Late Night Coffee Brined Chicken

By • April 21, 2011 • 162 Comments

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Author Notes: Early in the week, I knew I wanted to combine coffee and orange. Yesterday, after sitting in my fridge defrosting for a day and a half, my whole chicken whispered to me "it's now or never." Since it was Wednesday, I did not have time for an overnight brine, so turned to Michael Ruhlman's quick brine. Substituting hot, freshly brewed coffee for water, I added cloves, star anise, whole black pepper and fresh oranges to the brine. Okay, brine finished, now how to proceed? A while back, I adapted Jamie Oliver's Chicken in Milk recipe and remembered how incredibly tender the finished chicken turned out. This time, with the coffee brine, cooking the chicken in milk seemed to make sense, and just to round out the coffee-milk pair, I rubbed the brined chicken in brown sugar before browning in a little butter. I was curious to see how it would turn out, and frankly a little nervous. When I took the chicken out at midnight, after an hour and forty minutes, the chicken was dark, splitting and sitting in a pool of rich sauce. Although not the prettiest bird I’ve ever seen to come forth from the oven, it was rich and flavorful, extremely tender (falling off the bone!) with sweet and smoky undertones. - gingerroot
gingerroot

Food52 Review: We nicknamed this recipe "Breakfast Chicken," since it includes all three arms of the morning triumvirate: coffee, orange juice and milk. Like pork braised in milk, gingerroot's roast chicken emerges from the pot tender and melting, and it has a beautiful burnished exterior wherever the skin hasn't been submerged in the liquid. The spiced coffee and orange brine infuses the meat with a smoky fragance -- the flavor is subtle but discernable, and unlike anything we can recall. - A&MThe Editors

Serves 4

For the Chicken

  • 1 4 -5 lb whole organic chicken
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 cups 1% milk

For the Coffee brine

  • 1/2 liter hot, freshly brewed bold coffee
  • 3 ounces kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons whole black peppercorn
  • 3 star anise
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 2 juicy navel oranges, halved
  • 15 ounces ice
  1. Combine salt, peppercorns, star anise, and cloves in a small pot. Lightly crush spices with the back of a large spoon. Squeeze orange halves over mixture, and then add halves. Pour hot coffee over mixture, stir and cover pot with lid. Allow brine to steep for ten minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, pat chicken dry, removing giblets and neck. Place chicken in a 2 gallon sized zip lock or other plastic bag.
  3. Place the ice in a large bowl. Add coffee brine and stir until ice melts. Pour brine in bag with chicken (including oranges), seal and allow mixture to sit at room temperature for two to three hours. Then pat chicken dry and let it dry out for an hour in a bowl placed in the refrigerator.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  5. Remove chicken from refrigerator, pat dry and rub both sides with brown sugar.
  6. Heat butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat, brown chicken on both sides. Add milk, cover, and transfer to oven. Cook for an hour with the lid. Remove lid. Continue to cook for another 30-40 minutes, or until internal temperature of chicken is 165 degrees.
  7. Pull meat off the bones and serve with wilted greens and rice. Be sure to spoon some of the sauce over the meat, if desired.
Jump to Comments (162)

Tags: chicken, coffee, savory

Comments (162) Questions (3)

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11 months ago Toni6

Absolutely divine! I had the time to follow the process and took the result to a picnic at the outdoor picture theatre last night!
everyone was impressed and I have passed the recipe on.
I'm cross with myself for discarding the left over marinade though. I know salt prevents spoilage so I wonder if I could have recycled it somehow. Any ideas?

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11 months ago gingerroot

Thanks for letting me know! So glad you enjoyed it.

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12 months ago DogLick56

Thank you, gingeroot. I appreciate your explanation....not to mention your quick response! It is something I will definitely try - though I think I will take the time to do it overnight in the fridge. Thank you - and I'll let you know how it turns out. Very intriguing recipe!

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12 months ago DogLick56

Is no one else concerned with the chicken sitting - raw and brining - at room temp for 2-3 hours? Sounds like an opportunity for a bit of food poisoning to me. I would like to make this chicken dish for tomorrow evening, but my concern about food safety and Gail Williams' comment about pumpkin spice has me concerned. Thoughts?

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12 months ago gingerroot

Hi DogLick56, You are definitely not the first one to have this concern - in fact, before I made this, I would have called anyone crazy if they told me to let it sit out for 2-3 hours. I'm reposting my response to crazbs - which can also be found at down at the bottom of this page of comments: Here's my rationale for this recipe. I knew I wanted to try a coffee brine but did not have the time to do it overnight (the posting deadline for this particular contest was early the next day Hawaii Standard Time). So, I did a quick internet search to see if there was a "quick brine" recipe that I could adapt. I found Michael Ruhlman's Quick Brine recipe for chicken: http://ruhlman.com/2010.... Since I'm somewhat of a novice when it comes to brining, I trusted his expertise and knowledge of cooking and food safety. If you read through the comments on his recipe, you'll see that there are other people that question letting the chicken sit out for 2-3 hours and his rationale is that if you start with a good quality chicken, that, plus the double strength salt brine, plus the fact that you are thoroughly cooking the chicken, any potential danger of bad bacteria is not a concern. However, if you still feel uncomfortable, I'd say brine it in the fridge and let me know how it turns out! A number of others have brined in the fridge with good results. As for pumpkin pie spice, I definitely did not taste that when I made it, but everyone's palate is different. Hope you enjoy it if you try it!

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12 months ago rhion

There is no rule that says you can't brine the bloody thing in the fridge. However, if you are cooking something up to temp, then the amount of time to breed bacteria isn't going to be so important since it's only long enough to bring the chicken up to room temp. Additionally, salt is anaerobic. Antibacterial. If you are properly brining something, you should darn well be using enough to render up to 4 hours of time sitting (COVERED - common sense here folks) so negligible that only those with a compromised immune system should have any room to worry.

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11 months ago francesca

kudos to you I am a chef and I often do my bringing this way you just have to know that salt is and was a traditional way to preserve foods and meats including poultry, from hundreds of years prior. try it you will be amazed how safe it is

Stringio

12 months ago Valerie Delisle-gagnon

wow really good I loved all the spicy flavours ! And all those brilliant techniques to cook a chicken I didn't know about ! thanks a lot !

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12 months ago gingerroot

Thanks so much for letting me know, Valerie! So glad you enjoyed it.

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about 1 year ago MaXX

I am trying this recipe for the second time... I was unable to find Star Anise in my area so I used anise extract it has worked well for me. I am doing the over night suggestions but with skinless boneless chicken breasts... I will let you know how it turns out.

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about 1 year ago Gail Irene Williams

I tried this recipe last night. What a disapointment! So much time and money (organic chicken 18 bucks, whole foods) spent on a bad recipe. Tasted like star anise and cloves. No orange flavor no coffee flavor, just a mess of pumpin spice on my chicken. Just awful.

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about 1 year ago gingerroot

So sorry to hear that it did not turn out for you. Thanks for letting me know.

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over 1 year ago crazbs

Not even close! I think the milk action and roasting in the oven are what make this recipe so wonderful. Doing it this way makes it super moist and gives it a ton of flavor. Also, I mix up some flour and water and make gravy with the broth which everyone loves. I'm sure the chicken would be good done on a rotisserie, it just wouldn't be the same end result as the original.

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over 1 year ago mike

How would recipe work on rotisserie or BBQ w/out the milk action?

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over 1 year ago Wendall

Truly delicious - softly and gorgeously aromatic. The chicken was incredibly moist and succulent and the coffee and orange were subtle flavours that, unless you knew they were there, you'd probably struggle to identify separately, but together made the most sublime taste and aroma. This recipe is definitely a keeper. Thank you for posting it!

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over 1 year ago Lucy

Loved this recipe and the left-overs that have been savoured and passed around for others to taste and everyone's conclusion was: delicious!

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over 1 year ago gingerroot

Thanks for letting me know, Lucy! Glad everyone enjoyed it.

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over 1 year ago pigisyummy

i made this the other night and replaced most of the milk with coconut milk. I also put it on a rack under the broiler for five minutes to brown any skin that didn't get browned. it was amazing!

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over 1 year ago LE BEC FIN

pigis, I def am going to try this version and your coconut milk version- brilliant ;th you!

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over 1 year ago gingerroot

Ooh, coconut milk does sound good!! And I love that you crisped/browned up the skin under the broiler. Thanks so much for letting me know.

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over 1 year ago pigisyummy

gingerroot, I'm wondering if you think this can be made in a 2 1/2 deep roasting pan. I'm currently living in a temporary, furnished apt so this kitchen is not well stocked vessel-wise and the first time I made this was in a stainless steal pot that was probably only a half inch wider and taller than the bird itself, so I'm sure the liquid came up higher than it would have in a wider and possibly shallower dutch oven. I want to make this for a dinner party, which would mean making 2 birds and the only thing I have that can accommodate that is the roasting pan. How high up on the birds should the liquid be as you've designed it? Also, the roasting pan is without a lid, so I was just going to seal with foil. You think that would work? thx!

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over 1 year ago gingerroot

Hi pigisyummy, Hm. I think the liquid came up about 1 1/2-2 inches (total approximation as I have not made this recipe in a while). My only worry would be that if your chickens are significantly higher than the pan, if you cover the pan with foil, it will stick to the chicken. What if you spatchcocked the birds so they'd be compressed in the pan? The cooking time would be significantly shorter but given your pan situation might work better. I don't see why sealing the pan tightly with foil would not work -- in any case, please report back if you do try two birds in a roasting pan...I'd love to know the result! Glad you enjoyed the recipe!

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almost 2 years ago Charles in Phila

I am kosher and cant mix milk with meat or poultry. Do you think I could try soy milk?

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almost 2 years ago rhion

You could, but it won't taste like anything.

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almost 2 years ago Julie Eldridge

Made this for my family after seeing the recipe on Yahoo. This was perhaps the juiciest, most delicious whole chicken I've had in quite some time!!! The next day I used the leftover chicken to make chicken salad and let me tell you, that was some amazing chicken salad!!! Absolutely loved it, plan on making it again in the near future!

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over 1 year ago gingerroot

Thank you for letting me know, Julie! I'm thrilled you enjoyed it twice...I bet it would make tasty chicken salad. Will have to try that next time. Apologies for the very belated response...I'm only seeing this now.

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almost 2 years ago Garry Higgins

Perfect Rhion. Thank you. The chicken is relaxing in the brine right now and will continue to do so for the next 24 hr. Excited to see how this turns out. Thanks for all your help.

Me

almost 2 years ago Garry Higgins

Thank you for the responses. Can i let this brine sit overnight if I wanted to?

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almost 2 years ago rhion

Depends on whatcha mean: If you mean just the coffee/spice brine without the chicken, you can let it sit for a week or so in the fridge without worry. Probably longer, but I wouldn't let it go quite that long. If you mean with the chicken in it, then please, by all means, let it sit/soak for a day or two to get the full flavour into the chicken. Just make sure the container is covered, and you let it sit in the fridge rather than a counter top (just covering bases here)

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almost 2 years ago Bevi

A starch that will absorb the sauce? GR suggests rice. You could also make couscous, quinoa, any type of rice. She also suggest wilted greens - maybe kale collards, swiss chard or spinach?

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almost 2 years ago Garry Higgins

Any suggestions on what to have with this. Please?

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almost 2 years ago rhion

I used asparagus, nice and crunchy with a little lemon and black pepper and butter. Then half a sweet potato with just a drizzle of honey on it. And for fluffy starch the gravy was added to Israeli style couscous.

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almost 2 years ago gingerroot

Hi Garry, Sorry my reply is late. The savory sauce would pair well with any starch - next time I make it I may serve it with potatoes. Roasted vegetables would also be a good match. Whatever you decide, I hope you enjoy it!

Stringio

almost 2 years ago Mandie Riggs

How does the brine melt the ice?

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almost 2 years ago Zon

The brine has hot coffee in it.

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about 2 years ago danielledittmar

What a great recipe! I made this for my family and friends this week and it was a hit. We did not use the gravy; the chicken was amazing on its own. I received tons of compliments on the moistness of the bird. Thank you for sharing this amazing recipe.

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almost 2 years ago gingerroot

You're welcome, danielledittmar! I'm thrilled you all enjoyed it. Happy Holidays!

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about 2 years ago rhion

I made this, but of course with some modifications. I cold brewed my ESPRESSO, brined overnight - AND I rubbed fresh coffee grounds into the chicken before putting it in the brine. Thus far it is yielding two gorgeous cornish hens that smell heavenly. I am also using buttermilk instead of straight milk for the milk part of the recipe, which means I was able to add a bit of the brine to milk without fear of curdling.

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almost 2 years ago gingerroot

I love your modifications, rhion, and will have to try the cold brew route next time. Thanks for letting me know and happy holidays!