Tastes like (a whole) Chicken

While we’ve been away we’ve been cooking up some really yummy things for ourselves while learning some thrifty ways to shop and eat. To to get the most nutrition for our dollar we are buying more raw, unprocessed ingredients and learning what to do with them. It helps that we aren’t afraid to buy something when we have no idea what to do with it, especially when the deal is so good.

So we bought this chicken. 

Now, I have roasted a chicken before, so I may have been exaggerating a bit, but Kendall hadn’t. Plus, we had been hearing a bunch of hubbub regarding brining meats and we wanted to get in on the action. Brining does two amazing things to chicken: tenderizes and seasons it to the bone.

My favorite part about brining is that there are hardly any rules!  I tend to view recipes as more of guidelines and luckily that is exactly what a brine is. So here are the guidelines to work with:

– Dissolve salt in water. Use 10 ounces of salt for every 1 gallon of water. In table salt speak this is 1 cup but if you are using Kosher salt the amount will be decreased by a third to half, depending on your preference or whim. (But really you should just spend a couple bucks and go get a digital kitchen scale. Right now.)

– Add some sugar… about a 1/2 cup for every gallon of brine. The sugar helps to round off the flavor of your bird and make the salt a subtle flavor. We used brown sugar because Alton Brown says so. And we abide.

– Add flavor, if you want. And this can be anything, really. It can in the form of an acid, like some fresh lemon slices, apple cider vinegar or orange/lime juice. You can add your favorite herbs, seasonings or you can add nothing at all! In these frugal times, we just add whatever we have laying around the kitchen that sounds good.

And that is it. Submerge your chick in the brine, keep it below 40ºF and return 4-12 hours later.

Here’s what we did:


The last feather.

Trimming excess fat with kitchen shears.

A brine-y bird bath.

Loosening the skin from the meat.

Gently stuffing the lemons.



Served with braised kale and sautéed sweet potatoes.

Brined and Roasted Chicken
Time: 6 to 14 hours

1 gallon (16 cups) cold water
10 oz Kosher salt
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
1 whole roasting chicken

Bird “Stuffing”:
1/2 lemon sliced
2 lemon quarters
5-8 cloves of garlic, chopped
Rosemary, 1 tablespoon chopped + 2 sprigs, divided
Thyme, 1 tablespoon + 2 sprigs, divided
1 teaspoon olive oil

1. Combine all brine ingredients except the chicken in a container large enough for the chicken to be submersed in. Stir to dissolve the salt. Add the chicken and cover with ice or refrigerate for 4-12 hours. (See video below to pass the time.)

2. Preheat  the oven to 450ºF. Remove the chicken from the brine and pat dry. Combine the chopped garlic, rosemary, thyme and olive oil in a small bowl and mix.

4. Stuff the lemon slices under the breast and leg  skin by gently lifting the skin away from the meat. Stuff the herb and olive oil mixture under the skin. Place lemon quarters and  sprigs of rosemary and thyme into the bird’s cavity.

5. Truss the bird. (See video below.) Lightly salt and pepper all surfaces and position bird breast down on a roasting rack or a cooling rack (like we used).

6. Roast the bird at 450ºF for 10-15 minutes and then decrease the oven temperature to 350ºF and roast for an additional 20 minutes per pound, or until it reaches an internal temperature of 165ºF.

7. Remove the bird, loosely cover it with foil and allow it to rest for 15 minutes before carving. Serve with something delicious.


Mandy’s Notes:
– Brining can be done with any type of meat and brining time changes with different types of meats. More tender pieces should be brined for a shorter period of time than a larger piece of meat. Hence, a whole turkey can be brined for days before anything weird happens. A piece of fish, on the other hand, needs only a half hour or so.

– Here is how we learned to truss a chicken.

– Allowing meat to rest after cooking allows the juices to redistribute themselves, resulting in a more juicy meal. You went through all that work to make an amazing meal, why not wait a few more minutes to get the most delicious for your buck? Here is great pseudo-scientific analysis that shows the importance of letting meat rest.

– And here’s a video to help pass the brining time:

Kendall’s Notes:
– Buying a whole chicken is cheaper per-pound of meat because less is done to the bird before it gets to you and you have to work for it a little bit. So, even if you’re not going to roast the whole thing all at once I think whole bird is the way to go. Less processed is generally a good thing in my opinion.

– When you buy a whole chicken you have to figure out how to cut it up and you learn about what you’re eating that way. Plus,  you get to use all parts of the bird, forcing you to mix things up instead of just eating breasts and letting who-knows-what happen to the other cuts of meat. I think that’s a more efficient and responsible way to eat chicken. Also, cooking meat on the bone is said to improve flavor. Final bonus— you can make stock with the carcass.


5 responses to “Tastes like (a whole) Chicken

  1. Very nice. And very good reasons for cooking whole chickens though you might speak to people’s irrational fear of fat. Hello to Kendall. He and worked the AAC News together. And yes bacon should only be cooked in the oven just as beans should always be cooked with a piece of kelp.

  2. This is the first time I’ve looked at your blog. This looks delishious! You’re so cute Mandy. I’ll be back!

  3. Okay….so I guess I’ll have to stop buying my chicken (already baked) at Sam’s. You two are shaming me into stopping all the short-cuts I’ve been putting into practice these past few years.

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