Hello Everyone! Today’s recipe is pretty much what the title says, a classic whole roast chicken. I know some of you guys out there, myself included, would’ve probably rubbed some herds onto the skin and then pop it in the oven to roast away. I kid you not, I have had my fair share of roast chicken, homemade or from the grocers and almost every time the chicken is quite dry, especially the breast parts (which is why I hated eating chicken breast while growing up as a kid). It wasn’t only until recently I learnt about a cooking technique known as brining (submerging in salted water at the very basic) when we roasted a whole turkey for last year’s Noche Buena. It feels weird saying last year when it was technically less than a month ago. Anyway, the turkey was super moist and flavoursome! So I decided to try out brining again with a whole chicken.
Keeping your bird juicy isn’t that hard – all you need is the right seasoning, and a little bit of patience and motivation to add that extra step before having your lunch or dinner. It does pay off though! Brining chicken not only adds moisture to the chicken, making it nice and plump, it also helps prevent it from drying out when you cook it. The result is a delicious, moist, and juicy chicken. In addition, not only does it affect the texture and juiciness of your chicken, it also affects the taste. A few hours, or even better if overnight, in brine will let the salt penetrate deep into the chicken meat, enhancing its natural flavour. Of course, there is one disadvantage. All the extra water that ends up in the chicken can make it harder to get a crispy skin. Luckily, that’s easy to fix. If you’re going for crispy skin, just let the chicken air dry in the refrigerator for an hour or so. Yes, it does take the extra effort, but it’s so easy to do!
So what actually happens during the brining process? A little bit of high school science for you!
- Diffusion: This occurs when particles move from a region of higher concentration to an area of lower concentration. So, as we have established above, the brine has a lot more salt in it than the chicken. Therefore, to balance things out, the salt gets absorbed by the chicken – not just on the surface, but all through the meat.
- Osmosis: This is when water (or another liquid) moves through a membrane from one region that has more water to another region that has less water. This is exactly what happens when you brine chicken. The brine has a lot more water than the chicken, so the water moves through the chicken cells, from the brine to the chicken.
Salt is the most important ingredient when brining chicken. It actually doesn’t make the chicken salty in the end, but as explained above, really enhances the chicken’ natural flavour. You can also add some other seasonings to your chicken brine, and they’ll work the same way and diffuse into the chicken. If you’re planning on using extra seasonings in your chicken brine, you’re going to need to boil it. Otherwise, the flavors just won’t penetrate the chicken. Think of it as if you were making tea – if you try making it with cold water, nothing happens. You need the heat to leech the flavour out of your seasonings. But remember to cool your brine down first before submerging your chicken into it. Not only does it end up cooking the chicken just a little bit, it also creates a bacteria farm that could potentially make you sick.
- 2kg whole free range chicken, washed and cleaned
- 3L water
- 3/4 cup salt
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 4 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
- 1 medium-sized spanish onion, halved and sliced thinly
- 1/2 lemon, sliced
- 2 tsp chicken stock powder
- Few sprigs of fresh thyme
- Handful of whole black peppercorns
- 50g butter, chilled
The basic ratio of salt to water for a brine is 4 tablespoons of salt per litre of water.
- Start by clearing out a space big enough to fit a bowl large enough to hold your chicken in the fridge. Line two plastic bags over your bowl, or if you don’t have one large enough, a cooking pot will do. Place your chicken into the bag, and set aside.
- Combine half of the water and all the ingredients, except the butter, chicken, and wine, in a large cooking pot and bring to a slight boil to allow all the flavours and seasoning to incorporate into the liquid. Once boiling, let it boil for a further 5 minutes before removing from the heat.
- Add the remaining water and the wine. Set aside to cool down completely. There are other ways of cooling down the brine faster if you are short on time, or a little bit impatient. You can submerge the pot in cold water, or even add ice to the brine.
- Once the brine has cooled down completely, slowly and carefully pour it over the prepared bowl/pot of chicken. If there is too much liquid, do not panic! Simply lift the plastic bags up and then pour the remaining brine in.
- Tie the bags ups nice and tightly and refrigerate for a few hours, or overnight. If you’re going for crispy skin, just let the chicken air dry in the refrigerator for an hour or so before roasting in the oven.
- Preheat oven to 190C. Line a deep baking tray with foil and place a wire rack above it.
- Using cooking twine, tie the drumsticks together as well as the wings to hold them in place while roasting. I don’t actually know how to tie the wings properly, so that’s how I tied mine! I don’t even know if tying it the way I did is how it’s done either!
- In a small bowl, combine the butter with a few thyme leave, mashing it together just by using your fingertips, and then rubbing it all over the chicken.
- Add the garlic and onions from the brining liquid to the drop tray, as well as a little bit of the brine. This will later add flavour to the gravy that you can make combined with the drippings from the chicken. Just combine the pan drippings into a small sauce pan and add flour to thicken it up.
- Place the chicken on the wire rack, and into the oven for about 2 hours.
- Once done, remove from the oven and tent it for about 10 to 15 minutes before serving. Serve with steamed rice or mashed potatoes and veggies. Alternatively, you can serve with is a nice Caesar Salad which is what I did – stay tuned for the recipe on Tuesday!
– Ally xx