Brining Chicken & Tender Smoky BBQ Chicken Recipe – Brining Basics
Ever wonder how meat grilled at 500F on a BBQ can still maintain a tender juicy flavor? The secret is brining. I’ve written about the brining technique in the past on my pulled pork shoulder recipe, but I thought I would take the time now to go through a simple explanation of how brining meat works.
The Secrets of Brining
Quite simply, brining is a food preparation technique that involves submerging your meat in a salt and sugar solution for several hours to help the meat retain moisture upon cooking. Brining is based on the principles of diffusion and osmosis over three simple steps.
Brining Step 1) Osmosis. Remember high school biology? Fluids move from less concentrated areas to more concentrated areas across a membrane until everything is in equilibrium. So you have your chicken or pork surrounded by a mixture of salt and sugar. The water will flow out of the cell membranes of the meat to the salt / sugar solution while the salt/sugar will flow into the cells of the meat. After several hours the salt/sugar and water content within the cells of the meat will have been raised.
Brining Step 2) Denature. The high concentration of the salt within the cells from the brining causes the proteins to unravel through a process called denaturing. Essentially the meat gets tenderized within the cells and forms a sticky matrix within the cells that causes the meat to retain moisture.
Brining Step 3) Cooking. Upon applying heat, the matrix of denatured proteins in the cells creates a barrier that prevents water from leaking out of the meat. The end result is a tender and extremely juicy meat.
Got it? Let’s try it. Here’s an easy recipe for amazing tender smoky chicken. After brining the chicken overnight, the chicken is slowly smoked and grilled for 2+ hours. It’s long enough for the chicken to pick up the smoky charcoal / hardwood flavor and mix with the spices in the rub. The brining step locks in the juices, resulting in a smoky crispy chicken that is juicy and tender on the inside. The meat will simply fall off the bone upon carving!!
Brown Sugar Brined Tender Smoky BBQ Chicken Recipe
1) 1 gallon water
2) 1/2 cup kosher salt
3) 1/2 cup light brown sugar or sugar in the raw
4) Two 3 1/2-pound chickens
5) 3 tablespoons of peppercorns
6) 3 tablespoons of coriander seeds
7) 2-3 bay leaves
Fill a saucepan with 1/2 the water, salt, sugar, peppercorns and coriander seeds and heat till dissolves completely. Transfer to a large pot filled with several handfuls of ice and the remaining water and allow to cool to room temp. Meanwhile, gently massage salt on the chicken and rinse with cold water to clean. Place the chicken in to the brine solution. Transfer the large pot to your refrigerator, cover and store at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight.
Smoky BBQ Rub (paste)
I like to make a paste more than a rub since it actually sticks to the meat better than a dry rub.
1. 1/4 cup kosher salt
2. 1 teaspoon of ginger powder
3. 3 tablespoons of whole peppercorns (can be ground)
4. 3 tablespoons of coriander seeds (can be ground)
5. 1/4 cup pure chile powder, such as guajillo or ancho
6. Small fennel bulb shredded fine and a few tablespoons of fennel leaves
Mix all dry ingredients. On a saucepan at medium low heat, gently saute’ the fennel bulb shreds and after 2 mins, add the dry mixture. Cook the spicy mixture until it forms a sticky paste (about 2 mins). Remove from heat and take a cleaver and smash it down on a chopping board. Allow to cool to room temperature.
Remove the chicken from the brine solution and pat dry with a paper towel. Rub the spicy paste on the chicken and allow to air dry for 30 mins to 1 hour (you can cover with a towel).
Meanwhile prepare your BBQ grill by heating up charcoal or smoked hardwood chips on one side of the grill. (Have enough to last a covered bbq grill for 1.5 hours).
Tie the chicken legs up with string and place it breast side down on the side of the BBQ grill opposite of the charcoal. Cover the grill and allow chicken to grill for 1 hour, then flip over and slow grill for another 1 hours until the internal temp reads 160 F on a cooking thermometer. Remove, rest for 10 mins and then carve and enjoy!