I like to brine large hunks of meat that I’m going to roast, because brining not only gives it flavor, it adds moisture…so my pork loin, Thanksgiving turkey, or in this case, whole chicken, doesn’t dry out.
Brining usually means you take a lot of water and you add salt and other spices to it, then drop the bird into that liquid for several hours, so the meat can suck up the salty water, releasing it slowly as it cooks, but retaining much of the moisture and flavor.
Recently, I started reading about “dry-brining,” (aka curing)…and I thought that would be a fun thing to try. I created a spice rub that I rubbed all over a spatchcocked chicken, placed it on a sheet pan, and popped it in the fridge to dry age for several days before cooking.
Spatchcocked? Sounds like a dirty word, but it means that the backbone of the bird has been removed, allowing the bird to be flattened and cooked more evenly. As you know, very often the breast meat of a bird is overcooked if the dark meat is perfect. Spatchcocking a bird allows all the parts of the bird to cook more evenly.
All you need to spatchcock a chicken is a good pair of poultry scissors. Cut all the way down on either side of the backbone of the bird (saving the backbone for future stock, of course.) Now you can open the bird up, season it on both sides, and lay it flat on a sheet pan to cure.
My preferences leaned toward Asian flavors this time, so here’s my dry brine recipe:
3 tablespoons Kosher salt (I use Diamond Crystal…the brand matters. See why below.)
1 1/2 tablespoons (1 tablespoon + 1 1/2 teaspoons) granulated garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons (1 tablespoon + 1 1/2 teaspoons) granulated onion
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon Chinese Five Spice
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
I combined all the ingredients in a bowl.
The reason why the brand of Kosher salt matters is the weight. But salt is salt, right? Well…different brands weigh different amounts. For example, Morton Kosher salt is more dense than Diamond Crystal. If you use equal amounts of each, you’ll get different results. That’s why most recipes tell you the weight of the salt, not the volume. In this case, 3 tablespoons of Diamond Crystal Kosher salt (according to my little kitchen scale) weighs 1.09 ounces.
Once I spatchcocked the bird, I rubbed it really well on both sides with the spice rub.
I lined a sheet pan with non-stick aluminum foil (to be used again later), and placed the bird, skin-side down, on it. I didn’t wrap the bird. I simply moved it to a refrigerator just like that, and let it stay there, dry-aging, for 1 1/2 days. I then flipped the bird (pardon my language) skin-side up and let it cure another 1 1/2 days, for a total of 3 days for a 4-pound bird.
Once the bird dry-aged for 3 days, I removed it from the fridge, and let it sit for an hour, allowing it to reach room temperature. I pre-heated my oven to 400 degrees.
I set my oven up so that the bird would lie flat skin-side up (without the sheet pan) directly on the middle oven rack, and the sheet pan (with the non-stick aluminum foil still on it) on the rack underneath it, to catch the drippings. This allowed air to circulate completely around the bird as it cooked, and the pan caught any splatters. (The foil, still on the pan, made clean-up later much easier.)
Once the oven reached 400, I placed the bird on the middle rack, the sheet pan below it, closed the oven door, and turned the temperature down to 275.
Chicken is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 165. Using an instant-read thermometer, I inserted it into the thigh, without touching the bone. I also inserted into the breast. Although the temperature was just a touch low, it rose a few degrees while resting under the foil.
My 4-pound chicken took about 90 minutes to cook.