Brining meats before roasting, grilling or frying them, especially chicken, makes them moister, more flavourful and all-around better. But brining usually requires overnight forethought, or at least some quick morning work. Not so with Michael Ruhlman’s 2-3 hour lemon-herb brine.
Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman.
Ruhlman, a noted food writer and previous interviewee on Lifehacker, notes that in an ideal situation where he’s got all day to let a chicken brine, he uses a 5 per cent brine — one part salt to 20 parts liquid. When he’s trying to move faster, a 10 per cent brine will do, but you still have to simmer and cool the brine, which can take a long while. His solution: a 10 per cent brine that you add ice to.
When that powerful, powerful urge to have fried chicken strikes at midday, I make a 10% brine but use only half the water. I bring this, along with herbs and garlic and lemon to a simmer, let it steep for 10 minutes, then add the rest of the water as ice (another handy use for a scale, weighing frozen water). By the time the ice is dissolved, minutes, the brine is cool. I throw it all in a plastic bag and leave it at room temp for 2 to 3 hours, remove it, rinse it, and let it rest for another hour or so, to give the heavy salt concentration on the exterior time to penetrate and equalize.
So you’ll still need three hours to let this brine work its magic, but then again, just one hour in the bag and 30 minutes resting will probably improve your chicken in noticeable ways. The full brine recipe and explanation is at the link.