Brined Chicken Breast

23 May

(?servings, intermediate ingredient)
This is a time tested way of turning an otherwise hard and dry chicken breast into succulent tasty chicken. All you need is salt, sugar, water and time. While brining is normally used to prepare chicken or turkey for roasting, I will use dry poaching as the method of cooking in this recipe. You can use this poached chicken in a potato salad, as a meat supplement to a Caesar’s or other green salad, or as sliced meat on Ramen.


  1. Large skinless chicken breast (2)
  2. Salt
  3. Brown sugar
  4. Butter
  5. Rosemary
  6. Coriander Seed Powder
  7. Quart sized ziploc bag (4)


  1. Fill a large glass (salad bowl) or ceramic container (soup tureen) with 4 cups of room temperature water. A round bottomed container is best, and if you are using a container with a flat bottom, you will probably need additional brine to cover the meat unless it is tall and narrow, adjust the recipe accordingly.
  2. Add 3T of salt and 1T of soft brown sugar. Stir to ensure everything melts.
  3. Your chicken breast should come skinless, and be cut into halves. For the avoidance of doubt, the picture shows one chicken breast, with one half sliced and the other half whole.
  4. Rinse the breasts and place them in the brine, making sure the pieces are completely submerged.  Cover with a plate or clear wrap. If it is a hot summer day you should keep the chicken in the fridge during the brining, or adding a few cubes of ice every 2 hours. If its winter you can just leave it alone in the open.
  5. After 8 hours discard the brine which would have become cloudy. Rinse the chicken breasts thoroughly in running water or leave it to soak in a bowl of plain water for a while. If you are not cooking the chicken immediately, place it in the fridge.

Poaching (optional)

  1. A few hours ahead of time, gently heat 1T of rosemary in 3T of Butter without burning the rosemary. Allow the oil to cool to room temperature. Rosmary is a woody herb and you may want to strain out the rosemary at this stage.
  2. Pad the brined chicken breasts dry and move them around in the rosemary butter. Sprinkle 1t of coriander seed powder and some pepper on the chicken and allow to marinate for an hour.
  3. Boil a large pot of water.
  4. When the water is boiling, put each half breast of chicken into an individual quart sized zip loc bag. Spoon any left over oil into the bags as well. Squeeze out all the air and seal.
  5. Put the bags in the boiling water. Cover and boil for 2 minutes. Leave in the pot, without opening the lid, for a further 20 minutes (less time if you are only cooking 1 chicken breast, more time if your pot is not large enough).
  6. When you finally remove the chicken from the bags, you should notice that the breasts have shrunk a bit but not too much.  The meat has a slight pinkish hue from the brining, this is normal, the chicken is not undercooked.
  7. There will be a small quantity of concentrated chicken stock left in each bag from the brine that was in the chicken. Reserve this and drench the chicken in it after you have sliced/diced it. You can also use this stock for making a sauce.


    • Brining depends on the scientific phenomenon known as osmosis where dissolved substances in two liquids separated by a membrane will want to equalize concentrations. Salt ions are very small and they will travel into the chicken through the cell membranes. However, the molecules of other substances dissolved in the chicken are too big to escape into the brine and water is drawn into the chicken to equalize concentrations instead. The result is that both salt and water are drawn into the chicken, plumping it up and making it juicy.
    • Sometimes people prefer to brine their Chicken for longer. You can double the brining time to 16 hours;  The 16 hour brined chicken is noticeably more tender than the 8 hour version but the resulting chicken will taste salty and any further marinade or seasoning should not contain anything salty. At 24 hours you will get chicken that is as salty as bacon.
    • Feel free to experiment with all kinds of additional things in your brine, like liquid smoke, apple slices, honey etc. Do not use any powdery substance that is insoluble like coriander seed or cinnamon, these will clump onto certain areas of the chicken.



Posted by on May 23, 2011 in Poultry, Recipe


Tags: , ,

2 responses to “Brined Chicken Breast

  1. Mejiro

    May 23, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    Sous vide is suppose to seal in all the goodness. How does this compare and contrast with brinning? Or just entirely different all together?

    • kobayash1

      May 24, 2011 at 11:07 am

      Sous Vide has got nothing to do with brining. Maybe you were confused by the dry poaching after the brining?

      To summarize: Dry poaching is an inferior form of sous vide. Dry poaching just keeps the meat and water seperate. Temperature reaches boiling and cooking is for a short period of time. The best you can do is boil for a bit and then allow the water to cool slowly to minimize the impact of cooking as I have suggested .

      In sous vide meat and water are also separated but you are supposed to cook for a very very long time at a low temprature, like 60 degrees celcius. You just can’t do that without special equipment so its quite uncommon for home cooking (although I’ve tried it with an egg in my hot water boiler/dispenser set at 70, it had no 60 setting).


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