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Beer-Brined Butterflied Chicken

Scott Phillips

Servings: 4

Butterflying is the secret to this juicy, flavorful, and quick-cooking chicken dish. 


  • 1 3-1/2- to 4-lb. chicken (I prefer organic)
  • 3/4 cup plus 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup plus 1/2 tsp. packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs. plus 1/4 tsp. freshly ground coarse black pepper
  • 6 bay leaves, crumbled
  • 2 12-oz. cans or bottles cold lager beer (like Budweiser)
  • 1 tsp. smoked sweet Spanish paprika (pimentón)
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. celery salt
  • 1/4 tsp. chili powder
  • Large pinch dried oregano, crushed
  • Pinch cayenne
  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil

Nutritional Information

  • Nutritional Sample Size based on four servings
  • Calories (kcal) : 520
  • Fat Calories (kcal): 290
  • Fat (g): 33
  • Saturated Fat (g): 8
  • Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 6
  • Monounsaturated Fat (g): 15
  • Cholesterol (mg): 165
  • Sodium (mg): 670
  • Carbohydrates (g): 3
  • Fiber (g): 0
  • Protein (g): 52


  • Place the chicken, breast side down, on a flat surface. Using poultry shears, cut along each side of the backbone and remove it. Flip the chicken over and press firmly on the center of the breast to break the breastbone. You can see a video of this technique, called butterflying, here.
  • In a large bowl, combine the 3/4 cup kosher salt, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1 tablespoon pepper, and bay leaves. Add 4 cups very hot water and stir to dissolve the salt and sugar. Add the beer and stir well to remove the carbonation. Add about 4 cups ice cubes to cool the brine rapidly. When the ice has melted and the brine is cool, put the chicken in the brine, adding more cold water if needed to cover. Refrigerate, covered, for 2 to 4 hours.
  • In a small bowl, mix the 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, 1/2 tsp. brown sugar, and 1/4 tsp. pepper with the paprika, cumin, celery salt, chili powder, oregano, and cayenne.
  • Remove the chicken from the brine and let it air dry for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, build a charcoal fire or heat a gas grill with all burners on high. For a charcoal grill, when the charcoal is covered with a white-gray ash, divide it into two piles and set a drip pan between the coals. For a gas grill, turn the burners that will be directly underneath the chicken off and the other burners to medium. (If your grill has only two burners, turn one off and set the other one at medium. You may need to rotate the chicken periodically so that both sides brown.)
  • When ready to cook, if the chicken is still very wet, blot it dry with paper towels. Brush or rub both sides of the chicken with the oil and sprinkle with the spice mixture. Tuck the wingtips under the breast. Set the chicken, skin side up, in the center of the grill (or not directly over the heat). Cover and cook until the juices run clear and a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh registers 175º­ to 180ºF, 40 to 50 minutes. Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before cutting it into quarters and serving.

Try a fruit-forward red wine with spice elements and moderate oak and tannins, like the Rosenblum Cellars Vintners Cuvée XXVIII Zinfandel, California; Bogle Winery’s Old Vines Zinfandel, California; Deakin Estate Shiraz, Victoria; or d’Arenberg’s “The Footbolt” Shiraz, McLaren Vale.

Leftover chicken is delicious in Tex-Mex Chicken Salad.


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Reviews (9 reviews)

  • gaiusgracchus | 06/25/2016

    This would be a very good recipe except that it is way too salty. I lowered the salt the first time a bit in the brine, but it was still too salty.Not sure how much to use, but maybe reduce salt by 1/3? At least.Nice flavors otherwise, but chicken is almost inedible for us.

  • cinmyrs | 07/18/2011

    I have made this many times and it is always so good. I recently used the brine for grilled chicken wings. Yummmmmmm.

  • Betts | 07/14/2011

    Beautiful bird and all that was promised in the recipe- moist, tender, flavorful, a little spicy. The recipe makes enough to brine 2 chickens. One got cooked after a 2 hr soak and tomorrow is the next one.

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