Molasses-Brined Roasted Chicken

Originally published in Southern Living magazine, October 2013

Serves 8

The brined, roasted chicken is juicy, rich, and great on its own, but the jus, a concentrated home-made stock, is worth the effort. As for the birds, ask your butcher for two chickens, cut into four pieces each, reserving the carcasses to make the jus. Or buy leg quarters or airline breasts (first wing joint attached) and make the jus with the extra wings and backbones.


  • ½ cup Kosher Salt
  • ½ cup dark Molasses
  • 2 cups Ice Cubes
  • 1 sweet Onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 fresh Thyme sprigs
  • 2 Garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
  • ½ tsp. black Peppercorns
  • 2 (4- to 5-lb.) whole Chickens, cut into 4 pieces each (boneless breasts with first wing joint intact, legs whole with bone in, carcasses reserved)*
  • ½ tsp. Garlic Salt
  • 2 Tbsp. Canola Oil
  • 8 Garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 2 fresh Thyme sprigs
  • Roasted Chicken jus (optional)
*8 chicken leg quarters or 8 chicken breasts, airline cut, may be substituted.


  1. Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add kosher salt and molasses. Reduce heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 2 to 3 minutes or until salt and molasses dissolve. Transfer to a very large bowl; add ice and next 4 ingredients. Let stand, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes or until mixture cools to room temperature. Cover and chill 30 minutes to 1 hour or until cold.
  2. Submerge chicken in cold brine. Cover and chill 6 to 8 hours.
  3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove chicken from brine; rinse and pat dry. Sprinkle with garlic salt.
  4. Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a 14-inch nonstick or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add 4 unpeeled garlic cloves, 1 thyme sprig, and half of chicken. Cook 5 minutes or until skin is browned and crisp. (The molasses in the brine will brown the skin quickly.) Turn chicken and garlic, and cook 5 minutes or until browned. Remove chicken, and place on a wire rack in a jelly-roll pan. Wipe skillet clean. Repeat with remaining oil, chicken, garlic and thyme.
  5. Bake chicken, skin side up, at 400 degrees for 10 to 20 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted into thickest portion registers 165 degrees. (Breasts will cook faster than legs, so check for doneness after 10 minutes.) Cover with foil. Let stand 10 minutes before slicing. Serve with Roasted Chicken jus, if desired.
Note: Tested with Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt.

Roasted Chicken Jus

Makes 4 ½ cups


  • Reserved carcasses from Molasses-Brined Roasted Chicken*
  • ½ Sweet Onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 small Carrot, sliced
  • 1 Celery rib, sliced
  • 1 fresh Thyme sprig
  • 1 Tbsp. Canola Oil
  • 1 cup dry White Wine
  • 1 tsp. Cornstarch
  • 1 Tbsp. minced fresh flat-leaf Parsley
  • 1 tsp. minced fresh Chives
*2 to 3 lb. chicken backbones or wings may be substituted.


  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Chop each carcass into 4 pieces; place in a lightly greased jelly-roll pan. Roast, turning occasionally, 35 to 45 minutes or until browned.
  2. Cook onion and next 3 ingredients in hot oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, 3 to 4 minutes or until tender. (Do not overcook.)
  3.  Add white wine to onion mixture, increase heat to high, and bring to a boil. Boil, stirring occasionally, 3 to 5 minutes or until wine is reduced by three-fourths. Add carcass pieces and water to cover by 2 inches. Return to a boil over high heat; reduce heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 1 ½ hours.
  4.  Pour sauce through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a small saucepan, discarding solids. Let stand 10 minutes, and skim fat from sauce. Bring sauce to a boil over medium-high heat.
  5. Whisk together cornstarch and 1 Tbsp. water. Whisk cornstarch mixture into sauce. Return to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low, and simmer 10 minutes or to desired consistency. Stir in parsley and chives; add salt and pepper to taste.

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