This Lemon-Garlic Dry Brined Chicken is brined for 24 hours in a flavorful salt rub, then roasted to tender, juicy perfection. With a little preparation and some space in your refrigerator, you’ll be impressing all of your dinner guests with this easy roasted chicken recipe.
If you’ve never dry brined a chicken before, you’re not alone. It’s a technique that isn’t often used by home cooks, but it absolutely should be.
Dry brining only takes 10 minutes of preparation and results in the most succulent, juicy, and flavorful chicken imaginable. It really is so simple and easy.
And while I recommend a 24-hour brine time in this recipe, you can actually let your chicken brine for up to 72 hours. This affords you some flexibility when it comes to planning dinners throughout the week.
For this recipe, I roast the chicken low and slow at 350°F. Since the skin is air-dried in the refrigerator while brining, it still gets super crispy. But, roasting the chicken at a lower temperature helps the chicken breasts stay moist while the rest of the chicken cooks through.
So, keep reading to learn how to dry brine a chicken and try this delicious lemon-garlic dry brined roast chicken recipe.
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The Science of Dry Brining
Dry brining is the process of thoroughly salting meat with a flavored salt rub for several hours, up to several days, before cooking.
While dry brining is similar to wet brining, a technique in which you soak the meat in a salt solution, I prefer to dry brine my poultry for ease and convenience.
Brining helps with two very important things: flavor and moisture.
- Flavor: When you brine poultry, the salt on the meat's surface draws water out. Then, as the salt dissolves, both the water and the salt are drawn back into the meat. The result is a deeply flavorful, well-seasoned bird.
- Moisture: As the salt is drawn into the meat, it also breaks down the protein in the muscle fibers. Doing so allows the muscle fibers to hold onto more water as they cook, leading to a tenderized, juicy chicken.
The most basic dry brine recipe consists only of kosher salt. But, where's the fun in that?
In general, you'll need about 1-2 tablespoons of kosher salt for every 5 pounds of poultry. Then, you can add any additional flavors you'd like (black pepper, garlic, fresh or dried herbs, citrus zest, etc.).
Why Dry Brine Whole Chicken?
- Juicy, moist, and flavorful meat
- Extra-crispy skin
- Prepared ahead/saves time on busy weeknights
- No special equipment needed
Why You'll Love This Recipe
- Easy to Make- Whole roasted chicken shouldn’t be complicated. In this recipe, the lemon-garlic dry brine does all of the hard work so you don’t have to.
- Flavorful- The lemon and garlic flavors penetrate all the way through the meat for the most flavorful and delicious chicken ever.
- Juicy- No more worrying about dry chicken meat. Dry brining the chicken keeps it tender, moist, and juicy without any fuss.
- Only 5 Ingredients- Just whole chicken, kosher salt, black pepper, lemon, and garlic.
- Make Ahead Friendly- Brine the chicken up to 72 hours in advance for flexible and convenient dinner prep during the busy work week.
Here are some notes on key ingredients. For a full list of ingredients, check out the recipe card below.
- Whole Chicken- A chicken in the 4-5 pound range yields about 4-5 servings. You’ll want a fresh or thawed chicken that isn’t pre-seasoned.
- Kosher Salt- Use kosher salt for dry brining. It’s easier to see the crystals and ensure that they’re spread evenly over the chicken.
- Lemon Zest- Adds a bright, citrusy flavor to the dry brine. Lemon zest is packed with lemon oil, which means intense lemon flavor is infused into the chicken meat.
- Garlic- Grate the garlic cloves so they mix well with the rest of the brine ingredients.
- Black Pepper- For flavor and a bit of a kick. I recommend using freshly ground black pepper.
Step by Step Instructions
Here is how to make this simple dry brined chicken.
Step 1: Mix the dry brine. Combine the kosher salt, lemon zest, grated garlic, and black pepper in a small mixing bowl. Set aside.
Step 2: Prepare the chicken. Prepare the chicken by removing any giblets and neck pieces that may be located inside the cavity. Pat the chicken dry inside and out and place it onto a roasting rack. If you don’t have a roasting rack, use a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet or aluminum foil balls placed inside the bottom of an oven-safe pan.
Step 3: Dry brine the chicken. Rub the lemon-garlic salt mixture all over the chicken, including inside the cavity. Place the chicken, uncovered, in the refrigerator to brine for 24-72 hours. Leaving it uncovered helps the skin dry out so it crisps up beautifully in the oven.
Step 4. Prepare chicken for roasting. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Remove the chicken approximately 20 minutes before roasting. Stuff the cavity with a quartered lemon and crushed garlic cloves. Truss the chicken with kitchen twine.
Step 5. Roast the chicken. Place the chicken in the preheated oven and roast for 1-½ to 2 hours or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thigh reads 165°F. Tent the chicken with foil and allow it to rest for 15-20 minutes before carving.
Tips for Success
- Start with a fresh or thawed chicken. While you can brine frozen chicken, the brine will penetrate easier if the chicken is fresh or thawed.
- Make sure your chicken isn't pre-seasoned. Pre-seasoned chicken will already have some salt added to it. So, brining a pre-seasoned chicken will result in an overly salty bird. Double-check the label to make sure your chicken doesn’t have any added salt.
- Use kosher salt, not table salt. Kosher salt is easier to see, spreads more easily, and adheres to meat without clumping together. Because of the larger crystals, kosher salt results in a more gentle brine.
- Don’t rinse off the salt. No need to rinse the salt off before roasting. The chicken meat will absorb the perfect amount of salt for seasoning and the rest is left on the surface to season the skin.
- Use a meat thermometer. The only way to know for sure when your chicken is cooked to a perfect 165°F is to use a meat thermometer. A simple meat thermometer helps me achieve moist and juicy chicken every time.
Substitutions and Variations
Here are a few ways you can try customizing this dry brined chicken recipe to fit your diet and taste preferences.
- Whole Chicken- Opt for split chicken breast, chicken legs, or chicken thighs instead of a whole chicken. This brine is also delicious with turkey breast or even a whole turkey. I love making my Thanksgiving turkey this way.
- Kosher Salt- If your only option is table salt, you’ll want to reduce the amount you use to one tablespoon.
- Lemon Zest- Try using orange zest or lime zest.
- Garlic- Use ½ teaspoon of garlic powder in place of the 2 cloves of grated garlic in the dry brine.
- Black Pepper- Omit the black pepper or swap it for red pepper flakes if you want more heat.
- Gluten-Free- This dry brined roasted chicken is naturally gluten-free.
- Herbed- Add some fresh or dry herbs to your brine mix for extra flavor. Rosemary, thyme, sage, and oregano are particularly delicious with this lemon-garlic rub.
- Cranberry-Orange- Chopped fresh cranberries and orange zest make a delicious flavor combination for the holidays.
- Chipotle- Swap the lemon zest for lime zest and rub a bit of chipotle sauce over the chicken just before roasting.
- Olive Oil or Melted Butter- Drizzle a small amount of olive oil or melted butter onto the chicken before roasting for some additional flavor and extra crispy skin.
What to Serve With Dry Brined Chicken
When it comes to dinner, it doesn’t get more versatile than roasted chicken. Chicken pairs well with an endless variety of side dishes. Here are a few of my favorite recipes to serve with this dry brined chicken.
- Garlic Mashed Red Skin Potatoes
- Baked Potatoes
- Herbed Sourdough Stuffing
- Stovetop Mac and Cheese
- Ancient Grain Salad
- Sautéed Butternut Squash
- Parmesan Potatoes and Broccoli
- Roasted Carrots and Asparagus
- Crispy Maple Balsamic Brussels Sprouts
- Oven-Roasted Green Beans and Carrots
- Kale Crunch Salad or Spinach Caprese Salad
- Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
- Cranberry Sauce with Orange Juice
How to Use Leftover Dry Brined Chicken
Roasted chicken is a versatile protein to have on hand. In fact, I recommend making two dry brined chickens if you have space in your refrigerator. Then, you can make all kinds of delicious meals to eat throughout the week.
Here are a few ideas for how to use leftover roasted chicken:
- Chicken Noodle Soup (Bonus: Use the leftover chicken bones to make the broth)
- Dutch Oven Chicken Pot Pie
- Creamy Chicken and Broccoli Lasagna
- Buffalo Chicken Dip
- Chicken Salad (for sandwiches, wraps, and leafy green salads)
- Quesadillas, Tacos, Burritos, Nachos, or Enchiladas
- Pulled Chicken Sandwiches
Storage and Reheating
How to Store
- Refrigerator- Cooked chicken can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. I recommend separating the chicken meat from the bones prior to storing it.
- Freezer- Freeze leftover chicken in a freezer-safe plastic bag or container for up to 4 months. For best results, thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
Quick Tip: Don’t toss those bones! Use the chicken bones to make chicken stock. If you don’t have time to make it immediately, store the bones in the freezer for a rainy day.
How to Reheat
- Oven- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the leftover chicken out evenly in a casserole dish or on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with a small amount of water and cover with aluminum foil. Reheat in the oven for 5-10 minutes or until fully warmed through.
- Stovetop- Heat a small amount of water in a skillet or saucepan over medium-low heat. Once simmering, add the chicken meat and simmer until hot. This method also works well with frozen chicken.
- Microwave- Place leftover chicken in a microwave-safe bowl and sprinkle a tablespoon of water over it. Cover with a lid or paper towel and microwave on HIGH for 30 seconds. Continue heating in 15-second intervals until the chicken is hot.
One of my favorite things about this dry brine chicken recipe is that it’s so flexible. The raw chicken can be left in the refrigerator to brine for up to 72 hours, which means it’s perfect for making ahead.
Alternatively, roast the chicken and store it in the refrigerator for up to 2 days before serving. Then, reheat the whole chicken in a 350°F oven for approximately 25-30 minutes. Add a small amount of liquid to the roasting pan and cover the chicken with aluminum foil so it doesn’t dry out.
Frequently Asked Questions
While there are various opinions on this topic, I do believe that dry brining is better for a few reasons. First, dry brining results in better surface browning because the skin does not become waterlogged in a salt solution. Second, the meat itself is more flavorful after being dry brined since it is not bloated with excess water. Finally, dry brining is more convenient because it takes up less space in the refrigerator.
Yes, you can dry brine a chicken for as little as one hour prior to roasting. However, the longer you can let the chicken brine, the better the flavor and moisture retention will be. A chicken can brine for up to 72 hours prior to cooking.
No, there is no need to rinse the dry brine off of your chicken. Doing so will moisten the surface of the chicken, leading to less crispy skin. The process of diffusion evenly distributes the salt throughout the meat so we don’t have to worry about it tasting too salty.
While not essential, adding sugar to your dry brine mixture will enhance the flavor and browning of the chicken. Try adding ½ tablespoon of granulated sugar or brown sugar to this dry brine recipe to see how you like it.
Oil can certainly be used in a dry brine. However, I find my chicken comes out perfectly moist and juicy even without any added oil.
Be sure to leave a comment below if you have any questions. You can also connect with me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, or via email at [email protected].
More Chicken Recipes
- Classic Chicken Noodle Soup
- Dutch Oven Chicken Pot Pie
- Braised Chicken Breast with Vegetables
- Creamy Chicken and Broccoli Lasagna
Dry Brined Chicken
For the Lemon-Garlic Dry Brine
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- ½ tablespoon black pepper freshly cracked
- Zest from 1 lemon
- 2 cloves garlic grated
For the Roasted Chicken
- 1 4 to 5 pound whole chicken
- 1 whole lemon quartered
- 4 cloves garlic crushed
- Combine the kosher salt, lemon zest, grated garlic, and black pepper in a small mixing bowl. Set aside.2 tablespoons kosher salt, ½ tablespoon black pepper, Zest from 1 lemon, 2 cloves garlic
- Prepare the chicken by removing any giblets and neck pieces that may be located inside the cavity. Pat the chicken dry inside and out and place it onto a roasting rack. If you don’t have a roasting rack, use a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet or aluminum foil balls placed inside the bottom of an oven-safe pan.1 4 to 5 pound whole chicken
- Rub the lemon-garlic salt mixture all over the chicken, including inside the cavity. Place the chicken, uncovered, in the refrigerator to brine for 24-72 hours. Leaving it uncovered helps the skin dry out so it crisps up beautifully in the oven.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Remove the chicken approximately 20 minutes before roasting. Stuff the cavity with a quartered lemon and crushed garlic cloves. Truss the chicken with kitchen twine.1 whole lemon, 4 cloves garlic
- Place the chicken in the preheated oven and roast for 1-½ to 2 hours or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thigh reads 165°F. Tent the chicken with foil and allow it to rest for 15-20 minutes before carving.
- Quick Tip: Use a meat thermometer to ensure your chicken is cooked to a perfect 165°F.
- Storage: Store leftover chicken in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 4 months.
- Make Ahead: Brine the chicken and leave it raw in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
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