To brine a chicken, begin by bringing 1/2 gallon of water, 1 cup kosher salt, 1/2 cup sugar and your preferred flavorings to a boil. Chopped onion, garlic and celery work are popular seasoning options. Remove the mixture from the heat, refrigerate it to below 40 degrees F, and add an additional 1/2 gallon of water. Submerge the chicken in the brine, and place it in the refrigerator; a whole chicken must brine for four to eight hours.
For best results, make sure you brine the chicken in a container made from glass, porcelain, plastic or stainless steel. Do not brine in an aluminum or copper container, as it may react with the brine ingredients. When your chicken finishes brining, rinse it with cold water before seasoning and cooking it as desired. If you're brining chicken pieces rather than a whole chicken, they do not need to brine as long. Half chickens should brine for three to six hours, boneless skinless breasts for 30 to 60 minutes, and legs and thighs for 45 to 90 minutes.
Brining chicken improves its flavor and texture. As chicken soaks in brine, the salt, sugar and flavors in the brine infuse into the meat. The salt helps break up the protein fibers in the chicken, ensuring tender, moist meat.