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This crisp, golden-brown Brined Chicken is tender, juicy and full of flavor. The sweet tea chicken brine works well for roasting, grilling or smoking either a whole chicken or individual chicken pieces — so you can enjoy the easy dinner recipe all year long!

Crisp and golden brown sweet tea chicken

Sweet Tea Chicken Brine

Brined chicken is the key to the most delicious meat that you’ll ever sink your teeth into! And you know what? It’s so easy! Similar to marinating, you’ll need to plan ahead and allow a few hours for your chicken to sit in the brine, soak up all of the flavors from the lemon, herbs, garlic, onion and tea, and become incredibly tender — but that’s all hands-off! The simple process really just requires your attention for about 20 minutes of prep. Then you can roast, grill or smoke the chicken for an incredibly tasty dinner.

What does brining do to chicken?

Brining was a food preservation technique originally used in the days before refrigeration. In short, a brine is a bath of salty, flavorful liquid. The salt in the brine seasons the chicken and changes the structure of its proteins, allowing them to absorb and hold on to more moisture. Brined chicken is more tender and moist, and less chewy than non-brined chicken.

Poultry benefits greatly from the brining process, which is why you often see turkeys brined before roasting on Thanksgiving. But don’t wait until a holiday to brine your meat! Lean chicken is also a great candidate for brining, since it doesn’t have as much fat to contribute moisture and flavor.

Brine Ratio

A basic brine ratio is ¼ cup of kosher salt per 4 cups (1 quart) of water. Brines often include sugar, so the sweet tea in this recipe accounts for both the water and the sugar. It’s a multi-tasker!

What type of chicken is best for brining?

You can really use this sweet tea chicken brine on any cut of the meat. I love it with bone-in, skin-on pieces or a whole roasted chicken, but it will even work with boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs. You’ll just need to reduce the brining time for boneless meat.

How to make a Sweet Tea Chicken Brine

This process truly could not be easier! If you can boil water, you can make a simple and flavorful chicken brine. Just remember to prepare the brine well in advance, because it needs time to cool before you add the chicken.

Ingredients for Roast Chicken Brine

  • Strongly-brewed sweet tea (use this recipe to make your own at home, or purchase a jug of sweet tea at the grocery store)
  • Lemon
  • Coarse kosher salt
  • Pepper
  • Bay leaf
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Garlic
  • Onion

Step 1: Simmer Brine

Combine all of the brine ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a simmer over high heat, whisking to make sure the salt dissolves.

Sweet tea chicken brine in a red Dutch oven

Step 2: Cool

Remove the pot from the heat and allow the brine to cool completely before you add the meat.

Step 3: Add Chicken

Once the brine is cool, add the chicken and submerge it in the liquid. Cover and refrigerate.

Brining chicken pieces in sweet tea chicken brine

How long should you brine chicken?

This depends on the type of chicken. Bone-in chicken pieces need 2-4 hours in the brine, while a whole chicken should stay in the brine for 8-24 hours. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs do best in the brine for about 30 minutes – 2 hours. Never leave the meat in a brine for longer than the suggested time period, because when the proteins break down too far, the meat becomes mushy.

Do you rinse chicken after brining?

Yes. After brining, discard the brine solution, rinse the chicken under cold water, and pat dry. The meat has absorbed the flavor and plenty of salt during the brining process. Making sure that it’s really dry will help the skin get nice and crispy in the oven.

How to Roast Brined Chicken

I’m showing roasted brined chicken here, but you can also grill or smoke the brined chicken if you prefer. To roast the brined meat, remove the chicken from the brine, pat the meat really dry, and place on a foil-lined baking sheet (or roasting pan).

Chicken pieces on a baking sheet

Roast, uncovered, in a 425 degree F oven until the chicken is cooked through (reaching an internal temperature of 165 degrees F) – about 30-35 minutes for legs and wings; 45-55 minutes for breasts and thighs. If roasting a whole chicken, it will need about 70 minutes in the oven. The skin should be crispy and golden brown, while the meat inside is tender and juicy!

Close up front shot of a platter of roasted brined chicken

What to serve with Herb Brined Chicken

This classic roasted chicken has a subtle sweet and savory flavor that goes well with just about any of your favorite sides. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Storage Tips for Sweet Tea Brined Chicken

  • Cooked chicken will last in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
  • You can freeze the cooked brined chicken in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  • To freeze the brined chicken before roasting, remove from the brine, pat dry, and place in an airtight container or Ziploc bag in the freezer. The brined chicken will keep for up to 3 months. When ready to roast, thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Allow the meat to come to room temperature on the counter for at least 30 minutes, pat dry, and roast according to recipe instructions.

Tips for the Best Brined Chicken

  • Prep Ahead: Remember that the brine needs plenty of time to cool before you add the chicken. Make it in advance and keep it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to brine the meat.
  • Clear Out Your Fridge: Before preparing the brine, make sure that you have plenty of space in your refrigerator to chill the pot with the chicken and brine. This might require some cleaning and/or rearranging.
  • Use Coarse Kosher Salt: It’s important to use coarse kosher saltnot table salt. Using table salt will make your brine (and your chicken) way too salty.
  • Do Not Brine for Longer Than the Recommended Period: For bone-in, skin-on chicken parts, brine for 2-4 hours; whole chicken, brine for 8-24 hours; boneless, skinless chicken pieces, brine 30 minutes – 2 hours.
  • Tent with Foil: If the meat starts to get too dark while it’s roasting in the oven, tent loosely with foil until the chicken cooks through.
  • Rest: Allow the chicken to rest for a few minutes before slicing and serving. This will allow all of those delicious juices to redistribute throughout the meat.

Side shot of brined chicken roasted in the oven and served with a glass of sweet tea

More chicken recipes that you’ll enjoy:

Crisp and golden brown sweet tea chicken

Sweet Tea Brined Chicken

5 from 2 votes
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 35 minutes
Chilling Time 3 hours
Total: 3 hours 55 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Calories 358 kcal
This crisp, golden-brown Brined Chicken is tender, juicy and full of flavor!

Ingredients
  

  • 8 cups strongly-brewed sweet tea (use this recipe to make your own sweet tea, or purchase a jug of sweet tea at the store)
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • ½ cup coarse kosher salt (do not use table salt)
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 3-4 lbs. bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces or 1 whole chicken (about 4-5 lbs.)

Instructions

  • In a large pot, combine sweet tea, lemon juice, kosher salt, pepper, bay leaf, rosemary, thyme, garlic and onion. Bring to a simmer over high heat. You do not need to rapidly boil the liquid; just whisk to make sure that the salt is dissolved.
  • Remove from heat and cool completely.
  • Once the brine is cool, add chicken to the brine and submerge in the liquid. Cover and refrigerate for 2-4 hours (for bone-in chicken pieces) or 8-24 hours (for a whole chicken).
  • Remove the chicken from the brine and rinse with cool water. Pat dry.

TO ROAST CHICKEN PIECES:

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray. Place chicken pieces skin-side-up on the baking sheet. Roast, uncovered, until the chicken is cooked through (an internal temperature of 165 degrees F) – about 30-35 minutes for legs and wings; 45-55 minutes for breasts and thighs.

TO ROAST A WHOLE CHICKEN:

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Place a rack in a roasting pan.
  • Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wings underneath the bird. Place chicken (breast-side up) on the rack in the roasting pan. Brush the skin of the chicken liberally with melted butter.
  • Roast on the middle rack of the oven for about 1 hour, 10 minutes (or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thigh meat (away from the bone) registers 165 degrees F). The skin should be brown and crisp. If it starts to get too brown before the chicken is done, tent loosely with foil. Let the chicken rest for 10-15 minutes before carving and serving.

Notes

  • Prep Ahead: Remember that the brine needs plenty of time to cool before you add the chicken. Make it in advance and keep it in the refrigerator until you're ready to brine the meat.
  • Clear Out Your Fridge: Before preparing the brine, make sure that you have plenty of space in your refrigerator to chill the pot with the chicken and brine. This might require some cleaning and/or rearranging.
  • Use Coarse Kosher Salt: It's important to use coarse kosher salt -- not table salt. Using table salt will make your brine (and your chicken) way too salty.
  • Do Not Brine for Longer Than the Recommended Period: For bone-in, skin-on chicken parts, brine for 2-4 hours; whole chicken, brine for 8-24 hours; boneless, skinless chicken pieces, brine 30 minutes - 2 hours.
  • Tent with Foil: If the meat starts to get too dark while it's roasting in the oven, tent loosely with foil until the chicken cooks through.
  • Rest: Allow the chicken to rest for a few minutes before slicing and serving. This will allow all of those delicious juices to redistribute throughout the meat.
  • Nutrition information is merely an estimate, based on an online calculator. It's impossible to know exactly how much of the brine will be absorbed by the meat, so the exact nutrition facts will vary.

Nutrition

Serving: 1/4 of the chickenCalories: 358kcalCarbohydrates: 1gProtein: 30gFat: 25gSaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 122mgSodium: 115mgPotassium: 309mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 276IUVitamin C: 4mgCalcium: 22mgIron: 2mg
Keyword: brined chicken, Sweet Tea Chicken, Sweet Tea Marinade
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Author: Blair Lonergan

This post was originally published in August, 2016. It was updated in July, 2020.

blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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Comments

    1. Hi, Marion! I typically use my 6-7 quart Dutch oven. Anything in that general range should be fine! For larger pieces of meat (like a turkey), I’ve used a brining bucket. You can really use any big container that you have.