Summer is a major time for backyard and park-site barbecuing starting from Memorial Day through Labor Day for most of the United States – longer in the warmer climate areas. Hamburgers, hot dogs, chops, ribs and chicken. You can just taste all that food cooking even before you step outside.
Hamburgers and ribs have their own natural juicing qualities by the way of fat throughout the meat. You also can’t go wrong with chicken thighs. Chicken thighs are awesome baked, deep fried and grilled. That’s because they are loaded with their own juices.
But what about chicken breasts and especially boneless chicken because they loose the protection of the ribs. Having a juicy chicken dish after all that cooking or grilling is what we all look forward after slaving in the kitchen or in front of a hot BBQ grill. Grilling, a tender, juicy, and flavorful chicken breast can actually be a challenge – emphasis on juicy.
Few things seem easier than grilling a skinless, boneless chicken breast. However, grilling a tender and juicy chicken breast bursting with flavor can actually be a challenge. Without the chicken’s protective skin and because of the uneven thickness, you frequently end up with a dry piece of meat by the time it’s finished cooking. Don’t despair. There is something you can do to keep this from happening. Brining! Brining then cooking it over the high, direct heat of a grill will help prevent the drying out associated with baking or grilling, while rendering a moist and delicious chicken breast.
Whether cooking skinless-boneless chicken breasts without the chicken’s protective skin or bone in, skin on breasts, because of the uneven thickness of the meat, you frequently end up with a dry piece of meat by the time it’s done. You can add all the sauces and dips you want, but the only thing that will do is make it easier to swallow the driest bite of the chicken. Of course a little beer helps also. But don’t fret. There something you can do to keep this from happening. Brining and grilling it quickly over a high, direct heat will help prevent over drying and render you a moist and delicious chicken breast.
I mention barbequing since that is what summer in the States is about but you can brine a whole chicken, turkey or their parts prior, and even pork chops prior to frying, rotisserie it over hot coals or baking. Brining can help add flavor deep into the meat while at the same time make the meat very juicy and give you that finger-licking good flavor. Trust me, your meal will be a hit. Grilling: Have your grill completely heated when the brining is done.
You will want to rinse the meat to remove the excess salt before going to the grill. Don’t worry about removing the spices still attached. You can now prepare your chicken (or other meat choices) using your favorite BBQ sauce or a flavorful dry rub (With the dry rub you don’t need to marinate). With the grill hot, put the chicken over the hottest part of the fire. The total cooking time should be about 4 minutes per side but you are the chef of the day so you decide when it’s done. Turn the chicken only once and leave the lid off the grill. You want to cook over direct heat, and only direct heat. Timing is very important because of the short cooking time. Be careful not to overcook, and you will end up with the perfect chicken, turkey or pork chops for any topping recipe or after it’s cooked, the dippings.
In this recipe I used white cane sugar but you can use brown sugar or even honey. The sugar will give the sweet flavor and the glaze. Also the spices I used are only a suggestion. You can only brine with only the salt or get creative and add your favorite herbs and spices. If you only brine in a plain solution you do not need to boil the water. But added powdered and dry spices and herbs when boiling releases their flavors to be married into the solution so the flavor is better absorbed into the meat with the salt.
- 4 cups of water to start (or substitute water with chicken stock)
- additional water added as needed to fill the gallon sized zipper bag.
- Gallon size heavy-duty zipper bag
- 4 chicken breasts (boneless or split)
- (The following ingredients are approximate and can be adjusted accordingly)
- ¾ cup sea salt (160g)
- ½ cup of sugar (120g)
- 1 Tbsp of fresh ground black pepper (3g)
- ¼ cup of finely chopped fresh or 1 Tbsp onion powder
- 1 clove of garlic - finely chopped (I like garlic so I used 2 cloves)
- 2 Tbsp of finely chopped parsley
- 2 Tbsp of dry powder chicken flavor or bullion (if using chicken stock skip this step)
- another option is some chopped rosemary and thyme
- Be creative with your seasonings. If there is something you normally add to your chicken while cooking, try adding it to the brine solution instead.
- Clean all pieces of chicken and place 4 pieces into a gallon sized zipper bag. Set aside.
- To a 2 quart sauce pan add 4 cups of water (or substitute water with chicken stock)
- Add to the water the salt, sugar and the rest of the ingredients which you wish to add.
- Bring water to a boil for about 1 min so the flavor of the ingredients blend.
- Remove from heat, cover and allow to come to room temperature.
- Pour the cooled solution into the bag with the chicken pieces and top off with additional water to fully cover the chicken.
- Remove any air as the bag is zipped.
- Mix the ingredients well in the sealed bag by rocking it back and forth. Repeat at least once during the time in the fridge.
- Place the bag into a bowl in case the bag begins to leak and put in the fridge.
- Allow to remain for 2-3 hrs (no more than 4hrs max) depending on the thickness of the meat.
- For a whole chicken, allow to brine for a minimum of 6 hrs to a max of 10hrs depending on the weight.
- If you don't normally have fresh garlic gloves, buy a small jar of diced garlic in oil. Once open place a small piece of plastic wrap over the top before re-closing with lid. Just place it in the fridge for when you need it again.
- For a quicker cool-down, after about 5 - 10 mins of setting aside to cool and flavors to mingle, place covered pot in the sink and add cold water to the sink but don't let the pot float.