Dry brining turkey for the holidays has really gained in popularity the past couple years. Probably because of the relative ease doing it, that plus the fact that it takes up far less space in the refrigerator. There is no reason that same deep seasoning and juicy meat can’t be used on whole chicken or cuts of pork as well… it’s simply a matter of a little time and salt.
Just like traditional “wet brining”, dry brining uses salt to deeply season and introduce more moisture into the meat. Contrary to what we have been led to believe, all cuts of meat benefit from a generous early salting. It won’t dry them out, trust me. Without getting too technical, it is true that the salt will initially pull the moisture from the meat. However, the effect of reverse-osmosis then pulls that flavorful moisture back into the meat seasoning it throughout. Additionally, the salt will help break down tougher muscle proteins and make the meat deliciously tender.
This is a great recipe to use for an easy mid-week meal – the prep time and effort are minimal. Putting the dry brine together is a matter of minutes then season the bird and pop it into the refrigerator the night before or that morning or even two days before you want to cook it.
I cooked this bird on the rotisserie because I love the fact that it “self-bastes” while its spinning. It could just as easily be cooked with indirect heat and set right on the grill or set it on a can of beer for an easy beer can chicken.
Oh, did I mention that dry-brined chicken produces the crispiest, tastiest chicken skin? 😉
Orange & Rosemary Dry-Brined Chicken
serves four to six
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt per pound of chicken
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary + more for grilling
Zest from 1 orange
1 whole chicken, trimmed of excess fat
Freshly ground black pepper
Day One: Add salt to a small bowl – I had a 5 pound chicken , so I used 2 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt (5 x 1/2 tsp = 2 1/2 tsp). Add the cumin, garlic powder, rosemary and range zest. Work it with your fingers so that the orange zest is completely incorporated with the salt and other seasoning – the consistency will be a little like wet sand.
Pat the chicken dry, inside and out with paper towels. Take a large pinch of the salt and season inside the cavity. Use another large pinch on the back. Sprinkle the remainder over the top of the breast, thighs and drumsticks using more where the meat is thicker. Wrap with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator on a tray or in a shallow bowl for at least 12 hours – otherwise you will have a salty bird as it take a while for the reverse-osmosis process..
Day Two: Remove the chicken from refrigerator, unwrap and thoroughly rinse with cold water to remove any excess salt and drizzle with olive oil. Season with freshly ground black pepper and more rosemary, if desired.
Prepare the grill for indirect or rotisserie cooking by lighting the outer burners to medium. The inside temperature of the grill should be 325°F to 350°F. Place a drip pan below where the chicken will spin or sit.
Remove the chicken from the refrigerator use a piece of butchers twine to tie the legs together and then tuck the wings under the back. Skewer and center the bird onto the rotisserie spit and secure tightly with the tines. Place the loaded spit onto the motor over the drip pan. Start the rotisserie and cover the grill. Depending on your grill (and the outside temperature), the chicken will take somewhere between 75 to 90 minutes.
After 60 minutes or so, stop the rotisserie motor and check the internal temperature to gauge how fast it is cooking.It should have some great color on it and getting close to done. Once the internal temperature of the breast hits 160°F and the thigh registers 170°F, turn off rotisserie motor and transfer the spit and chicken to a cutting board. Leave the bird on the spit. Tent loosely with foil and let rest 10 minutes before removing the spit. Cut away the string used for trussing and cut the chicken into serving pieces.
Cheers and Happy Grilling!