What Actually Happens When You Add Beer To Chicken Brine

Cooking lean meat can be tricky since it tends to get tough easily, which is why brining chicken is so important. The task helps to preserve the chicken's moisture so that it remains juicy as it cooks. We're talking of a wet chicken brine, where the chicken is submerged in a mixture of salt and water at a ratio of one cup per gallon of water. Yet this mixture can be altered with the simple addition of beer for better results.

A plain chicken brine helps to preserve and even adds moisture to the chicken. This works through two processes. Once the chicken is submerged in brine, osmosis occurs. This involves water transferring from the brine through the membranes of the chicken's cells. The second process, diffusion, sees salt (and water) move from the higher concentration in the brine and settle in the chicken, leveling out the distribution. Not only that, but the absorption brings out the flavor of the meat since salt is a flavor enhancer.

Similarly, chicken's flavor is enhanced by beer. If salt-brining is the king of imparting flavors, beer-brining is the ace card. The beer, along with the brine, transfers its natural aromas along with salt so that it enriches the meat through diffusion. Tannins and acids in beer also help break down the chicken meat so it's tender. Imagine the taste of chicken bolstered with hints of toasty, roast-y aromas and its meat falling apart so effortlessly — divine.

How to make chicken brine with beer

To make a chicken brine, pour water, salt, and sugar (optional) into a pot and heat the mixture over medium heat until the salt and sugar dissolve. This is your opportunity to include any flavorings you like. You can, for example, add a wheat beer and complement it with preserved lemons for citrus aromas in place of the spices. Once the solutes have dissolved, remove the pot from the heat and add the chicken to submerge it in the brine fully.

Refrigerate the chicken in brine for at least four hours or overnight and remove it from the solution. Then, rinse the chicken first or pat it dry with a paper towel before cooking it whichever way you prefer. You can poach, fry, or, our favorite, make an herb-roasted chicken. The combination of a brine and roast works wonders for browning the chicken and imparting it with deep, caramelized flavors.

If you want to skip the chicken with beer brine but still want beer-based flavors, you can always make beer-can chicken. It's an unusual take: grilling a chicken while it sits upright with a beer can stuffed in it. This is done so that the beer evaporates right into the bird and seasons it from the inside. Guaranteed the magnificent flavors will make up for the peculiar setup.