The Reason You Should Brine Chicken Before Grilling

While most of us will agree that throwing cut up, unseasoned pieces of chicken onto a grill doesn't exactly leave us with the most juicy, appetizing morsels of proteins once the pieces are cooked, there might be some disagreement over how to prep the chicken before it hits the grill. Particularly, if the part in question is a chicken breast. But before you reach for a bottle of barbecue sauce to smother your chicken with, we'd like to propose you treat your to-be-grilled cuts of chicken with the same TLC and magic mix that many of us use to prep our turkeys with for Thanksgiving — brine.

Bon Appétit offers a compelling reason to brine before you grill, and that is that "a brine adds flavor and keeps the meat tender and juicy." Brining works, per Serious Eats, because — wet or dry — the salt in a brine mixture actively works on the chicken, giving its meat the ability to hold on to moisture as it is being cooked, which then means that the chicken meat is less likely to resemble its bone, and that it will stay juicy when the cooking is done. All it needs is a bit of thought to decide just what kind of brine you might want to use, as well as prep, and about half an hour of brine time to make it all happen.

Different ways to brine a chicken

The most difficult part of brining could well be deciding whether you'd want to use a wet-brine or a dry one. A wet brine would cause you to mix salt in liquid then throwing the chicken in to rest for some time before throwing it on the grill, while a dry one will necessitate rubbing salt on meat and leaving the salt to work its magic. Serious Eats points out that a wet brine can make the chicken more juicy, while a dry brine helps a chicken brown, so what you choose to brine with will depend on the kind of chicken you eventually hope to end with.

But, as Slate warns, passing on the brine and heading straight for the barbecue sauce to treat your grilled-chicken-to-be with is probably not what you want to do. Since, as it points out, the acid found in your commercial barbecue sauce interacts with the meat by cooking it, so barbecue sauce will end up drying your chicken too — and that's something we would try very hard to avoid.