I normally don't brine chicken. I roast a chicken about once a week and it's a step I just don't think about since salting the bird before I roast it works perfectly fine. Also, I don't like the skin of a brined and roasted bird—it's too thin and dehydrated. But on Sunday, I had the time and was curious to find out if, as I've read and repeated, meat that has been brined is heavier (and therefore potentially juicier) than non-brined meat. I also had fresh herbs left over from the dumplings in the previous post. While I always use a rosemary brine for fried chicken, I was curious to find out if the more delicate tarragon flavor would come through in the flesh of the bird. So I made a brine using my standard, yes, ratio: 20 : 1, with fresh herbs, lemon, onion and garlic.
My bird weighed 59.29 ounces/1681 grams before being brined. After twenty hours in the brine, patted dry, it weighed 62.91 ounces/1783 grams. This means that my brined bird now contained an additional 3.62 ounces/102 grams of flavorful liquid. That's nearly half a cup!
And this chicken pictured here? It was juicy, and the interior flesh was beautifully flavored with the tarragon and chive. So all in all, a confirmation of the power of a brine.
Lemon-Tarragon Brine for Roast Chicken
30 ounces water
2 ounces salt
1 lemon, quartered
1 bunch chives
1 bunch tarragon
1 medium onion, sliced
4 or 5 cloves garlic
10 ounces ice
Combine all the ingredients in a small sauce pan, bring to a simmer, remove the pan from the heat, cover it and let the ingredients steep. Add the ice to cool down the brine (if you're not in a hurry, you can measure out 40 ounces of water and omit the ice).
To brine your chicken, put it in a large plastic bag, pour in the brine. Press as much air out of the bag as possible, and twist and tie off your bag so that no air is touching your bird. Put the bag in a bowl and refrigerate it for 8 to 24 hours, turning the bird a couple of times to ensure all surfaces are receiving the brine.
Remove the chicken from the brine at least an hour and up to two days before cooking it (discard the brine). Rinse it, dry it, and roast it (450 degrees F for 1 hour, stick a lemon in cavity if you're not trussing).