How to Brine Chicken

For a number of months now I have been brining most of the chicken I cook.  I really can’t believe the difference it makes in how moist and tender the chicken turns out.

chicken breast

I have brined whole chickens and chicken parts.  Most often I brine boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  Then I use them as planned, such as chicken cacciatore or our favorite chicken breasts.

I have tried brining pork with this recipe a couple of times, and it didn’t work as well as it does with chicken.  If you’re interested, try Lynn’s recipe for brining pork.

Many brine recipes include sugar.  I have tried it with and without sugar and didn’t notice a significant difference, so I leave it out.  Herbs can also be added to the brine, but I haven’t gone there yet.

Brining does take time.  It doesn’t take much hands on time for you, but it takes time because the meat has to sit in the brine.  The amount of time depends on whether you are brining a whole chicken or pieces and whether it has skin or not. Boneless skinless breasts only take about 45 minutes, and I have learned to factor this time into my meal plan.


Honestly, it makes such a difference in the chicken the extra time is worth it.

If you don’t have time to brine the chicken immediately before using it, you can brine and then drain and rinse it and save it until you are ready to cook it. For example, if you want to use it in a slow cooker recipe, you might want to brine it the night/day before and have it ready to go into the crock.

I have not brined whole chickens very much because that takes a number of hours, and I either end up forgetting or, I buy the chicken and need to cook it the same day.   I hope to start brining whole chickens more often though.

5.0 from 2 reviews
Chicken Brine
  • 4 cups water and ice
  • ¼ cup kosher salt or 3 Tablespoons table salt
  1. Heat 2 cups of water until hot but not boiling.
  2. Add the salt and stir until it is dissolved.
  3. Measure ice and water to equal 2 cups. Pour into the salt water and stir to dissolve the ice.
  4. Place a whole chicken in a deep pot or chicken pieces in a baking dish. Do not use aluminum, plastic, copper or wood containers.
  5. Pour the brine over the chicken. It should cover or almost cover the chicken. A larger amount of brine can be made for brining a lot of chicken.
  6. Cover and refrigerate for 4-8 hours for a whole chicken, 3-6 hours for a half chicken, 1-2 hours for bone in, skin on breasts, 30-60 min. for boneless, skinless breasts, 45-90 minutes for skin on legs or thighs, 30-45 min. for skinless legs or thighs.
  7. Drain the brine and rinse the chicken well.
  8. Cook as desired, but reduce or eliminate the amount of salt in the recipe.

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  1. Marleena says

    Going to try this.
    In step 6.Cover and refrigerate for the following amount of time:
    the times are missing. I know you said Chicken breasts take 45 minutes but how long did a whole chicken take?
    Does dark meat take longer than light meat?

    • says

      Marleena, I’m so sorry. Somehow I missed your question. I don’t know what happened to the times I originally put in the recipe, but the information is there now.

      • Marleena says

        Awesome. Thank you for the correction. I’ve been so busy I forgot about asking so no problem. I’ll print and stick it up in the kitchen. I have some chicken in the freezer I want to do and it will be a good weekend to do it. Thank you again…

  2. Judy says

    I, too, am wondering about the times missing from step 6. Looking forward to clarification.

    Thanks for your hard work and recipes! My daughter made your angel food cake and it was superb!

    • says

      Judy, I’m glad you said something because I somehow missed Marleena’s question. The information about how long to brine is in the instructions now.

  3. Timothy says

    In part 4 you wrote, “Do not use aluminum, plastic, copper or wood containers.”

    – what is the reason for this recommendation?
    – In the past I have used resealable plastic storage bags for my brine and chicken breasts, would you recommend I not do this?

    Thank you! :)

    • says

      I think plastic storage bags are fine if you discard them. I wouldn’t recommend brining in a reusable plastic container because of the raw chicken.

  4. Diana says

    Just wondering if there is anyway to know the sodium content when brining individual pieces of chicken? I’m really sensitive to salt, so if the content was low, I would definitely try it :) Thanks!

    • says

      Diana, I don’t know the sodium content, but I’m sure it is affected. The chicken does taste saltier than if it is not brined. Since you are really sensitive to salt I wouldn’t recommend brining.

  5. Tanya says

    Hi Linda, I still can’t see the brining times on the recipe. Maybe you could just post it in the comments for us? Thanks : )

    • says

      Thanks for letting me know. I updated the recipe one more time and the information is showing up now, but here it is just in case.
      whole chicken – 4 to 8 hours
      half chicken – 3 to 6 hours
      bone in, skin on breasts – 1 to 2 hours
      boneless skinless breasts – 30 to 60 minutes
      skin on legs or thighs – 45 to 90 minutes
      skinless legs or thighs – 30 to 45 minutes

  6. Kerry says

    Thank you for posting this. I find gluten free recipes to be high in sugar, which is very frustrating b/c one of the main reasons we are gluten free is to avoid sugars! I look forward to doing this with my chicken tenders tomorrow :)

  7. says

    Thank you for the excellent recipe for a sugar free, gluten free brine! I have been GF for 6 months now and finally feel ready to expand my meals to more than just grilled/baked lean meat and a veggie. It’s been great for my weight loss but my poor, patient hubby is ready for more meal variations. Your brine sounds like a good start.

    I plan to add a section to my website for GF recipes. With your permission, I will link to your home page.


    • says

      Hi Carol. Yes, you may link to my homepage. Basic meals are the best way to start, but at some point most people like to start expanding. I’m glad I could help.

If you have a question about a recipe (especially substitutions and nutritional information), please read my FAQ page before asking the question in a comment.

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