It’s no secret that brining chicken before grilling or smoking it adds flavor, keeps the meat juicy, and guards against accidental overcooking, especially if you’re using a barbeque pit. You probably have a favorite brine mixture that produces a tasty chicken. But for an even more punchy chicken flavor, can you brine chicken in chicken broth?
Can You Brine Chicken In Chicken Broth?
You can brine chicken in chicken broth or chicken stock. However, you will need to add salt to the broth to create a brine that will infuse the chicken with flavor, tenderness, and moisture. Replace the water in a chicken brine recipe with chicken broth for best results.
Experienced home grillers and smokers know that brining chicken, turkey, or pork brings out the flavor of these lean, mild meats, tenderizes them, and prevents them from drying out.
There are as many brine recipes as there are backyard BBQs. Let’s look at how you can create extra-succulent chicken in a chicken broth brine.
How To Brine Chicken in Chicken Broth
Brining is an old-fashioned way of preserving meat by soaking it in a saltwater solution. The process has the additional benefits of infusing meat with flavor and moisture, which is why we still use brining today.
How To Make Brine
To make a simple brine, you combine water and salt. The salt should make up five to eight percent of the mixture. The salt is the magic ingredient that does two things: first, it breaks down the meat fibers, and second, it draws moisture out of the chicken, which then absorbs the water in the brine.
That’s where the chicken broth comes in: to increase the flavor that the meat gains from absorbing the brine, you can use chicken broth instead of water.
Because salt is the non-negotiable ingredient of brine, you can’t just use chicken broth instead of brine. Soaking your chicken overnight in broth is not going to tenderize it in the same way as brine, as it won’t have enough salt in it.
However, you can use chicken broth as part of a flavorful brine for a whole chicken, chicken pieces, or even a turkey.
How To Make Chicken Broth Brine
To make a chicken broth brine, you replace the water in a regular brine with chicken broth. (You can use other liquids to make up the quantity of water as well, such as juice, beer, wine, etc.)
Which Chicken Broth Is Best For Chicken Broth Brine?
Chicken broth is made by simmering chicken (and sometimes vegetables, like onions, celery, carrots, and leeks) in water for about an hour. The liquid is then strained, so you’re left with a delicious, meaty chicken flavor.
The chicken flavor from the broth will penetrate your chicken as it brines, so it’s ideal to use the best quality chicken broth possible. Preferably use homemade broth or cartons of fresh, organic broth from the store.
It’s best to use low-sodium broth as the brine itself is very salty. Always taste the broth before adding salt to the brine.
For a potent chicken flavor, use canned chicken consommé, which is made by cooking down chicken meat, bones, and sometimes vegetables until it is concentrated. The liquid is then strained and clarified and has far more flavor than ordinary broth.
Chicken stock or bouillon is also not the same as broth. Stock is often unseasoned and more intensely meaty than broth, so you will have to add aromatics and vegetables. If you choose to use stock instead of broth, avoid using dehydrated stock cubes as these generally contain added salt.
Most brine recipes also include sugar to offset the saltiness and caramelize the meat, herbs, and aromatics to add flavor to the meat. Whether you add these will depend on how flavorsome your chicken broth is.
Chicken Broth Brine Recipe
Here’s how to make a chicken broth brine for three pounds of chicken.
- Lidded stockpot or pot large enough to hold brine
- 3-gallon Ziploc bags
- 1 chicken, whole or pieces
- 1 gallon of low-sodium chicken broth
- ½-1 cup of kosher salt (Use less salt if you intend to brine for more than five hours.)
- 1/3 cup of brown sugar
- 1 onion, roughly chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 3 carrots, roughly chopped
- 2 pieces of celery, diced
- 2-3 tablespoons of aromatics (e.g., savory, thyme, rosemary, sage, juniper berries, black peppercorns, ginger, chili, mustard seeds)
- 1 tablespoon of poultry seasoning
- 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
- Pour the chicken stock into the pot with the sugar and salt and stir to combine.
- Add all the vegetables and herbs.
- Bring the brine to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer the brine for five minutes to allow flavors to develop.
- Set the pot aside for the brine to cool thoroughly. Cooling the brine is essential for food safety as adding raw chicken to lukewarm liquid is dangerous – you’re creating the ideal environment for bacteria.
- Once the brine has cooled, submerge the chicken in the pot and refrigerate. If you don’t have space for the whole pot, put the chicken and brine into Ziploc bags to chill.
- Leave the chicken to soak in the brine for at least an hour (if you’re using chicken breasts), eight hours (for chicken quarters), and up to 24 hours (if you’re using a whole chicken). Brining a chicken for longer runs the risk of a salty bird.
- Pour off the brine and allow the chicken to come to room temperature before cooking.
- Discard the brine – it is too salty to use as a stock.
- Dry the chicken thoroughly with paper towels, especially the skin, before placing it on the grill.
Brining chicken before grilling or smoking it is vital for moist, juicy meat that doesn’t dry out while on the heat. You can use chicken broth as an element of brine for chicken, as it will add additional flavor.
However, chicken broth on its own does not contain enough salt to be an adequate brine substitute.
The next time you throw some chicken on your Pit Boss, try brining it with chicken broth and see what you think of it!
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