Why You Should Consider An Overnight Brine For Fried Chicken

Fried chicken is something you want to squeeze every ounce of flavor into, and if you aren't brining your chicken, you are really missing out. It may seem like the simplest, most primal, crowd-pleasing food, but making great fried chicken has a lot of science and work behind it. Chefs and home cooks alike experiment with different coatings, combine cooking methods, and try different marinades, all in the quest for the perfect combination of fully-flavored, juicy meat and crunchy breading. All that trial and error has led to a lot of different recipes for the "best ever," fried chicken, but one thing almost everyone can agree on is that a longer brine is essential for keeping your meat moist and making it as tasty as possible.

It's technically possible to use either dry brining or wet brining in liquid. But for fried chicken, an overnight wet brine is the ideal option. Frying is an extremely intense high-heat form of cooking, and it can drive a lot of moisture from your food quickly. That's great for getting a crunchy exterior, but less than ideal for juicy chicken. A wet brine helps add moisture to your meat, so it retains more even after it's been cooked. This can be done in a few hours, but overnight is the best, as the liquid needs that extra time to be fully absorbed into the chicken, and for the flavors of the brine to penetrate past the surface.

Brining overnight fully seasons your fried chicken and keeps it juicy

An overnight wet brine for your fried chicken can include all kinds of different seasonings, but the only thing that's essential is liquid and salt. The amount of salt you need will vary based on the liquid base you use, but for a basic brine, you should start with 4 tablespoons of salt for 4 cups of water, which should be good for one whole chicken. Just submerge your separated chicken pieces into the brine, cover the container, and leave them in the refrigerator overnight before following your normal recipe.

Of course the flavor potential for overnight brines is huge, and there are plenty of great options beyond salt and water. A buttermilk brine is classic, and adds extra fatty flavor, while the acids in the milk also tenderize your meat. You can add further flavor to the buttermilk brine with spices like cayenne, paprika, garlic powder, and oregano. Pickle juice has plenty of salt, and is also a popular brine in Southern fried chicken recipes that will give your meal a nice extra tang. And don't be afraid to experiment yourself. Some brown sugar or honey can add a hint of sweetness, and hot sauce will add extra flavor and acid in addition to spice. Overnight wet brining isn't just the wet way to excellent fried chicken, it's also the best way to get creative with flavor.