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RECIPE: Easy Instant Pot {Brined!} Whole Chicken with Lemon Au Jus

Don't settle for bland when cooking whole chicken. My two secrets -- brining and using the Instant Pot -- will create a moist and flavorful dinner!

I’m not sure what became the deciding factor for me to purchase the Instant Pot. It may have been the ability to cook frozen ground beef in 25 minutes. Or to hard boil eggs in just 2 minutes (with no ice bath necessary). But the deciding factor came when I realized I could make my own delicious, whole chicken with virtually NO MESS and super easy clean up.

Okay, time for honesty. My actual goal in life is to replicate the delicious flavor of Costco Rotisserie Chicken. So when I made my first whole chicken using this popular recipe, I was in awe of how tender the meat was… and totally disappointed by the flavor. While the skin was flavorful, nothing permeated the meat.

Fast forward a few months (and many, many sub-par cooked whole chickens). My mom hosted Thanksgiving dinner and her turkey was PHENOMENAL. It was moist, flavorful, and tender. Her secret? Brining the meat first. 

Brining is not a new concept. There’s quite a bit to learn about the science behind brining. So, armed with the intrigue of experimentation, I set out to find my perfect brine.

How To Brine Your Whole Chicken

There are just three ingredients involved in brining: water, salt, and sugar (or honey, if you are Paleo/AIP). Each ingredient plays a role in flavoring and tenderizing the whole chicken (as you can read more here).

Brining is surprisingly easy — simply dump your ingredients and whole chicken into a pot and chill in the fridge before cooking.

I like to use this 8 quart stockpot because it holds the chicken nicely without a lot of wasted space, the handles are sturdy, and it is short enough to fit easily in the fridge.

Oddly, there’s no hard-fast rule on how long to brine. You can brine your bird overnight, start it in the morning, do it for an hour per pound, or even do it one hour before cooking, as America’s Test Kitchen suggests. I’m still working out how long I like my birds to brine. Right now, my brining length is “starting-whenever-I-remember-to-do-it.” HA!

Okay, okay. I try to aim for several hours.

Lastly, I like to add fresh herbs and lemon to my roasted chicken. The Instant Pot has a beautiful way of preserving the delicate undertones of fresh herbs, making it taste magical.

A Few Other Tips

  • After brining, make sure that you pat the chicken down well with paper towels. I know it’s inconvenient, but you’ll want to remove as much moisture as possible because…
  • Use the SAUTE function before cooking your whole chicken. This not only gives a beautiful carmelized color to your bird, it also kickstarts cooking so that your chicken reaches proper internal temperature. If you don’t pat your bird dry, it will splatter something awful. MAKE SURE YOUR BIRD IS BREAST SIDE DOWN WHEN YOU SAUTE.

  • When you are sautéing, grease may splatter. I recommend using a splatter screen so that steam can escape (but splattering oil does not). Make sure it is larger than 9″ like this screen! Don’t use your IP lid because it can mess with the sauté function.
  • After cooking, remove your bird and strain your broth. You can keep it thin (like an au jus) or select SAUTE and add 1 TB of arrowroot powder to help thicken into a light gravy. The broth is flavorful — don’t throw it away!

No Time To Brine? No Worries.

If you’re short on time and can’t brine, don’t worry about it. Still stuff the chicken with lemon and fresh herbs — it will still impart a great flavor.

Print Recipe
RECIPE: Instant Pot {Brined!} Whole Chicken with Au Jus
Don't settle for bland when cooking whole chicken. My two secrets -- brining and using the Instant Pot -- will create a moist and flavorful dinner!
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. 3-5 hours before cooking (lunchtime is ideal), thoroughly combine salt, sugar/honey, and water into a large bowl. Set aside. Use sugar (NOT HONEY) for Low FODMAP diets.
  2. Remove chicken from packaging, discarding any giblets, and place in a large container (8 qt stockpot recommended).
  3. Carefully pour brine mixture over chicken until covered. If you do not have enough brine, use 1/4 cup of salt and 1/8 c sugar/honey for every 1 quart of water. Return to fridge and chill for several hours.
  4. When ready to cook, remove chicken and pat dry with paper towels. Discard brine.
  5. Squeeze the juice of 1 lemon into a bowl and set aside.
  6. Stuff the thyme, sage, and squeezed-out lemon rind into the cavity of the chicken.
  7. Add oil to Instant Pot and select SAUTE. Heat oil in IP until shimmery.
  8. Place chicken (stuffed with lemon, thyme, and sage) into Instant Pot, breast side down. Cook 5 minutes. You may use a splatter screen to protect against oil splatters, but do NOT use the IP lid.
  9. After 5 minutes, cancel SAUTE.
  10. Carefully flip the chicken so that the breast side is up. Add 1 cup of water, remaining lemon juice, 1 tsp salt, and garlic (omit the garlic for Low FODMAP diet)
  11. Check the sealing ring, attach lid, and close steam vent.
  12. Select MANUAL for 25 minutes (30 minutes if chicken is larger than 5 pounds).
  13. After program is complete, allow pressure to release naturally.
  14. Take temperature of chicken. It should be above 180F. If too low, simply replace and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
  15. If fully cooked, let stand for 5 minutes before carving.
  16. After cooking, strain your broth. You can keep it thin (like an au jus) or select SAUTE and add 1 TB of arrowroot powder to help thicken into a light gravy. The broth is flavorful -- don't throw it away!
Recipe Notes

When you are sautéing, grease may splatter. I recommend using a splatter screen so that steam can escape (but splattering oil does not). Make sure it is larger than 9" like this screen! Don't use your IP lid because it can mess with the sauté function.

Low FODMAP instructions: Be sure to use sugar in the brine and omit the garlic cloves. I promise your meat will still have wonderful flavor! 🙂

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Don't settle for bland when cooking whole chicken. My two secrets -- brining and using the Instant Pot -- will create a moist and flavorful dinner!

2 Comments

  1. What size Instapot do you own? Will the chicken fit ok in it? I tried to put a large frozen roast in mine but a frozen one would fit. I have the 6qt.

    • Bethany Wright

      January 18, 2017 at 7:37 pm

      Leeanne – I use a 6 quart Instant Pot. I’ve cooked up to a 5-1/2 pound chicken just fine! Frozen gets tricky because of the shape. Some people buy a second IP liner in order to freeze their birds in the round Instant Pot shape that they want.

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