Perfect Roast Chicken
  • 8 cups water
  • 1⁄3 cup kosher salt
  • 1⁄2 cup apple juice, fresh or from frozen concentrate
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon peppercorns
  • 1 large fryer or roasting chicken, 3 1⁄2 to 5 pounds
Time estimates

Prep time: 25 min  

Cook time: 1 hr  

Total time: 1 hr 25 min, plus 6 hours of refrigeration  


  1. Combine the brine ingredients in a large bowl or pitcher, stirring to dissolve the salt.
  2. Place the chicken in a strong, food-grade plastic bag (see Note), pour in the brine, and gather up the bag to surround the chicken and expel all the air.
  3. Seal the bag with a twist tie and refrigerate in a bowl 6 hours to overnight.
  4. Drain, rinse and pat dry before roasting.
  5. Preheat the oven to 375˚F.
  6. Roast the chicken breast side up, without trussing, legs facing toward the back of the oven, to an internal temperature of 160˚F in the breast and thigh, 50 minutes to 1 hour and 10 minutes.
  7. Let rest 10 to 20 minutes before carving on a cutting board that will catch the juices.


Serves 6-8

Brining Meats for Moisture and Flavor

For centuries, processors have used curing in brine as a step in many preserved meat products, from corned beef and ham to smoked salmon. Somewhere along the line, someone realized that brine can have a beneficial effect on many everyday meat and poultry dishes, and the idea has spread like wildfire in the last few years, through professional food conferences, newspaper food sections, magazines, cooking classes, and individual recipe swapping.

I have become a great believer in brining, and use it in a number of recipes in this book. In a way, brining goes against intuition. If you look at raw meat soaked in a salt and/or sugar solution as a classic experiment in osmosis, then water should be drawn out of the meat as the system attempts to equalize the concentration of the solute inside and outside of the meat. However, the surface of meat is not a simple membrane but a network of protein molecules, held in intricate twisted and folded shapes and to their neighbors (and to nearby water molecules) by various chemical bonds. The salt in the brine "denatures" the protein, breaking some of the bonds so the proteins relax, creating spaces where the brine can seep in and combine with the freed water. Whatever flavors are dissolved in the brine — salts, sugars, acids, essential oils of spices and herbs — get carried in too. The net effect is a slight increase in weight, but more important, extra moisture and extra flavor suffusing the meat as it cooks. As long as you don't overcook it, the result is meat that is moister and more flavorful than the same meat cooked with the same seasonings in dry form.

Good to know

After all the mixed advice I have read and tried — roasting upside down, turning, trussed or not, hot or moderate oven temperature, I have found a method that works every time, without trussing or turning. Brine is a big part of it. Of course, you have to have a good, tasty chicken. You may have to go to a butcher shop or a specialty market to find locally and naturally raised birds, but it’s worth the trip and the slight extra cost.

Which beer should I drink with this?

The best beer you can obtain or the most familiar and basic — it’ll taste good with this.

The Microbrew Lover’s Cookbook 

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From The Microbrew Lover’s Cookbook, Copyright © 2002 by Jay Harlow. Used by arrangement with Jay Harlow.


Photo: Food Thinkers/Flickr