Grilling chicken can be a challenge. It’s often tough to know when it’s done, and the skin can often turn out dry and rubbery.
But what if there was an easy way to make sure your chicken comes out juicy and flavorful every time?
Brining is a simple way to infuse your chicken with flavor and moisture, so it’s perfect for anyone who wants an easy dinner that still tastes gourmet.
Can you brine frozen chicken? Yes, you can, but the process will take longer because you will have to wait for the chicken to thaw out in the brining solution. If you are brining chicken pieces, the process will take up to 12 hours, and if you are brining a whole chicken, it can take up to 2 days.
In this article, we will outline the process of brining and how to brine frozen chicken safely and effectively so that your grilled chicken will always turn out juicy and delicious!
What Is Brining?
The process of brining meat is relatively simple, but it can have a big impact on the flavor and texture of the finished dish.
To start, the chicken is placed in a large container and covered with a saltwater solution. The meat is then left to soak for several hours or even overnight. This allows the salt to penetrate the flesh and add flavor.
In addition, the salt helps to lock in moisture, preventing the meat from drying out during cooking. Finally, the salt acts as a tenderizer, breaking down some of the muscle fibers and making the meat more tender.
When done correctly, brining can result in flavorful, moist, and tender meat that is sure to please any appetite.
When brining a frozen chicken, there’s another advantage. The liquid solution can facilitate the thawing process of the frozen meat, which allows the meat to thaw faster without losing moisture.
That’s why brining frozen chicken is such an easy and effective way to prepare frozen meat!
Brining Solution Recipes
The first step of the brining process is to prepare a brining solution, enough to cover all of the meat that you have.
The most traditional brining solution includes just two ingredients: salt and water. Chefs recommend using one tablespoon of kosher salt for each cup of water you use. However, any kind of salt that you have would also work.
However, you can tweak the brining solutions to embed more flavors in the chicken.
For example, some home cooks love their chicken to be both sweet and savory, so they mix sugar, maple syrup, or honey to add a bit of sweetness to the brining solution. The ratio is equal parts sugar and salt.
You can also add your choice of herbs to the brining solution to give it a little twist.
Peppercorns, star anise, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves are perfect winter flavors. Rosemary, bay leaves, and thymes are also considered classic flavors for chicken dishes.
For a more complex flavor, you can also add soy sauce to the mix. The soy sauce won’t make the chicken saltier, but will raise the flavor profile of the chicken significantly.
Whatever you use, make sure that the salt and sugar are completely dissolved in the water before proceeding with the bringing process. This way, the flavors can soak into the meat faster!
How to Brine a Whole Frozen Chicken
If you would like to brine a whole frozen chicken, make sure that you have a pot or container that’s big enough to submerge the chicken in the solution. Of course, you will also need to make enough brining solution to cover the entire chicken.
Place the frozen chicken inside the pot, and cover the entire chicken with the brining solution. Close the lid of the pot and put the entire pot in the fridge.
The frozen chicken will take about 24-48 hours to thaw completely and absorb the flavors.
It’s best not to rush this process by leaving the pot out to brine at room temperature. Although the chicken will thaw faster, it won’t thaw evenly, so the result won’t be as desired and bacteria might join the mixture.
How to Brine Frozen Chicken Pieces
If you are brining chicken pieces rather than a whole chicken, the process will be the same, but it will take much less time to brine because the chicken will thaw faster when it’s cut into smaller pieces.
When the chicken is covered with the brining solution, close the lid and place it back in the fridge for about 12 hours or even overnight.
Dry brining is a process of brining meat without the liquid solution. Dry brining will still allow the meat to become tender and juicy, but the skin will become much crispier.
The dry brine skips the water and just uses salt (you can use Kosher salt or table salt). You will need about ½ teaspoon per lb of chicken that you have.
Then, continue adding sugar and other spices to the dry brine — you can adjust the amount to taste.
The best way to dry brine is with thawed chicken, but you can also dry brine frozen chicken if it’s thawed out enough to separate the skin from the meat.
This is because you want to rub the dry brine on both the skin and the meat so that it can be absorbed easily into the meat.
Then, cover the entire chicken with plastic wrap to prevent the meat from drying out, and place it in your fridge to brine for about 24-48 hours.
How to Cook Brined Chicken
Once you’ve brined your chicken, it’s time to cook! Here are some of the best ways to cook brined chicken.
In the Oven
The oven is a great way to cook a whole chicken or larger pieces of chicken that won’t fit in smaller appliances like an air fryer or toaster oven.
Here’s how to do it:
- Preheat your oven to 425°F.
- When you are ready to roast your brined chicken, remove it from the pot and discard the brine.
- Rinse the chicken to remove any excess salt and herbs from the skin, then use a paper towel to pat the meat dry.
- Place the chicken on a rack over a baking tray or a roasting pan, then brush melted butter all over the chicken skin. This step is optional, but the butter will help the skin look shinier and taste more savory after it’s roasted.
- Then, roast the chicken for 1 hour, or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F. If you are cooking chicken pieces rather than a whole chicken, you only need to roast for about 25 minutes until the skin is golden brown.
- Once the chicken is done, remove it from the oven and let it cool down for about 15 minutes before serving.
In the Air Fryer
If you want to cook small chicken pieces that have already been cut, you can also roast them in the air fryer.
An air fryer is a simple and quick way to roast chicken, but it tends to eliminate the fat from the chicken and make it quite dry.
That’s why roasting brined chicken in the air fryer is a great way to roast it while ensuring that the meat is still juicy and delicious!
Here’s how to do it:
- Preheat the air fryer to 380°F.
- Remove your chicken from the brine and rinse it under cold water to remove the excess salt and seasoning.
- Place the chicken pieces inside the air fryer (skin side up) for 20 minutes, flipping the pieces halfway through so that the chicken will cook evenly on both sides.
- When the chicken is cooked, remove it from the air fryer and let it rest for about 5 minutes before serving.
Now that we’ve learned all about brining frozen chicken, plus the best ways to cook it, here are some additional questions we thought you might have.
Can I Brine Frozen Chicken at Room Temperature?
The best way to brine frozen chicken is inside the refrigerator.
It may be tempting to let the chicken thaw out in the brine solution at room temperature; it definitely will take much faster for the chicken to thaw.
However, room temperature is also an ideal environment for harmful bacteria to thrive, especially for uncooked meat.
If you leave your chicken out on the counter to brine, the entire thing can become infested with bacteria, which is not something you want for your food.
Although brining a frozen chicken in the fridge will take a few hours longer, this controlled environment will allow the chicken to stay fresh while it’s thawing.
This will ensure that the meat will still taste delicious when you are ready to cook!
Can I Consume Brine?
It may seem wasteful to discard the brine. After all, it can smell quite delicious when infused with all kinds of herbs and spices, so why not use it as stock?
Unfortunately, it’s definitely not safe to consume the brine.
First of all, the taste will be quite salty because you need to use quite a bit of salt for the brine to work.
Second, even if you have brined your chicken inside the fridge, it’s still uncooked meat that is filled with bacteria.
The brine may be soaked with bacteria that live on the chicken skin and meat, so it’s definitely not safe to consume, even if you boil it first.
Can I Reuse Brine?
Because of the same safety logic as above, it’s also not okay to reuse brine. Bacteria and diseases may spread if you try to reuse the brine with another chicken.
If you try to reuse the brine, you’ll find that the second chicken may taste quite bland.
This is because the first bird may have absorbed a lot of the flavors from the brine, so the second one won’t be able to enjoy all the flavors when you reuse the brine.