Almost everyone loves smoked chicken. It creates a lot of different flavors regardless of what spices you have on the meat. At the same time, many cooks love brining chicken before cooking it. So the question for this article is, can you brine a whole chicken before smoking it? Let’s take a look.
Should You Brine A Whole Chicken Before Smoking?
One of the best ways to retain moisture in the chicken is to brine it before smoking it. This is especially true when it comes to smoking a whole chicken. Doing this is an excellent way of making sure that the chicken stays tender throughout the smoking process. Finally, it adds to the flavor.
There are so many benefits to brining raw chicken before smoking it, and I will elaborate on that. Also, I want to talk a bit about using pickle juice as the brine. Finally, I want to give you some tips that always work for me. So, for everything you need to know, keep reading this article.
3 Benefits Of Brining Chicken Before Smoking It
While writing this section, I tried to think of any cons, and I genuinely could not think of any. You can brine a whole chicken and still use the spices you want to add. Doing this means you can add your personality to the dish. Brining the chicken is an added step that I take. But, it’s not the only one.
With that said, let’s discuss three benefits of brining chicken before smoking it.
It’s Healthier Than Most Marinades
I am not saying that marinades are bad for you. However, when you compare them to brine, whether a standard salt solution or even pickle juice, you start to see just how much healthier brine is.
The first place you look is the number of carbs and calories that both have. For example, a general marinade contains around 25 calories per tablespoon.
However, it would be best if you remembered that most of the marinade drips off before you cook and then during the smoking process. Many of those calories are added sugars the companies use to make the marinade taste as good as possible.
Brine contains minimal calories, especially in the form of sugar. But, it doesn’t stop there. If you use pickle juice, you are getting the benefit of all those antioxidant properties. While most of it also gets cooked off or drips off, they still infuse with the chicken.
Brine Helps Keep the Chicken Tender and Retain Moisture
Most light meats lose a lot of their moisture, which happens easily and quickly. While smoking chicken is one of the most flavorful ways of cooking it, the meat can lose a lot of moisture.
There are very few cooking methods that can prevent this from happening. However, if you prepare correctly, you can minimize the amount of moisture the chicken loses.
Using any brine adds moisture to the meat. I like to think of it as creating a protective layer around the chicken. Yes, smoking it will still cause the chicken to lose some of its juices but not as much.
Because the chicken holds a lot of its moisture through the smoking process, it keeps the meat tender. So see, that protective layer really does do wonders.
It Adds More Flavor To The Chicken
In the last section of this article, I will discuss the best way to brine the chicken before smoking it. For now, it is essential to remember that brine has a lot of flavors. You can enhance this by using pickle juice, but those flavors infuse themselves with the chicken.
The brine does not overpower the flavor of the meat, and if you are going to smoke the chicken and you want those smokey flavors to be the prominent note of the dish, then you have nothing to worry about.
You can say that the brine compliments the smokey flavors. However, it does not take away from them.
Should You Brine A Whole Chicken In Pickle Juice Before Smoking?
While it is true that pickle juice can be considered brine, it is different. Firstly, it has other ingredients. For example, pickle juice has more vinegar while also containing sugar, salt, and in most cases, peppercorns.
We have written a recent article about using pickle juice to brine chicken. I highly recommend giving that a read after this article.
If you have pickle juice around the house, using it to brine chicken can save you time and money because now you don’t have to make or go out and buy brine specifically for the occasion.
If you get Pickles from the farmers market, you will find that many of them have their flavors of pickle juice; so, if you have any of those lying around, I highly recommend trying them out as you will be surprised at what you get.
So yes, I do recommend using pickle juice to brine your chicken just before smoking it.
The Best Way To Brine Chicken Before Smoking It: 10 Easy Steps
We need to remember that this article is focused on preparing the raw chicken to be smoked, and many of these steps will be tailored toward that focus.
However, many of these steps are things I typically do when preparing chicken or pork for either the grill or the smoker.
That means you can bookmark this page, and whenever you feel like preparing one of those types of meat for the grill or the smoker, you have a few tips and tricks at the ready.
So, with that said, here are my essential tips for brining chicken before smoking it.
- Get your brine ready. When smoking chicken, I prefer to use pickle juice.
- Try to get the brine to room temperature.
- Add a few slices of lemon to the brine. The slight lemony notes will complement the smokiness so well.
- Add a few peppercorns to the brine.
- Use half a garlic clove.
- Make sure your chicken is fully thawed.
- Place the chicken in the brine.
- Place everything in the fridge for anything between eight to twenty-four hours.
- Take the chicken out of the brine and let it get to room temperature.
- Start smoking the chicken.
By now, we all know that we shouldn’t brine the chicken for more than 48 hours, but if you have added something like garlic or peppercorns, here’s a trick that not many people know about.
Pro Tip: You can let the brine sit for a few days in the fridge while it infuses all the flavors of the garlic, peppercorns, and lemon slices.
That gives you a flavorful brine, and then you can put your chicken in it for 8 to 24 hours.
I always like to mention that you shouldn’t be afraid to experiment. Some of the best dishes you will ever taste are the ones where you try something new.
Look, smoking chicken is not the easiest thing, but if you prepare correctly by brining your meat, you can have a much better experience.
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- Can You Brine Chicken And Pork Together?
- What Spices Bring Out The Spices In Chicken?
- How Do You Keep Chicken Juicy On The Grill?