If you want a juicy and tender chicken then brining is a must! But can you brine a frozen chicken, or do you need to thaw it before you dunk it in brine?
Short answer to this question would be a yes, you can brine frozen chicken but you do need to know a few tips to brine it the right way.
Understanding the brining process is only going to make the process of brining a chicken much easier and you are going to get a nice tender chicken cooked every single time.
Using brine does not mean you have to stick to a simple salt and water solution to brine your chicken. You can add some additional herbs and spices that make the brine amazingly good.
This way the brined chicken has all the flavors of the seasonings that you put in the brine giving you a flavor-packed chicken.
Whether you are cooking a simple meal or you want to go with roast brined chicken, smoked chicken wings, grilled chicken thighs, roast chicken, baked chicken, and more, you need to brine it.
Brining can also apply to frozen turkey, helping you make the best turkey for the next Thanksgiving.
You can make a nice juicy turkey with the same brine recipe that you use to make chicken.
There is no such thing as over brining and we will talk more on it in the coming sections, so let’s brine that chicken!!
What Is Brining?
Brine means salt and water solution and by brining meat, you are soaking the meat into this salt water solution for a couple of hours.
Soaking any meat in brine will make it juicer and add more flavor to the meat. There are two ways to brine- Wet Brine and Dry brine. In this post, we will discuss only wet brine.
You can add other spices to the brine as well and many people mix sugar in their brine solution to give it that extra added flavour.
Brining helps in making the chicken tender and juicy as it adds more moisture to the meat.
When you grill chicken you are going to lose a lot of moisture so the moisture that brining adds kind of makes up for the lost moisture content.
The chicken also absorbs the flavors of all the spices and seasonings in the brine making the cooked meat more flavourful.
You can have different kinds of brine solutions for different meats but if you are looking for a nice chicken brine then this one recipe from currytrails.com takes the crown.
Why Brine Chicken?
Have you felt that the chicken you eat at a restaurant is way juicier than the ones you make at home?
The answer is simple, brine your chicken. Yes, restaurants do this with chicken and other meats as well so that they never dry out after cooking and remain tender and moist.
The brine solution adds more juices to the meat and also breaks down the meat structure at a molecular level making it tender and easier to eat.
This is why brining is important if you do not want to dry out your meat after cooking.
Brining is an extremely easy process as well, it takes a couple of hours to leave the meat in the brine solution but the process of making the brine and dunking your meat in it is quite easy.
Hence, I would highly recommend brining chicken or turkey before you cook it as this is one easy process you cannot miss.
How to make your brine solution?
It is pretty easy to make a simple brine solution. You need one tablespoon of salt per one cup of water. I use normal salt while using my brine solution but Kosher salt is even better.
The basic brine solution is a mix of salt+water+ sugar and most people enjoy this mix. You can also add some peppercorns and thyme to the brine solution to get more flavors.
But if you are busy and just want to get done with the brining process, then the basic salt and water mixture is the perfect blend for you.
There are a bunch of different brine recipes with spices and to get the best out of this solution, remember to add the ingredients to a pot of water and boil it till the flavors of all the spices dissolve in the water.
Then you need to cool down this hot water and make sure it is completely cool before adding your meat for brining.
NOTE- Adding chicken to hot water is not safe and can cause harmful bacteria to develop on the chicken so make sure the water is at room temperature to brine it safely.
Can You Brine Frozen Chicken?
Yes, you can brine frozen chicken. It is best to place the frozen chicken in the brine solution and refridgerate so that you do not have to leave the chicken outside while brining.
Leaving the chicken for more than 3-4 hours outside while it is brining can cause the bacteria to develop and hence I recommend refrigerating it.
Make sure you do not leave the chicken outside in the brine solution to defrost as defrosting can take a 6-12 hours for a full chicken to brine and during this time you can get bacterial growth in the chicken causing food poisoning.
So, place your frozen chicken in the brine solution in the fridge and you are good.
Brining frozen chicken is the best as you can thaw it and at the same time you can brine the chicken, this saves some time as you do not have to brine the chicken separately.
You can rinse the chicken once it is done brining to remove any excess brine mix that is not absorbed on the surface and pat it dry with a towel.
How long to brine Chicken?
How long do you brine frozen chicken really depends on how thick the pieces of the chicken are.
1. Brining Full frozen Chicken- I recommend if you are brining a full frozen chicken then you can defrost and brine the chicken in the refrigerator for about 12-24 hours. Even a fully thawed chicken would take 12 hours to brine.
2. Brining Frozen Chicken thighs- Brining frozen chicken thighs can take around 6-8 hours in the refrigerator while it thaws at the same time in the brine solution. Brining a thawed chicken will about 3-6 hours
3. Brining Frozen chicken wings-Brining frozen chicken wings would take around the same time as chicken thighs which is about 6-8 hours while it thaws in the refrigerator.
4. Chicken Breasts- Chicken breasts can take anywhere from 15 minutes up to 6 hours. Max, it can sit for 6 hours in the brine solution.
Note- These times are based on a generalized idea of how big the chicken pieces are, you will have to do some trial and error to get the exact time you need to brine some chicken pieces. In general, 2-3 hours is a good time to brine fully thawed chicken pieces in the refridgerator.
How long to brine thawed Chicken?
brining a thawed chicken is way easier than brining a frozen chicken and it will take very less time in comparison to brining a frozen chicken/meat.
You need to brine a full chicken for about 2-3 hours in a brine solution and you can brine chicken thighs and chicken wings for about 15 minutes to an hour which would be more than enough.
If you think you have thawed your chicken for longer then you can rinse your chicken in cold water and that would take away some excess salt from the surface.
Pat dry your chicken before you cook it so that you get a crispy finish on the outside and the juicy and tender texture on the inside.
Can You Thaw Frozen Chicken In Brine?
Yes, you can thaw frozen chicken in brine and it is way easier to do it this way since you can thaw the chicken and at the same time brine the chicken.
I recommend using cold water when brining frozen chicken and putting it in the fridge immediately. DO NOT THAW CHICKEN outside in room temperature as that can cause some bacterial growth leading to food poisoning.
Once ready, place the frozen chicken in the brine and then cover it. Place it in the fridge and allow it to thaw and brine for the next 10 hours or so, this can be done overnight.
Depending on the thawing times discussed above you can leave your chicken to thaw for different times depending on the thickness of the chicken.
During the thawing process, the frozen chicken will also start to absorb the flavors from the brine. We use cold water/room temperature water for this process to not start to cook chicken in any way.
If you use warm water for the brine, the skin of the chicken will partially cook and will become too soft when cooked. This gives the chicken a slimy texture.
Once ready, remove the chicken from the brine and then rinse off the excess salt. Pat dry the outside of the chicken to remove any excess water and then season the chicken before grilling.
Can You Over Brine?
This is another risk that you need to deal with when brining chicken. There is a possibility that you might over brine the chicken if you let it stay in the brine for too long or in warm temperatures.
Over brining can have two major unpleasant results.
1. WAY TOO SOFT CHICKEN- The brine breaks down chicken at a molecular level and if you brine chicken for too long, the chicken will go mushy.
THIS IS Protein denaturing where the main protein content of the chicken will partially deteriorate, giving the chicken a mushy texture and pretty much useless in terms of nutritional content.
When this happens, you will not like the result of this brining and the chicken almost becomes useless so make sure you never over brine the chicken.
2. OVERSALTED BIRD- The other effect of over brining is the chicken will become oversalted. This means that the chicken has thawed enough and it has exchanged too much salt and fluid with the brine.
Luckily, you can still salvage this by soaking the chicken in cold water. This will help tighten the skin again and wash off some of the salt that has been accumulated by the meat inside.
How do you know when chicken is pre brined?
You should check the chicken packet for this and make sure there have not mentioned any sodium solution on it. If they have, there is a high chance that the chicken is pre brined.
You do not need to brine it twice, you can choose to but I will not recommend brining a piece of meat twice.
Which kind of meat can I brine?
You can brine any meat you like, it depends on how effective brining is going to be with different meats.
Leaner meats are more preferred with brining as there is not a lot of fat to give it flavours hence the brine solution does a pretty good job of adding a pack of flavors in the meat.
Brining goes well with chicken, turkey, shrimps and even leaner cuts of pork.
You can almost brine anything you want but since brining is used to soften the meat, I recommend opting for leaner meats to brine every time.
I hope this answers your question on can you brine frozen chicken and if you have anything to add leave them in the comments below!
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