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!
How long can you dry brine chicken?

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

Do you rinse dry brined chicken?

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.

How to Dry Brine Chicken

4.36 — Votes 17 votes
By Brandi Schilhab
Prep: 5 minutes
Total: 5 minutes
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!

Nutrition

Calories: 71kcal | Protein: 6g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 0.03g | Cholesterol: 25mg | Sodium: 23mg | Potassium: 63mg | Vitamin A: 46IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 4mg | Iron: 0.3mg

Additional Info

Course: Dinner
Cuisine: American
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 71
Keyword: dry brine, dry brine chicken

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Amber Goulden


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33 Comments

  1. Can I dry brine chicken breasts, then either wipe off or rinse salt off for a lower sodium diet before cooking?

  2. recipe says:
    “Bone-in, skin-on cuts: use about 3/4 teaspoon of salt per pound”
    Too salty for my Italian taste buds. next time I’ll use 1/2 tsp kosher (aka cooking salt) per pound.

  3. The article says:

    Use a dry brine if…

    “You’re using a larger piece of meat, like a whole chicken or turkey.”

    “You’re short on time.”

    and

    “…all you have to do is salt the meat on both sides at least half an hour before cooking, then let it sit,”

    But then it says to salt a whole chicken and refrigerate for 8-24 hours.

    Very confusing.

    1. Hi! The “use a dry brine if…” bullet points are independent of one another. So, dry brines work great with large pieces of meat (like a whole chicken or turkey). They also work great if you have a smaller cut of meat (like chicken thighs) and are short on time. Further down in the article, we break down exactly how to dry brine each cut of meat (a whole chicken, bone-in skin-on cuts of chicken, and boneless skinless cuts of chicken). Whole chickens and turkeys take longer to dry (or wet) brine because they are much larger. I hope this makes sense!

  4. 5 stars
    I have to say, I was REALLY skeptical about this. However, I just did this with bone in, skin on chicken thighs, which I dry brined then let sit in the fridge for about 8 hours. I baked them with some herbes de provençe, olive oil and a bit of pepper. Usually, this means a crisp, tasty skin, but lots of meat that’s just pretty flavorless. This time, the skin was still cispy, but the thigh meat was just as tasty, without seeming salty at all. Many thanks for this.

    1. Awesome, Bob! We’re so glad you liked this method. Thanks so much for taking the time to share this with us!

  5. Hi! Would salting boneless skinless chicken breasts in the morning then cooking them in the evening be too long of a brine?

    1. Hi Austin! I probably wouldn’t do boneless, skinless cuts for that long. Keep it closer to an hour if you can!

  6. 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.

    1. 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

    2. I am trying dry brining for the first time with two 5lb whole chickens. I am using a coarse gray salt – as that’s what I have on hand. After patting the chickens dry, I found it difficult to get the salt to stick and ended up just pressing the salt on. Should I have oiled the birds first?

  7. 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!

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

    1. 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. 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.

  9. 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!

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

  10. 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!

  11. 5 stars
    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!

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

  12. 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!

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

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