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 previous, 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.
Lemon & Herb Brine for Poultry printable recipe
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Brine Time: 3 hours
Yield: 2 cups
- 2-1/2 cups water, room temperature
- 2 tablespoons salt (regular table salt, not sea salt)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1-1/4 teaspoons ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 -2 large springs fresh rosemary, coarsely chopped or sub 1 teaspoon dried rosemary coarsely chopped (you can sub the herb of your preference here or make a herb mixture that you enjoy!)
- 5 thin slices of fresh lemon (seeds removed)
- 2-3 lbs chicken or turkey, cut of your choice (I usually use this amount with 4-5 pieces of boneless, skinless chicken breast)
1. Combine water salt, sugar, pepper, lemon juice and herbs in a large bowl. Stir well. Add your poultry pieces to the liquid. Top the brining liquid with fresh lemon slices.
2. Cover bowl and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or longer. Rotate or flip the meat in the liquid at least once while it is in the brine solution.
3. Remove chicken from lemon and herb brine and prepare as preferred. Enjoy!
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