*Note from the author: Hello friends, I recently updated this post with a printable recipe card and a new video! Enjoy and Happy Grilling!
Until recently, the boneless, skinless variety of chicken breast was definitely the cut of meat that I least enjoyed grilling at home. Not because I didn’t like to eat it, but because we always ruined it! Without fail and no matter how we seasoned it, any super lean chicken breast that went on to our grill turned out bland and embarrassingly dry on the plate. I even tried prepping the meat with a few marinades and the end product was always just underwhelming to me. So, I pretty much gave up on those expensive cuts of meat and relied on the much more forgiving and economical darker cuts of poultry, like drumsticks and thighs for our barbecue dinners.
Then, one weekend we were visiting family and my brother-in-law (the other complete carnivore in our family) grilled some chicken breast that were (out-of-this-world!) unbelievably moist and super flavorful. Of course, I asked him how he prepared them so successfully and he told me his secret is to brine the meat. I had heard of brining, but I mistakenly categorized it as just another form of hit or miss marinade and didn’t give it much attention. Boy, was I wrong.
A brine uses salt the way a marinade uses acid to tenderize and season meat from the outside in. As an added bonus, brining imparts tons of flavor and moisture in half the time it takes a marinade to be truly effective. The basic brine recipe I was given is seriously so simple: 2-1/2 cups of water, 2 tablespoons salt and 1 tablespoon sugar. However, that modest solution of water, salt and sugar became a total game changer for me and my dismal track record of preparing lean chicken breast. In fact, brining has become an absolutely critical meal prep step for me if grilled meat is on the menu.
Nowadays, if we are planning to cook outside, Evan will happily pick up some fresh, quality chicken breast at the market and then skip to the car! Okay, sorry. For the record, he’s way too manly to skip to the car or anywhere for that matter, but hey, I sure did crack myself up for a second… anyhoo. But, it certainly is a great feeling to purchase those elegant (and pricey) ingredients without the sense of uneasiness that comes when you know a culinary crime is about to be committed!
We still use that glorious basic brine solution, but we also like to change it up by mixing in different herbs and spices. This lemon and herb brine has become my go-to summertime brine and I’ve been using it to prepare any poultry we cook. In my opinion, it’s seriously good stuff. The salt does it’s job of tenderizing the meat and the subtle flavors of lemon, pepper and rosemary infuse into it making it a meal we think is worth waiting for.
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Lemon & Herb Brine for PoultryCuisine: AmericanDifficulty: Easy
This will change your summer grilling for the better! Brine poultry, pork and fish with this simple solution to add moisture and flavor!
2-1/2 cups water, room temperature
2 tablespoons salt (regular table salt, not sea salt)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 -2 large springs fresh rosemary, coarsely chopped or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried Italian herb mix ( I love to use the McCormick Perfect Pinch Italian seasoning in this brine)
5 thin slices of fresh lemon (optional)
2-3 lbs chicken or turkey, cut of your choice (I usually use this amount with 4 pieces of boneless, skinless chicken breast)
- Combine water salt, sugar, spices, lemon juice, herbs in a large bowl. Stir well. Add your poultry pieces to the liquid. Top the brining liquid with fresh, seeded lemon slices, if you choose.
- Cover bowl and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. Rotate and flip the meat in the liquid, at least once, while it is in the brine solution (I do this at the 1.5 hours mark). If cooking fish, see notes for brine time
- Remove chicken from lemon and herb brine and prepare as preferred. Enjoy!
- I brine poultry and pork for up to 3 hours. If cooking fish, brine fillets no longer than one hour.
- Recipe from A Little Fish in the Kitchen blog at www.alittlefishinthekitchen.com. All content is owned by Marcelle G. Bolton. Please contact the author for permission to republish.
Lemon and herb brine sounds terrific Marcelle, I’m sure the brine would have elevated the flavours of the chicken breasts. Thanks for the amazing recipe tip.
I'm a firm believer in brining both chicken and pork…as you say they can be bland and dry otherwise. I'm definitely going to try your lemon and herb version.
how refreshing! truly, brining chicken makes a world of difference!
Hi John, thank you! Ooooh, I will try it on fish next, great idea 🙂
I make a similar brine for chicken – works really well. Good for fish, too, although I don't brine that very long (maybe an hour). Terrific recipe — thanks.
Thank you so much, David!! Safe travels!! 🙂
You know, I have brined whole chickens, turkeys, and lots of pork… but never thought to brine simply the breasts! I have had the same experience as you – ending up with poultry-flavored shoe leather! This is brilliant, Marcelle, and I can’t wait to try it after my work travels end.
Angie, it's the best way, in my opinion. Completely changed how we prep lean cuts of meat 🙂
I have never prepared chicken this way…does it taste more flavourful and juicier?