This simple chicken brine with brown sugar is an easy way to get tender and juicy smoked chicken with crispy caramelized skin. Whether you are cooking a whole chicken, turkey, thighs, wings, or legs, this brine will change your chicken game for good. Press the easy button and leave the whole bird in the brine overnight for amazing results every time!
Brining meat adds flavor from the inside out. In the brining process, the salt denatures meat’s proteins, softening muscle fiber and allowing tons of flavor and moisture to flow into the meat. If you have never tried brining, what are you waiting for!? This basic brine will result in juicy tender chicken and is a great way to get amazing flavor no matter what method of cooking you use. Consider this brine for your Thanksgiving turkey or Christmas turkey- it works wonderfully on all poultry!
Tips and Tricks
Increase Batch Size: easily double or triple this brine recipe to suit your needs. Unused excess brine can be kept for a week in the fridge.
Add Variety: If you are feeling ambitious, add a bay leaves, fresh herbs, cayenne pepper, onions, or orange zest to your brine mixture for some extra zip!
Cooking Method: This brine is great no matter what method you are using to cook the chicken (oven, smoker, bbq etc.) It helps to avoid the dreaded rubbery chicken skin when smoking.
Rinse: It is important to rinse your wings off after they are finished brining to make sure that the residual salt and sugar come off.
Submerge: Make sure that all of your chicken pieces are fully submerged in the brine!
Post Cook: Let your chicken rest for 10 minutes after cooking for optimal moisture levels.
Water– any good quality tap water or filtered water will work. It is important for safety reasons that you have cold water rather than warm water to start the brining process.
Salt– use table salt or fine grained Himalayan salt.
Brown Sugar– brown sugar allows the chicken skin to caramelize and counteracts a bit of the saltiness that comes along with brining.
How to Make: Simple Chicken Brine
Combine all ingredients in a large pot and whisk until the salt and sugar are fully dissolved. Place chicken in the wet brine for 2-18 hours in the refrigerator. It is not safe to keep raw chicken at room temperature. Rinse well. Pat Dry with paper towels.
How To Make Simple Turkey Brine
This recipe uses the exact same base as the simple brown sugar chicken brine but in a larger scale and adds a few flavorful elements. Adjust for larger turkeys as needed.
Combine 8 liters of water with 2 cups brown sugar, 2 cups kosher salt, 2 tablespoons minced garlic (6 cloves), 2 tablespoons peppercorns, the outer peels from three oranges (use a peeler to avoid the pith and to get mostly zest). At this point you can add in your favourite herbs and spices to add more depth to the brine including 3-4 bay leaves and 4 sprigs of rosemary.
Combine all of the ingredients in a large pot and whisk them until the salt and sugar are fully dissolved. Place turkey in the wet brine in a large stock pot, bucket, or other vessel for 18-24 hours in the refrigerator. It is not safe to keep raw turkey at room temperature. Rinse well. Pat Dry with paper towels.
Related: FULL TURKEY BRINE RECIPE
When it comes to brining chicken, the recommended brine times can vary depending on the cut of the chicken. Here are the recommended brine times for different cuts of chicken:
Chicken Wings: For chicken wings, it is generally recommended to brine them for at least 1 to 2 hours. This allows the flavors to penetrate the meat and helps to keep the wings moist and juicy when cooked.
Chicken Thighs: Chicken thighs are a bit more forgiving and can benefit from a longer brine time. It is recommended to brine chicken thighs for around 2 to 4 hours. This allows the saltwater solution to fully penetrate the meat, resulting in tender and flavorful chicken thighs. This brine time also applies to chicken leg quarters.
Chicken Breasts: Chicken breasts are leaner and tend to dry out easily when cooked. To ensure moist and flavorful chicken breasts, it is recommended to brine them for 4 to 6 hours. This extended brine time helps to retain moisture and enhances the overall taste.
Full Chickens: When brining a whole chicken, it is best to allow it to soak in the brine for a longer period of time to ensure that the flavors seep into every part of the bird. It is recommended to brine a whole chicken for at least 12 to 24 hours, or even overnight. This allows the saltwater solution to fully permeate the meat, resulting in a juicy and flavorful roast chicken.Remember, these are general guidelines and you can adjust the brine times based on personal preference and recipe requirements. Always ensure that the chicken is fully submerged in the brine and refrigerated during the brining process. Enjoy your deliciously brined chicken!
For more information, check out this article by the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service on Basting, Marinading, and Brining chicken.
Batch and Storage:
Yield: This recipe will yield around 8 cups of smoked chicken brine depending on what extras are added to the brine. Perfect for a whole chicken, chicken wings, chicken thighs, and even chicken breasts (skin on is best).
Storage: Always store your meat brine in the fridge and discard any leftovers after use.
In my experience, chicken wings can soak up the benefits of the simple brine in two hours. Too long in the brine and your chicken wings will be spongy and overly salted. I recommend no longer than 6 hours in the brine for wings. Larger pieces of meat can handle longer brining times.
Yes! This brine is fairly universal and will work wonderfully for pork, giving it extra moisture and flavor.
While it isn’t imperative to rinse meat after brining, it might help to rinse some of the salt solution off. Before salting your wings, whole chicken, or whole turkey with seasoning, I recommend trying a cooked wing or piece of meat to gage the saltiness to make sure that you don’t have an over seasoned chicken or turkey.
Absolutely! Consider doubling with a gallon of water and additional ingredients or tripling if you are brining a whole turkey.
Printable Recipe Card
- 2 litres water
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup kosher salt
- 1/2 tablespoon minced garlic, optional
- 1/2 tablespoon peppercorns, optional
- Combine all of the ingredients in a large stock pot and whisk until fully dissolved.
- Brine for 2-24 hours.
- Rinse your wings well.
- Pat dry and add seasoning. I like to coat my wings in baking powder or corn starch to help crisp the skin.
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1 grams
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 45Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 7087mgCarbohydrates: 12gFiber: 0gSugar: 11gProtein: 0g
Thanks for supporting me! Sharing, commenting, and leaving a star review all help to spread the word about Modern Harvest and help to grow the site! As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases (affiliate links). I will never promote or link products that I don’t personally use or love.
More Harvest Recipes to check out
If you are a fan of the smoking process, check out these delicious smoked chicken recipes.