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Chicken wing brine is one of those things that most people don’t think about, but would immediately notice if it weren’t around. Several chicken products are brined before serving. The salty brine mixture is absorbed into the chicken, giving it that salty and savory flavor that freshly cooked chicken has.
Brining your chicken is part of getting that tender, fall-off-the-bone experience that chicken wing lovers need. It’s about finding that right combination of salt and spice to make a rich savory flavor and tender, moist texture.
So today, we are going to talk about our classic chicken wing brine recipe and how to make it at home. The best part is that it can be made in just a few minutes and can salt your chicken in just a few hours. You only need a couple of hours to go from brine to a deliciously cooked chicken on your plate, so it’s a great quick meal choice.
Why Do You Brine Chicken Wings?
Chicken is a very lean type of meat, meaning that it has relatively low fat and moisture content. As such, chicken is prone to drying out if not properly moisturized. Chicken brine is absorbed by the skin and seasons the meat all the way through, keeping it juicy and moisturized.
Chicken wing brine also prevents you from overcooking the chicken. Even if you overcook it a bit, the brine ensures that the chicken comes out tender and juicy.
Ingredients – What You Will Need
To make this chicken wing brine you will need:
- 1 gallon of water
- ¾ cup of kosher salt
- 1 lemon
- ⅔ cup of cane sugar
- 1 cup soy sauce
- ¼ cup of olive oil
- A large pot
- Plastic storage bags
(Note: If you want to spice up this mixture, you can add some spices such as rosemary, thyme, peppercorn, or parsley. One of the best features of this recipe is that it is so simple and versatile.)
Here is a quick rundown of what you will be doing: First you need to create the brine itself. Afterward, you can add the chicken and let it marinate for a few hours.
Making chicken wing brine is super easy. There are really only two steps!
- Pour the gallon of warm water into a container twice its volume. Add in the salt, sugar, soy sauce, and olive oil and bring the pot of water to a boil.
- Stir the contents of the bowl thoroughly until the salt and sugar have completely dissolved and the mixture is a uniform color and consistency. Turn off the burner, and allow the brine to cool to room temperature.
- Place chicken wings in a plastic bag and fill with brine until the pieces are mostly submerged. Then place the brined chicken in the fridge to marinate. The amount of time you let it brine depends on the kind of chicken you have. Once the chicken has been marinated, pat it dry with a paper towel before cooking.
So there you have it, a quick and easy chicken wing brine to prep your food for the oven or the grill. This brine literally takes minutes to make and is enough to marinate an entire week’s worth of wings!
How Much Brine For How Much Chicken?
As a general rule of thumb, you should have about 2 cups of brine for every 1 pound of chicken wings. The recipe we’re outlining here produces a little bit over a gallon (16 cups) of brine, so it would be good for 8 pounds of wings – which is a lot! Don’t be afraid to half or even quarter the recipe to get your proportions right.
- If you want more flavor, add in more spices. You can even add in a few slices of lemon orange to each marination bag to get a fruity zest for your chicken.
- Make sure that you are using kosher salt with this recipe. Kosher salt has different measurements than table salt and will be absorbed by the chicken differently. Table salt may make your chicken too salty and rubbery.
- This recipe is versatile and you can basically put whatever you want in the brine. If you are feeling adventurous, you can add in some honey, dried chiles for an extra kick, or even some onions. Whatever pairs well with chicken can be used as part of the brine.
- Fully pat the chicken off after it is done marinating. Wet chicken skin will cook all soggy like instead of making that crisp golden skin that we love in our wings.
- Make sure that you let the pot fully boil as the mixture needs heat to dissolve the sugar and salt completely. If these ingredients are not dissolved, then they could clump on the skin.
- Also, make sure that the water fully cools before placing the chicken in the brine. Placing chicken in warm brine raises the uncooked meat’s temperature and puts it in a range conducive to bacterial growth. Once the brine cools off, then you can fully submerge the bird or the cuts.
Easy Brined Chicken Wings
- Large pot
- Plastic freezer bags or equivalent
- 1 gal warm water
- 3/4 cup kosher salt
- 1 lemon
- 2/3 cup cane sugar
- 1 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Pour the gallon of warm water into a large pot, ideally the pot has a capacity of at least two gallons.
- Add all other ingredients to the pot and stir thoroughly. Bring the mixture to a boil.
- Once the brine mixture is uniform and salt and sugar have completely dissolved, turn off your heat source and allow brine to cool to room temperature.
- Place chicken wings into plastic bags and fill each bag with enough brine to almost completely submerge the wings.
- Place bags of chicken and brine in the refrigerator to marinate. Marinate for at least 4 hours.
- When ready to cook, remove chicken from bags, and pat wings dry with a paper towel before cooking. Dispose of the used brine.
How Long Should I Brine the Chicken Wings?
The amount of time you should brine the chicken depends on what kind of chicken you have and whether it is skinless or skin-on. For bone-in wings, at least 4 hours is recommended. If you were to use this recipe with a whole chicken, 8 hours is the recommended mark.
You can actually keep the chicken brined much longer if you want. It is common to marinate a chicken for 12 full hours. We only recommend that you do not go past 24 hours of marination. Once you go past 24 hours, the chicken gets overly salty and will not cook as well. Also, the chicken might get too mushy and lose its tenderness.
If you don’t want to make a wet brine, then you can make a dry brine instead. A dry brine is exactly the same as a wet brine except you just don’t add water. You can just directly apply the brine ingredients to the skin of the bird. Since there is direct contact, the ingredients will immediately be absorbed into the skin.
To make a dry brine, combine all of the ingredients mentioned above into a bowl, leaving out the wet, liquid ingredients. Mix until it is even and homogeneous. Then apply the dry mixture evenly to the chicken wings and keep the bird in the fridge. Like the wet brine, you only need to apply the brine for a few hours to have tender marinated chicken.
Once the brine is marinated, rinse off the mixture with water and pat dry before cooking. The dry brine method is probably faster, easier, and creates less of a mess but it will result in a crispier skin because there is no liquid to submerge the chicken in. Liquid brine, in contrast, makes the chicken more favorable because the liquid is absorbed more readily by the chicken.
Brining and Frying
If you want to fry chicken wings, then it is recommended that you brine it first. You can actually make an excellent brine out of buttermilk that is perfectly suited for frying. Brining chicken before you fry it ensures that the moisture is locked into the meat so you have that crispy, golden friend outer later and tender warm, juicy chicken in the middle.
There you have it! Chicken wing brine can make all the difference when it comes to getting those tasty and tender wings we all love so much. Start out with our recipe then don’t be afraid to experiment with new flavors and ideas!
What is your favorite way to brine chicken wings? We’d love to hear your ideas in the comments section below.
Check out our guide to reheating chicken wings next for more info on how to get the most out of your brined chicken wing leftovers!