Late Night Coffee Brined Chicken

April 21, 2011
4 Ratings
  • Serves 4
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

Test Kitchen Notes

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&M —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 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.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • eatchimac
  • Franca
  • Nia Morales
    Nia Morales
  • Harry Rose
    Harry Rose
  • Valerie

Recipe by: gingerroot

My most vivid childhood memories have to do with family and food. As a kid, I had the good fortune of having a mom who always encouraged trying new things, and two grandmothers who invited me into their kitchens at a young age. I enjoy cooking for the joy it brings me - sharing food with loved ones - and as a stress release. I turn to it equally during good times and bad. Now that I have two young children, I try to be conscientious about what we cook and eat. Right about the time I joined food52, I planted my first raised bed garden and joined a CSA; between the two I try to cook as sustainably and organically as I can. Although I'm usually cooking alone, my children are my favorite kitchen companions and I love cooking with them. I hope when they are grown they will look back fondly at our time spent in the kitchen, as they teach their loved ones about food-love. Best of all, after years on the mainland for college and graduate school, I get to eat and cook and raise my children in my hometown of Honolulu, HI. When I'm not cooking, I am helping others grow their own organic food or teaching schoolchildren about art.

173 Reviews

eatchimac March 30, 2021
Oh, I didn’t try Coffee Brined Chicken Recipe. Now I can make it at home. So glad for sharing this recipe Now I can make it at home. It looks delicious. Now I can share your blog with my friend circle. I am so glad after seeing your recipe, Thanks for sharing this recipe. Food is one of the biggest topics of conversation online and offline. Keep it up, I am waiting for your next recipe!

Franca October 9, 2020
I have been looking at this recipe for years, and finally got around to making it. I could kick myself for all the wasted years! Absolutely fabulous. I used the leftover sauce as the liquid to cook rice in. Will be making this again, and again. Yum!
gingerroot October 9, 2020
Hi Franca, thank you for letting me know!! I’m so glad you enjoyed it. : )
Nia M. July 17, 2018
How would this work with whole milk instead of 1%?
Harry R. July 16, 2018
How should one adjust to cook this on the stove for the whole time instead of in the oven (I don’t have an oven-ready pot, but have roasted things on the stove in the pot I’d use before and gotten good results).
crazbs July 17, 2018
I would just cover and simmer very low(keep as low of a simmer as possible so you don’t take a chance on the milk curdling)for 1 hour. If it’s done at that point I wouldn’t cook it any longer but if it needs more time I would still cover it and cook for 10 more minutes or however long it needs. The directions to cook for another 30 to 40 minutes uncovered are to brown it and since you will not be able to do that on the stovetop I would just keep it covered for the entire cooking time needed.
Abby R. May 5, 2018
How do u calculate 21/2? How much is tht?
crazbs May 5, 2018
Not sure where you are seeing 21/2??? There are 2 and 1/2 Tablespoons of brown sugar in the recipe and that’s the only thing I see with those numbers.
Abby R. May 6, 2018
Oh bad...oh good god...that makes sense...just that from my screen looks like 21/2 and i dont cook very often so i thought that was some new
crazbs May 6, 2018
No Problem - that’s what I thought! I have made this many times and everyone has always loved it!! I follow the recipe but do not use organic chicken - works just as well with regular chicken and it’s a lot cheaper. I brine mine overnight and the flavor is wonderful. I also mix up a little flour or cornstarch and milk and make gravey with the sauce, sometimes it’s a little salty so I add more milk and I think the gravy it makes is YUM!
Valerie January 20, 2018
Tried this with pork chops AND without an oven, and it still turned out beautifully! Love this recipe and can't wait to try other brines.
Julie U. April 5, 2015
Holy Easter brilliance... this might seriously be the best chicken I've ever eaten. The flavors are complex and permeate the flesh wonderfully, it's beautifully aromatic, and butter-tender. Wow. I skipped the 1-hr fridge dry time because I was running behind, and subbed a grapefruit for one of the oranges because one orange turned out to be rotten in the middle. I cannot wait to make this again!!!
gingerroot April 6, 2015
Hi Julie, I'm thrilled you enjoyed it!! Also glad your grapefruit sub and fridge step skipping worked out. Thank you for letting me know!! Happy Easter!
smonfor February 2, 2015
I made this today in my crockpot, brined over night, browned, and put in on low for 6 hours. It was very tasty and nice for a change, but not for all the time. There was probably more broth than what there would have been had it been done as directed. We ended up not serving the broth with the meal, so I used it the next day to cook a tasty, though slightly salty, buckwheat/rice mix.
The chicken does come out with a slightly smokey flavor and is very tender and moist. I agree with another commenter that it would be great in chicken salad and maybe even in some variation of Tea Egg/Chicken Salad (search Food 52).
gingerroot February 28, 2015
Hi smonfor! Sorry I missed your comment - I'm glad to know it works in a slow cooker. That is a really great idea to use the meat in chicken salad.
Toni6 February 2, 2014
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?
gingerroot February 3, 2014
Thanks for letting me know! So glad you enjoyed it.
DogLick56 January 13, 2014
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!
DogLick56 January 13, 2014
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?
gingerroot January 13, 2014
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: 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!
rhion January 13, 2014
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.
francesca January 20, 2014
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
Valerie D. January 12, 2014
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 !
gingerroot January 13, 2014
Thanks so much for letting me know, Valerie! So glad you enjoyed it.
MaXX December 4, 2013
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.
Gail I. October 19, 2013
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.
gingerroot October 19, 2013
So sorry to hear that it did not turn out for you. Thanks for letting me know.
crazbs September 5, 2013
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.
mike September 5, 2013
How would recipe work on rotisserie or BBQ w/out the milk action?
Wendall June 23, 2013
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!
Lucy May 8, 2013
Loved this recipe and the left-overs that have been savoured and passed around for others to taste and everyone's conclusion was: delicious!
gingerroot May 9, 2013
Thanks for letting me know, Lucy! Glad everyone enjoyed it.
pigisyummy April 19, 2013
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!
LeBec F. April 19, 2013
pigis, I def am going to try this version and your coconut milk version- brilliant ;th you!
gingerroot April 19, 2013
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.
pigisyummy April 25, 2013
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!
gingerroot April 25, 2013
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!
Charles I. February 26, 2013
I am kosher and cant mix milk with meat or poultry. Do you think I could try soy milk?
rhion February 26, 2013
You could, but it won't taste like anything.