How To Brine Chicken in Advance

Can you brine boneless chicken breasts, take them out of the brine, and refrigerate them the day before cooking them?

We often suggest brining or salting chicken (and other lean meats) to add deep seasoning and provide a buffer against dry meat. Our recipes—including brining ratios and times—are carefully engineered to work every time.

But to see if it’s possible to brine in advance, we brined one batch of four chicken breasts for 1 hour (using our standard brine formula of ¼ cup of salt dissolved in 2 quarts of water), removed them from the brine, and left them on a plate, covered in plastic, in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, we cooked them along with some chicken breasts that we’d just brined. We cooked both batches of chicken to 160 degrees.

Tasters noted that both batches of chicken breasts were moist and juicy but found that the chicken brined and stored in the refrigerator was a bit saltier than the just-brined chicken. This is because the salt on the surface of the stored chicken continued to penetrate the meat and was less easily expelled during cooking. Many tasters preferred these breasts to the just-brined breasts, but if you’re salt-sensitive, you may not.

THE BOTTOM LINE: For convenience’s sake, it’s OK to brine chicken breasts, remove them from the brine, and refrigerate them for up to 24 hours before using them. Keep in mind that the chicken will be slightly saltier than just-brined chicken.

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