Monday, October 21, 2013

Quick Brined Roast Chicken Dinner

Like most people who keep food in the freezer, I wanted to roast a chicken for dinner and forgot to thaw it overnight and consequently didn't have time to do a traditional overnight brine.

I went searching the interwebs and happened upon Michael Ruhlman's "quick brine" recipe and it looked like exactly what I needed to have roast chicken for dinner.

This recipe is almost identical to my other roast chicken post featuring Thomas Keller's roasting technique, but this time I'm brining the chicken and am making different sides.

The potatoes are especially good and I make them this way all the time. They end up really crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. These are the potatoes I make for Thanksgiving.

The recipe is a riff on Heston Blumenthal's "perfect" roast potatoes and was adapted slightly by Kenji over at .

Quick Brined Roast Chicken Dinner
(from here and here)

Quick Brine:
15 ounces water (or 1/2 liter)
3.5 ounces salt (or 100 grams)
4 cloves garlic
1 small onion sliced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (double if fresh)
1 teaspoon dried parsley (double if fresh) You can also use sage or whatever you have on hand
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon lemon juice (or 1 lemon, halved) I didn't have any lemons this time around but have made this since with a lemon and it's worth it, so be sure to grab a lemon! 
2 teaspoons black peppercorns, cracked beneath a sauté pan
15 ounces ice (500 grams ice), or 15 ounces of ice water
1 chicken (3 to 4 pounds)

Roasted Potatoes:
1.5 pounds yukon gold potatoes
1 heaping tablespoon of fat, bacon, duck, lard or chicken (olive oil also works fine)
Salt and pepper to taste

The broccoli and carrots are so simple you only need salt and pepper and some butter for the carrots.


You obviously need to begin with the chicken if it is frozen solid, like mine was.

I do the sink technique and started at about 10 am.

Fill your sink with cold water and toss your chicken in. I always bag my chicken in a big ziplock bag, but it's maybe a little overkill.

You want to change the water every 30 minutes for about 3 hours. I know, but it's way faster (and actually safer) than letting it sit out.

Mine was pretty big so it took a SOLID 3 hours to thaw.

While you wait, you can make the brine.

Grab a medium pot and put it over medium-high heat and add:

15 ounces water (or 1/2 liter)
3 ounces salt (or 100 grams)
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried parsley
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon lemon juice (or 1 lemon, halved)

Measure out 2 teaspoons of black peppercorns and crush them under a pan:


I use wax paper to make transfer to the pot easier:

Dump it in:

Add the garlic (I just peeled and crushed it)

and the onion:

Give it a stir to break everything up.

Let it come to a boil.

When you reach a strong boil, let it go for about a minute then kill the heat.

Cover and let it sit for 10 minutes.

Go ahead and measure out your ice. 15 oz or thereabouts.

Close enough
When your 10 minute wait is up, uncover the brine and give it a stir again.

Pour the brine into the ice:

Stir until the ice is melted.

At this point I just waited until my chicken was thawed.

When you are ready, put your chicken into a ziplock bag.  Mine was thawed enough to remove the neck and organs and such in the cavity but it was still a tad frozen on the inside. It worked out fine.

Pour your brine over the chicken and seal the bag.

I sat the bag in a pot just in case it started to leak.

You want to brine the chicken for 3 hours at room temperature.

I know, 6 hours gone already, but if you start in the morning you'll be ready by like 4 pm with a perfectly brined chicken. It's way faster than the traditional way.


You can make the potatoes ahead too.

Start by adding 2 tablespoons of salt to a pot.

I used 1.5 pounds of potatoes. I usually do about 1 tablespoon of fat per pound of potatoes.

I did not peel mine this time, but they work well peeled too.

Just cut them into chunks. Sometimes I do them smaller but try not to get them too small or they end up like hash browns.

Toss the potatoes into the pot.

Cover with water by 1 inch and fire up the heat to high for a boil.

Meanwhile, I just prepped by carrots and broccoli.

3 carrots cut up thusly:

Toss them in the fridge for now.

One head of broccoli, trimmed.

I toss this right into the fridge in the steamer basket.


Meanwhile, when your potatoes reach a boil, drop the heat to a strong simmer (medium-high-ish) and cook for 7-10 minutes. You want the exteriors done but the insides JUST done.

When you can pierce them with a knife and meet a little resistance go ahead and drain them.

Get your fat (in my case it was duck fat) and plop it in the hot pot you cooked the potatoes in.

It'll start to melt.

Toss the potatoes back in the pot and give them a good stir.

You will see a paste from the starch of the potatoes and the fat begin to form. Cover the potatoes COMPLETELY with the fat.

Lay them out on a sheet pan. I like to lay down parchment.

Spread them out best you can. Go ahead and season them pretty well now.

I toss this whole pan into the fridge and wait until dinner. The fat will stay nice and solid.


When your chicken done with the brine, remove it and toss the brine and rinse the chicken off.

Pat it dry VERY WELL and put it on a rack or something so it has some air circulation. We want it be be as dry as possible.

Go ahead and let this sit for an hour so the salt can penetrate a bit. If you don't have the time I don't think it's that big of a deal. I had the time so I did it.

After your hour is up, rub it with maybe a teaspoon of vegetable oil and then sprinkle with with some fresh ground pepper.

I also trussed it but that's up to you. I find it fits in the pan better.

Cooks Illustrated suggested making 4 small incisions along the spine of the bird, 2 under the breast area and 2 under the thighs, right along the spine on either side. This is supposed to let the rendered fat from the top drain through into the pan. I did it with my turkey last year and it worked well, so I did it with this chicken (sorry, didn't get pics) and I really think it helped crisp up the skin and drain out some of the excess fat. 


OK, now it's dinner time.

Timing is going to be based on your sides so do the math. The chicken will take about an hour and the potatoes take about 40 minutes.

Good thing here is that we're cooking both the chicken and potatoes at the same temp - 450!

Begin by pre-heating a cast iron skillet in the oven at 450. You can use a 10" or 12". Mine is a 10".

When the over/pan is up to temp, carefully remove the hot pan and drop the chicken right in there.

Pop it in the oven and wait about 20 minutes.

If you have a handy thermometer that alerts you to when your food is done, use it. Mine broke ages ago, but I loved it.

I followed Heston's recipe for the carrots, which is so simple.

It's just some butter in a pan and add the carrots and cook until they are done, season with salt and pepper. That's it. He says it takes about 45 minutes but you can do it in like 30 max.

A tablespoon of butter.

Pop the carrots in face down over medium-low heat.

I checked my chicken after 20 minutes.

111 degrees and browning nicely.

Go ahead and toss the potatoes in!

I like the potatoes on the lowest rack.

You can flip your carrots as they begin to caramelize.

I checked after another 20 minutes and flipped the potatoes.

Check your bird every-so-often.

150 is close but you need it a little higher. 5 more minutes.

160! Perfect.

Carryover will get it up to 165, easy.

Remove the chicken from the pan and let it rest for 10 minutes. That will give you enough time to steam some broccoli.

I had a TON of fat rendered through the chicken. You can strain and save this fat for... Roast Potatoes! Chicken fat is just outstanding in this potato recipe so you should try to keep it.

Your potatoes should be done too but I didn't get a photo of them. Oops!

Carrots are done!

Steam your broccoli. I only go for about 4 minutes. Salt and pepper here too. Simple!

That's about it! Just carve your chicken and serve.


This roast chicken was by far, the best I've made. I finally got the right combination of recipes to work for me. The skin was crispy and the meat was seasoned perfectly (that was my one beef with the Thomas Keller recipe, the meat was a tad under-seasoned for me). It was tender and dripping with the juices. The carrots were great and the broccoli was simple and delicious. The potatoes were so crisp on the outside and nice and creamy in the center they were almost like big french fries.

Overall I was very happy with the meal and the kids ate it up.

So next time you want roast chicken and you have a 5 pound solid block of frozen chicken staring at you, make this and prove you can have a great roast chicken dinner in less than a day.



  1. Phil this looks AMAZING. Question for you: can the bird be brined overnight? I've actually never heard of brining a fresh chicken. I thought only deli meats were brined. Legit in AWE: THIS is what makes rotisserie chicken taste so good! And dumb question: you put the chicken IN the fridge while it brines..right?

  2. Yeah, I wasn't exaggerating when I said that this was the best roasted chicken I've ever made, if not, ever had. That being said, I have overnight brined chicken (and turkey) before with very good results.

    My rule of thumb is 1 gallon of water to ½ cup kosher salt and ½ cup sugar (or brown sugar). You can add bay leaves, peppercorns, lemon or whatever else to that. You should heat it to dissolve everything and then let it cool. You can heat like 4 cups of water with the salt and sugar to get it dissolved, then add that to 12 cups of cold water so you don't have to wait for a gallon of water to cool off.

    And yes, you put it in the fridge. I usually put the chicken/brine in a big bowl or something, covered with plastic wrap. Let it brine say, 8-10 hours, max. Then you can remove it and rinse & dry it off and let it sit in the fridge until you're ready to cook it.

    It makes a world of difference to the taste and texture of chicken. I almost always do some sort of brine whether it's a "dry" brine (just salting the meat) or a quick brine to virtually every kind of white meat (i.e. not red meat) that I cook.

  3. Thank you! I can't wait to try this when exams are over and wow the fam.

  4. I can almost guarantee they will be wowed.

  5. So I'll FINALLY be making this recipe for the bf this weekend! On an unrelated note, I've been making huge stock pots of chicken soup, and have been really dismayed that the chicken's been coming out dry. This doesn't happen when I make smaller pots of soup (4 quarts-ish). I don't think I'm over-cooking it when I make it in the big stock pot? It's a middle eastern tradition to make broth and chicken soup in general out of the whole bird (meat, skin, etc), not just the bones of a roasted chicken. Do you think brining the chicken before boiling for soup might help with the dryness?

  6. I think you're overcooking the chicken if it's dry. It could be a function of volume and temperature in that you aren't getting as high of a temperature from a smaller volume of water and therefore aren't cooking it as long? If you check the chicken after 30, then say, 45 minutes I'm sure you can hit it perfectly poached.

    As for brining, I have tried poaching brined chicken and I don't think that it really makes a difference. The salt level of the finished soup will be higher and depending on how long you brined the chicken the texture could be slightly better - BUT, what I haven't tried is truly "curing" the chicken, then making soup from it. Like "dry-bring" it - basically rubbing kosher salt over the whole bird, inside and out, under the skin and over it and letting it sit in the fridge, uncovered and on a drying rack for 2-3 days. THAT would change the texture of the chicken enough that it could withstand an hour or more poaching in a soup base.

    This is all speculation, though. When I make soup with a whole chicken I pull the meat off the carcass when it's BARELY done (because I'll add it back for the finished soup to finish it properly) and then use the carcass/bones for the rest of the building of the soup base.

    It's worth trying the curing thing though, but the broth will be much saltier than before, but I doubt it'll be too salty if you rinse the bird before you drop it in the water.

    LONG reply, sorry.

  7. No this is great! Thank you! I hadn't thought about pulling the meat off just before it's done for soup--makes a lot of sense. And it's true that I don't poach the chicken for quite as long when I make a smaller quantity, usually takes about an hour to an hour and half. But when I've got the stock pot out, I'll let it simmer on medium-low for almost 3 hours. I've done this twice, but the result is tough and almost powdery-textured chicken. yuck! Dry-curing a chicken for a few day then using it for soup sounds like my kind of project...Thanks for the tips! PS: We are making this quick-brine recipe again tonight!

  8. I've made this chicken like 4 times since I posted this! It's just SO GOOD!


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