There is one major complaint I have about most chicken, and it’s that it is usually very dry and very bland. Chicken is a pretty blank slate in terms of flavor on its own, and I’m gonna call it like I see it: most people are seriously under seasoning their birds! Consider this dry brine a super easy, ironclad guarantee that your chicken will never join the boring masses. There are two ways to brine, wet or dry, and I find dry brining to be the much easier but equally delicious method of the two. A dry brine technically requires just one ingredient: salt. Mine has some extra delicious ingredients, of course, like mustard powder, oregano, celery seed, and citrus zest, and that, along with lots of salt and pepper, gets rubbed all over the chicken skin before it’s placed uncovered in the refrigerator for a day or two. This recipe also calls for a spatchcock chicken, which just means that the spine has been removed so that the chicken can lay flat. This not only makes for faster, more evening cooking, but also makes it even easier to carve and serve once it’s dinner time! Even better, every step of this recipe can be done days in advance save for the roasting, so it’s perfect for entertaining (and impressing!) your guests.
1. Dry Brining
Brining, in its most basic definition, is the process of salting and resting something (usually meat, and in this case, chicken) before you cook it. The science of brining is straightforward osmosis and diffusion: the salt initially draws moisture out of the chicken, creating a coating of super salty liquid, which then gets reabsorbed back into the chicken, where the salt tenderizes the meat by breaking down some of its protein structures. This leaves you with juicy, well seasoned meat and super dry skin for maximum crisping in the oven.
A spatchcock chicken is simply one that’s had the spine removed so that the chicken lays flat. It’s great for roasting because there’s more surface area exposed, which results in more even and faster cooking. It’s incredibly simple to do at home, especially with a pair of kitchen shears, but you can also ask your butcher to prepare your bird this way if you’re not comfortable doing it yourself.
3. Mix Up the Flavors!
I love the combination of citrus and chicken, so my brine is packed with zest, but as long as you have salt, you can add any spices, herbs, or zests you prefer! Lemon, thyme, and rosemary would make for a more classic roast chicken vibe, or cumin and chili powder for a smoky, spicy version.
Spatchcock Citrus Chicken
- 3 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1 ½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried mustard powder
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon ground celery seed
- 1 orange zested
- 1 lemon zested
- 1 4 pound whole chicken
- ¼ cup olive oil plus more if needed
- In a small bowl whisk together the kosher salt, pepper, mustard, oregano, celery seed and orange zest, lemon zest. Once fully combined, set aside while preparing the chicken.
- To spatchcock the chicken, place chicken on a large cutting board, breast-side down with the neck facing towards you. Using kitchen shears or a boning knife, cut along one side of the chicken spine, separating it from the ribs. Repeat on the other side of the spine. Flip the chicken so that the breasts are facing upward. Using the palm of your hands, press along the breast bone until you hear a small crack and the chicken should flatten out completely.
- Place the chicken on a racked baking sheet, splaying the legs out so they sit flat on the rack. Using paper towels, pat the outside of the chicken dry. Carefully rub the spice mixture all over the skin of the chicken to completely coat. Transfer the chicken to the fridge to brine for at least 12 hours or up to 48 hours depending on the side of your bird and your preferences.
- Remove the chicken from the fridge for 30 minutes before baking and preheat oven to 375°F.
- Drizzle the chicken generously with olive oil to completely coat. Bake for 45-55 minutes until the internal temperature of the thigh is 165°F.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes before carving.