Preparing Meat for the Grill – Part Three: Brining a Whole Chicken

Once you’ve tasted a brined piece of meat, you’ll never prepare you whole chicken or turkey another way. Brining poultry injects the meat with flavor and ensures the meat will be tender, succulent, and juicy. It’s an added protection that the meat will not dry out if overcooked. And it requires just a few ingredients and a bit of time.

In this class from the 2020 Gygi Grilling Gala, Chef Todd shares his favorite combination of flavors for a delicious bird. This brine recipe yields enough liquid to brine an entire turkey, so you could halve the amounts to make a sufficient brine for a chicken.

The Foundation: SALT, SUGAR, & WATER

Every chicken brine must start with three foundational ingredients: salt, sugar, & water. When combined in the correct ratio, this is enough to transform your chicken.

Chef Todd uses kosher salt. Always. The flavor is bright and pure, without being bitter. If you’re without kosher salt, halve the amount indicated in the recipe for table salt. Then, come visit us and buy our favorite brand of kosher salt – Diamond Crystal. You’ll love the difference in flavor.

Combine all three ingredients in a container large enough to hold 10 quarts. Stir until the sugar and salt have dissolved.

The Fun: Adding Flavor

The next part of the brine allows you to be creative. Add juice, aromatics, and herbs to create a delicious blend of flavor. The recipe is Chef Todd’s favorite combo, and great place to start if you’re new to brining. But subbing out the fruit juice with other varieties is an easy way to play with flavors. Then mix up the herbs! Add lime juice and cilantro for a mexican twist. Or add some jerk seasoning for a Jamaican delight. The options are limitless.

Add your seasonings to the brine mixture and stir to combine. If you opt out of using fruit juices, add the same quantity of water instead. You’ll need that to keep the salt, sugar, water ratio just right.

The Chicken:

At Chef Todd’s recommendation, use a organic, whole chicken for this recipe. The quality and flavor are superior! After the brine has been mixed, add your whole chicken to the container. The meat should be fully submerged.

If the bird is not covered by brine solution, mix more salt, sugar, water in the appropriate ratio to add more liquid to the container. Again, the recipe listed here is enough brine for most turkeys, so it will be plenty for a chicken.

The Brining:

Once the chicken (or turkey) has been submerged, cover with a lid or plastic wrap and refrigerate. Wet brining needs at least 24 hours to work its magic. You can let it brine longer, but do not leave in the brine solution longer than 48 hours. The proteins will begin to change, affecting the texture negatively. So, 24-48 hours is ideal, for a chicken or a turkey.

The Preparing:

When you are ready to cook your bird, remove it from the brine solution and place it on a sheet pan. Pat dry with a paper towel. Now, add a liberal coating of Chef Todd’s Pit Seasoning or your favorite dry rub. Drizzle with oil (we love grapeseed for the smoker or grill) and rub to cover all the nooks and crannies.

Now, you’ll need some kitchen twine to truss the bird. This holds in the legs, protecting them from becoming over cooked. Cut a piece of twine 4 times the length of the bird.

Wrap the string underneath the tail. Criss cross the string and wrap around the legs. Criss cross again and pull the strings tight. This will bring the legs in close to each other. Now, wrap the strings around the back of the chicken, securing the wings. Tie a butcher’s knot, wrapping the string twice before knotting. Now, go around the top of the bird and tie a butcher’s knot at the bottom, securing the chicken tightly. (Watch Todd do this in the video below!)

The Smoking:

Chef Todd’s favorite way to cook the chicken is in a pellet smoker. The low and slow heat will gently cook the bird to a tender and succulent finish.

Set the smoker to the smoke setting and place the prepared bird on the rack. Insert a leave-in probe thermometer into the deepest part of the breast, without touching the bone. The bird will cook until the temp reaches 165 degrees. This will take about 5 hours. Pull from the smoker and let rest, covered with foil, for five minutes. Carve the meat and enjoy!

Chef Todd's Brine

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  • 1 whole turkey or chicken (smaller than 16 pounds)
  • 4 quarts water
  • 1 1/2 cups kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 quart apple juice
  • 1 quart cranberry juice
  • 1 cup each of fresh rosemary, sage, parsley, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon zest
  • Chef Todd's Pit Seasoning
  • Oil



Combine water, salt, and sugar in a large container. Stir until dissolved.


Add additional ingredients and stir until combined.


Set turkey or chicken in the brine and insure bird is fully covered. Add more water if needed.


Swish the bird around to make sure brine is mixed well and all over the bird.


Brine for 24-48 hours.


Remove from brine and pat dry.


Season liberally with Pit Seasoning and drizzle with oil. Rub to cover all surfaces.


Truss bird with kitchen twine.


Place in smoker set on the smoke setting. Insert leave-in probe and roast until internal temp reaches 165 degrees (about 5 hours).


Remove and rest for 5-10 minutes before carving.


This recipe yields enough brine for a large turkey. Half for a smaller chicken.

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