Saturday, September 08, 2012

Brining chicken revisited

One of the most visited posts on this blog is Heston’s Roast Chicken (link below). In it, I express scepticism about the process of brining a chicken before roasting it. But some cooks continue to swear by brining, both for chicken and - as popularised by Nigella Lawson - turkey.

When I came across “Perfect roast chicken” in America’s Test Kitchen (a book I introduced in the previous post, on Skillet lasagne), I decided to give the method another go - particularly because this brining lasts for just one hour. It produces “maximum juiciness and well-seasoned meat”, the Test Kitchen authors assert.

The brine recipe (translated from US measurements) is: 4 litres of water; 150g salt; 100g caster sugar. Some writers instruct you to boil the mixture, allowing it to cool before dunking the meat; but you should find that table salt will dissolve readily in cold water.

Submerge the chicken in the brine in a non-reactive container. After an hour, remove the chicken, pat it dry with paper towels, rub the chicken with a little oil, and insert some butter between the skin and the breast.

The book advises you to cook the chicken at 200C/gas mark 6, turning it several times. I prefer to start at this temperature, and to dial it down to 170C/gas mark 3, or lower (depending on progress), after 30 minutes. I also ignored the advice about turning the chicken, because I usually find that this causes the skin to tear.

I remain a sceptic. The breast meat of a brined chicken may be moister, but it seems to me to have a consistency that evokes blotting paper. If the only alternative is dry and tough, I’d still prefer it.

Pork chops, though, are another matter. I’ll write about them next week.

Heston's roast chicken

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