Chicken Brine Recipe – This is simply the best bourbon brine recipe, guaranteed to turn chicken breasts (or just about any other cut of meat) into a moist, incredibly flavorful, and utterly irresistible main dish!

Bourbon brined chicken breast on a white plate with side of buttery noodles. A large bite has been removed from the chicken to show the moist interior.

Why We Love This Bourbon Brine Recipe

I believe there is no chicken better than brined chicken…. Like turkey, no matter how you decide to cook it, sautéed, roasted, or grilled, chicken that comes out of brine is always more juicy and flavorful.

Today we’re sharing our favorite Chicken Brine recipe with a little added flavor from Kentucky bourbon. Although you can omit the bourbon, or swap it for your alcohol of choice such as spiced rum or brandy, we believe this combination of salt, sugar, spices, and bourbon creates a delectable flavor for the meat!

The solution comes together in only about 10 minutes; then brine your meat for up to 24 hours before cooking any number of ways. Keep reading for our simple steps and best suggestions for how to cook brined chicken breast!

Two grilled chicken breasts on a gray plate.

Ingredients You Need

  • Water – you need both cold and boiling water
  • Light brown sugar – packed
  • Kosher salt – salt is essential in brining – sea salt is also a good option
  • Bourbon – optional
  • Spicescinnamon sticks, whole black peppercorns, whole allspice, and bay leaves
  • Garlic – whole cloves, smashed
  • Chicken – see note below*

*Note: You can use any type of chicken from boneless chicken breasts to large bone-in split breasts. Try it with chicken wings, chicken thighs, and even other proteins like beef and pork. 

Just remember, if the chicken pieces are boneless, you will want to keep them in the brine a little less time so they don’t become too salty. However, if the chicken pieces are bone-in with the skins intact, you can allow them to sit for up to 12 or even 24 hours.

Top down view glass dish with variety of brine spices.

How to Make Bourbon Brine for Chicken

To start, boil 6 cups of water. 

Meanwhile, set out a large mixing bowl. Combine the brown sugar, salt, and bourbon, cinnamon sticks, peppercorns, allspice, bay leaves, and garlic.

Adding bourbon to the brine in a glass bowl.

Pour the boiling water over the sugar mixture.

Adding vinegar to a glass bowl with spices.

Stir well to dissolve the salt and sugar. Then pour in 3 cups of ice-cold water to bring the temperature down.

Why ice water? You don’t want the chicken cooking in the brine because the water is too hot.

Using a wooden spoon to stir the brine in a glass bowl.

Place the boneless or bone-in pieces in the brine. Cover and refrigerate. Brine the chicken pieces 4-8 hours for boneless, or 6-24 hours for bone-in chicken pieces.

Get the Complete (Printable) Bourbon Chicken Brine Recipe Below. Enjoy!

Two chicken breasts soaking in a clear bowl with bourbon brine.

When you’re ready to cook, remove the chicken from the brine. Drain and pat it dry with a paper towel. Discard the brine. Then cook as desired.

We suggest smoking, roasting, or grilling brined chicken. See easy steps for some of our favorite cooking methods below!

3 raw skin-on chicken breasts on a baking sheet.

How to Roast Chicken

You can oven-roast bone-in chicken breast at 375°F for 35 to 45 minutes.

Boneless chicken breast will roast in approximately 15 to 20 minutes, depending on their size.

Cooked chicken breasts on a baking sheet.

How to Smoke Chicken

Smoke chicken at 350°F. Cook boneless pieces for 10 minutes, flip, and cook for another 10 minutes.

Smoke bone-in chicken for 25 minutes, flip, and cook for another 20 minutes.

Smoked poultry pieces on a cutting board.

How to Grill Chicken

For grilling, preheat a gas grill or charcoal grill to 400°F. Grill boneless chicken pieces for 8 to 12 minutes flipping once, or bone-in chicken pieces for 12 to 15 minutes per side.

Two grilled chicken breasts on a gray plate.

Recipe Variations

  • Alcohol options – We love the taste of Kentucky bourbon, but feel free to swap for other delicious alcohols like spiced rum, rye whiskey, or brandy.
  • Without alcohol – There is only a 1/2 cup of alcohol in this chicken brine recipe, so you can simply omit it from the brining solution.
  • Add-ins – Toss orange slices, lemon slices, dried chiles, hickory wood chips, or fresh herbs like rosemary, thyme, or sage into the brine. You can really get creative with the flavor profiles here!
  • Other proteins – Use this recipe to brine other proteins like pork, beef, and salmon!
Bourbon brined chicken breast on a white plate with side of buttery noodles.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does soaking chicken in brine do?

Soaking raw chicken in a combination of salt, sugar, and aromatics helps to infuse the meat with lots of flavor. In addition to being incredibly flavorful, chicken breast that has been brined is also supremely juicy and tender!

Why do you add alcohol to brine?

The alcohol breaks down the protein fibers, allowing the brining liquid to get deeper into the meat. And bourbon is delicious, of course! After cooking the chicken doesn’t taste overwhelmingly like alcohol. Instead, the meat simply has a delicate warm taste of bourbon.

How long should chicken be in brine?

Brine the chicken for a minimum of 4 hours. Bone-in pieces can be brined for up to 24 hours. Boneless pieces should be in brine for only a maximum of about 8 hours. Any longer and the delicate meat will begin to over-tenderize and become unpleasantly soft, or possibly too salty.

Do you rinse chicken after brining?

No, do not rinse raw chicken. You don’t want to wash away any of that amazing flavor! Simply pat the skin dry with a clean paper towel before cooking.

Bourbon brined chicken breast on a white plate with side of buttery noodles. A large bite has been removed from the chicken to show the moist interior.

Looking for More Easy Chicken Recipes? Be Sure to Also Try:

Bourbon Chicken Brine Recipe

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Brine Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 4 hours 10 minutes
This is simply the best bourbon brine recipe, guaranteed to turn chicken breasts (or just about any other cut of meat) into a moist, incredibly flavorful, and utterly irresistible main dish!

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Boil 6 cups of water.
  • Meanwhile, set out a large mixing bowl. Combine the brown sugar, salt, and bourbon, cinnamon sticks, peppercorns, allspice, bay leaves, and garlic.
  • Pour the boiling water over the sugar mixture. Stir well to dissolve the salt and sugar. Then pour in 3 cups of ice-cold water to bring the temperature down. (You don't want the chicken cooking in the brine because the water is too hot.)
  • Place the chicken pieces in the brine. Cover and refrigerate. Brine the chicken pieces 4-8 hours for boneless chicken, or 6-24 hours for bone-in chicken pieces.
  • When you're ready to cook, remove the chicken from the brine, pat it dry with a paper towel. Then cook as desired. See suggested cooking methods in the notes section below.

Notes

We suggest smoking, roasting, or grilling brined chicken. You can roast bone-in chicken breast at 375°F for 35 to 45 minutes. The boneless chicken breast will roast in approximately 15 to 20 minutes, depending on their size.
For grilling, preheat the grill to 400°F. Grab grill bone list chicken pieces for 8 to 12 minutes flipping once, or bone-in chicken pieces for 12 to 15 minutes per side.
Optional Add-Ins: orange slices, dried chiles, fresh herbs like rosemary, thyme, or sage.
Also try with other proteins like pork, beef, and salmon!
Course: How To, Main, Main Course
Cuisine: American
Author: Sommer Collier
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