Food

How to Dry Brine Chicken

at a glance
Prep Time 5 minutes
Servings 4 servings

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Today we’re talking about one of my favorite techniques for better chicken every time – dry brining! This simple trick will totally change your chicken game.

bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs that have been dry brined with sea salt laying on a stainless steel rimmed baking sheet

Chicken can easily be bland, dry, and boring – but I’m here to tell you, it doesn’t have to be! I’m all about easy ways to make your food taste better, and dry brining is one of the easiest ways to do it. 

A dry brine is simply salting a piece of meat and letting it sit before cooking. You may have heard of wet brining before, but the two are quite a bit different. 

For a wet brine, you boil a mixture of water, sugar, salt, and aromatics, then place the meat in the mixture and refrigerate for up to a day. This results in a more tender, flavorful, and juicier end product. However, wet brining requires quite a bit more work, and depending on the size of what you are brining (think: a whole turkey) it can be a bit impractical. 

A dry brine gives you similar results to a wet brine and allows for meat that is tenderized, flavorful, and easier to crisp and caramelize. It is easier and quicker than a wet brine, because all you have to do is salt the meat on both sides at least half an hour before cooking, then let it sit. 

Is a dry brine or a wet brine better?

Honestly, it depends on what you are cooking, what you want the outcome to be, and how much time you have! Here’s a quick overview:

Use a wet brine if… 

  • You have a relatively small piece of meat (for example, chicken breasts or pork chops).
  • You have at least 4 hours to brine.
  • You don’t mind a little extra work and time for making and cooling the brine.
  • You’d prefer juicier meat over crispy skin or a more caramelized surface.

Use a dry brine if…

  • You’re using a larger piece of meat, like a whole chicken or turkey.
  • You’re short on time.
  • You’re using beef or skin-on chicken. 

A dry brine works through osmosis! Essentially, salting the meat ahead of time will draw moisture out of it. This moisture will then break down the salt and reabsorb into the protein, both tenderizing it and flavoring it. Thanks to this process, your protein will be salted throughout, instead of just on the outside, and the exterior will be drier – which is ideal for good caramelization. 

a woman sprinkling sea salt over bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs laying on a rimmed baking sheet

Benefits of Using a Dry Brine

Overall, a dry brine has three main benefits:

  1. It removes excess moisture. Now, don’t mistake this for a dry end product – instead, your meat will still be juicy inside, but the drier exterior will be easier to brown. 
  2. It seasons meat all the way through. Typically, you’ll season your meat right before cooking. This creates a flavorful crust, but for thicker cuts, the middle can taste quite bland. With this simple fix, your entire cut of protein will be filled with flavor. 
  3. It tenderizes meat. Salt naturally breaks down the tendons in meat, and with enough time, a dry brine can help create a more tender end product.

How to Dry Brine Chicken

Luckily, dry brining chicken is really simple! My favorite thing to dry brine is a whole chicken, because it creates crispier skin, but it works great on other cuts, too. Below I’ll talk about how to dry brine any cut of chicken.

What type of salt is best?

The best type of salt to use for dry brining is kosher salt because it sticks the best and distributes more evenly, but coarse sea salt will also work if you have it on hand! I wouldn’t recommend using fine sea salt or regular table salt for brining, but if it’s all you have, it’ll work in a pinch – just use half the recommended amount listed below!

a whole chicken that is cooked and sitting in a cast iron pot

Whole Chicken

Here’s what you’ll need to do to dry brine a whole chicken:

  1. Pat it completely dry, then set it on a rimmed baking sheet or other dish. I personally like to place mine in a 9×13 inch dish with a thick layer of paper towels – the chicken will lose more juice than you’d think! Alternatively, you can place the chicken on a rack, which will allow the skin on the bottom to dry out a bit.
  2. Salt the chicken. Salt the chicken with coarse or kosher salt on both sides, and in the cavity. On average, you can use about 1 teaspoon per pound – but it doesn’t have to be exact! If you’d like, you can also add herbs like thyme and rosemary or spices like black pepper to further flavor the chicken.
  3. Refrigerate for 8-24 hours. After you’ve salted it, place the chicken in the refrigerator for 8-24 hours. If you’d like, you can loosely cover it with a piece of aluminum foil or parchment paper, but don’t seal the foil. This allows the chicken skin to properly dry out so you’ll wind up with super crispy skin!
  4. Cook as directed. Once you’re ready to bake, simply pull the chicken out of the fridge and follow the recipe instructions to roast in the oven.
golden brown oven baked crispy chicken thighs on a stainless rimmed sheet pan sitting on a marble surface

Bone-In, Skin-On Chicken

Smaller bone-in, skin-on cuts like chicken thighs, wings, breasts, or legs are also great candidates for dry brining! 

  1. For these, simply pat them dry, place them on a paper towel-lined dish.
  2. Salt on both sides. You’ll use about ¾ teaspoon coarse or kosher salt per pound of chicken.
  3. Refrigerate for at least one hour, or up to about 12 hours. 

I recommend leaving the chicken uncovered if you’re just refrigerating for a few hours, or using a loose tent of foil or parchment if brining overnight. 

two baked chicken breasts (one sliced and one left whole) sitting on a cutting board next to a knife

Boneless, Skinless Chicken

For boneless, skinless chicken all you’ll need is a super quick dry brine!

  1. Simply pat the chicken dry on both sides, place on a plate or in a dish.
  2. Salt on both sides with about ½ a teaspoon of coarse or kosher salt per side.
  3. Refrigerate the chicken for 30 minutes to 1 hour, then cook as directed!
Q How long can you dry brine chicken?
A

Here’s a quick cheat sheet for how long to dry brine your chicken:

  • Whole Chicken: 8-24 hours 
  • Bone-In Skin-On Chicken Breast, Thighs, Legs, or Wings: 2-12 hours
  • Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast or Thighs: ½-1 hour
Q Do you rinse dry brined chicken?
A

No, there is no need to rinse dry brined chicken! The salt will have penetrated the chicken, so it won’t be too salty. Just make sure you don’t salt it again before cooking!

There you have it – my super simple dry brine chicken technique! I hope that this tutorial helps you get tender, flavorful chicken every time.

creamy tuscan chicken in a pan

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How to Dry Brine Chicken

By: Brandi Schilhab
No ratings yet
Prep Time: 5 mins
Servings: 4 servings
This simple dry brine method will give you tender, flavorful chicken with crispy skin every time!

Ingredients  

  • Chicken – whole bone-in, skin-on, or boneless-skinless cuts
  • Coarse or kosher salt

Instructions

  • Pat chicken completely dry, then set it on a rimmed baking sheet or other dish. 
  • Salt the chicken with coarse or kosher salt on both sides, and in the cavity.
  • Whole chicken: use about 1 teaspoon of salt per pound
  • Bone-in, skin-on cuts: use about 3/4 teaspoon of salt per pound
  • Boneless, skinless cuts: use about 1/2 teaspoon of salt per pound
  • After you’ve salted the chicken, place it in the refrigerator according to the times below. If refrigerating overnight or longer, place a loose tent of foil or parchment paper over the chicken.
    – Whole Chicken: 8-24 hours
    – Bone-In, Skin-On Cuts: 2-12 hours
    – Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts or Thighs: ½-1 hour
  • Once the chicken is done brining, cook your chicken as the recipe directs – there is no need to rinse the chicken before cooking!
Meet the Author
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Brandi Schilhab

Brandi leads our efforts on content audits, outline construction, website calendar management, and a great deal of writing. She could unashamedly watch reruns of Friends + Harry Potter movies and never get bored!⁠ ⁠ ⁠
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  1. Sara says

    Sara —  04/25/2021 At 15:21

    This is the easiest and tastiest chicken recipe.

    • Brandi Schilhab says

      Brandi Schilhab —  04/26/2021 At 10:01

      We’re so glad you love this one, Sara! Thanks for sharing this with us!

  2. Tom Trocola-Barone says

    Tom Trocola-Barone —  05/28/2021 At 20:37

    Excited to try this and cook on my smoker. Does the salt penetrate the skin? No need to lift the skin up and season? Not used to chicken being flavorful without seasoning under the skin!

    • Brandi Schilhab says

      Brandi Schilhab —  06/01/2021 At 08:11

      Yes, it penetrates the skin, so no need to season underneath!

  3. Jenny says

    Jenny —  08/24/2021 At 10:56

    This is by far the best written clear information I’ve found about this and I looked at a lot of articles. Thank you so much!

    • Brandi Schilhab says

      Brandi Schilhab —  08/26/2021 At 08:20

      I’m so glad to hear that, Jenny. Thank you so much for the comment!

  4. Sally says

    Sally —  10/26/2021 At 13:09

    This is exactly what I was looking for. Easy to understand and follow. One question, if I wanted to add seasoning (garlic, paprika, Italian, etc. Do I do it at the same time as the brine or after?

    Thank you!

    • Brandi Schilhab says

      Brandi Schilhab —  10/26/2021 At 15:14

      I’d add the extras just before cooking, Sally!

  5. Chris D. says

    Chris D. —  12/14/2021 At 10:06

    Seen comments and advice on other sites advising to include approx 1 tablespoon of baking powder to dry brine. Has anyone does this in the past? From what I understand, it is supposed to promote darker browning and add to the crispiness of the skin. Any thoughts? Can’t wait to try this later in the week!

    • Brandi Schilhab says

      Brandi Schilhab —  12/15/2021 At 09:47

      I haven’t heard of doing that, Chris, but if you try it, please let us know how it goes!

  6. Stormy says

    Stormy —  04/18/2022 At 17:27

    Absolute game changer. I used to “bleed” my chicken. I learned it from . my grandmother. Yep, she raised chickens and ate them. I own ducks and have dug them a pond and built a house with a maternity room for brooding. But “bleeding ‘ is wet brining. I always wondered how broasted chicken and some of the other chicken joints got their chicken to taste salty in the meat and then I tried dry brining. I will never go back.

  7. Farah says

    Farah —  05/20/2022 At 16:22

    Hi!
    Would 6 hours work for dry brining a 3.5 lb whole chicken?

    • Melissa Guevara says

      Melissa Guevara —  05/25/2022 At 18:43

      Hi Farah! 6 hours would definitely be long enough to gain some benefit from the dry brine process. The meat not get as tender as it would from the full 8-24 hours, but better than none at all!

  8. SG says

    SG —  05/29/2022 At 22:42

    I admit that I was skeptical of the dry brine technique; however, I was dead wrong! The bone-in chicken thighs that I dry brined were fabulous! Thanks so much for making me a believer!

    • Melissa Guevara says

      Melissa Guevara —  06/01/2022 At 02:39

      We are so glad to hear that it was a success for you, Susan! Thank you for taking the time to share with us.

  9. Mary LaHay says

    Mary LaHay —  06/03/2022 At 23:04

    Your narrative is great! So clear and easy to understand and implement! I’ve dry brined previously and have had great results. Makes so much sense. Now I’m facing a new situation and would appreciate any input…. Have a whole chicken I’ll be cutting up into the typical pieces (breasts, thighs, legs). Should I dry brine the whole bird before cutting, or cut and then brine the pieces??? Hmmm.

    • Melissa Guevara says

      Melissa Guevara —  06/09/2022 At 15:18

      Hi Mary! We are so glad that this “how to” has been helpful and easy to follow. Either way (broken down or whole) will work to keep your bird juicy. -Team F&F

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