Adding Honey To Chicken Brine Creates The Perfect Flavor Balance

Why is the Thanksgiving turkey seemingly the only bird that gets the VIP brine bath treatment? Brining your weeknight roasted chicken is an easy way to infuse the meat with a ton of flavor, and it ensures that your chicken will come out juicy and tender. Of course, you don't want to just repeat your typical turkey brine recipe, as it will most likely produce way too much liquid given the difference in bird size. You'll also want to choose ingredients that enhance the chicken's natural flavors. Mashed recipe developer Hayley MacLean opts for a mixture of rosemary, thyme, parsley, bay leaves, garlic cloves, lemons, and one unexpected sweet ingredient in her easy chicken brine recipe: honey.

MacLean selected all of these ingredients because they are, as she says, "flavors that are classically paired with chicken." While honey is something you may see more frequently in dipping sauces for chicken rather than in its seasoning, MacLean notes a generous helping of salt and honey "finishes it off with the perfect balance!" 

Honey perfectly complements the brine's salt

Between the chicken brine's aromatic herbs, pungent garlic, and acidic lemon, it needs something a little sweet to bring it all together. Brown sugar, maple syrup, and white sugar could all satisfy that sweetness factor, but honey has a uniquely earthy, often floral taste. This will complement the flavors of the chicken and the other brine ingredients without overwhelming them like so many other sweeteners would. Plus, honey is all-natural!

That said, you don't need to break out your high-quality, expensive manuka honey for this recipe, as you're only going to use it in the brining stage. Any regular honey will do the job just fine. MacLean also recommends rinsing the chicken after brining it for 8-24 hours. This step will prevent any honey from burning while the chicken roasts in the oven. If you love the sweetness honey brings to this brine, consider pairing the chicken with a honey mustard dipping sauce or even finishing the bird with a spicy honey glaze.