. 7 paula June 9, 2008 at 3:14 pm

    this brine sounds similar to one i have used….leaving out the rosemary and adding 3 jalapeno peppers halved lengthwise. it adds a fresh-heat, for lack of a better term. everyone who’s eaten it has commented on it but none can identify the source by taste.

  7. 8 Hillary June 13, 2008 at 10:15 am

    Looks delicious! Nice job.

  8. 9 mrsdocchuck June 20, 2008 at 8:55 am

    Allow me to answer my husband’s inquiry, as I believe your answer was off the mark. we are living apart, or I would answer him directly.

    When a protein is properly brined, the salt helps denature the protein strands, allowing the salty brine to flow into the meat’s cells.

    It will flow into the meat until equilibrium is achieved.

    After that no more liquid or salt will enter the meat.

    So soaking in buttermilk after brining will possibly give it a bit of a tang or even make the meat more tender (marinating in dairy is one of the only ways to truly tenderize meat) but it will NOT make it more salty.

  9. 10 Alex January 17, 2009 at 10:19 pm

    What about using dried herbs? I’ve got a lot of those, so it’d save a little money for me. How much of your usual supermarket dried stuff would substitute for the bunches?

  10. 11 Matt January 18, 2009 at 5:52 am

    Typically, you’d substitute 1/3 the amount of fresh herbs with dried herbs (i.e. replace 1 tbsp fresh herbs with 1 tsp dried herbs). In this case, my guess would be a tablespoon of dried herbs would probably be best. However, I haven’t tried it. Fresh herbs will also give much better flavor than dried herbs.

  11. 12 Felix May 29, 2014 at 8:21 pm

    Thank you sooo much for making this recipe available. Rosemary is, above all others, my favorite herb. I even grow four different types of rosemary on my bedroom window still. While process of brining meats has become a discovery to me early this year, combining both rosemary and brine was a challenge to find around the inter-web. Even in serious culinary sites by actual professional chefs. Finding this recipe has been a wonderful resource; from then on, Im still experimenting with this, like different sugars, pepper, and especially rosemary. Thank you so very much for making this recipe available in this blog. Though this is the only thing I looked up on your blog, I’ll make sure to flip through it.

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