Buttermilk chicken

Quick Look_______________

Ok, I gotta confess -- this is just a generic picture. But, your chicken won't look much worse than this. I took the basic concept of making a saturated brine and soaking the meat in it for a few hours to deliver the right amount of salt. I started with salt water mixture, but after reading many books on the subject, I tried using buttermilk (a proven ingredient in southern cooking). By far, the buttermilk chicken was juicier and had great flavor. The highest complent I received was "WOW, this doesn't even taste like chicken [I normally hate chicken]!"It'd be awesome to prep this the night before and the fire up the grill for a summer BBQ.

Quick note about buttermilk: it only sounds fatty! Buttermilk is the leftover liquid after churning butter. Historically, milk was unpasteurized and allowed to settle to separate the cream. During this time the bacteria would ferment the mik (similar to the process in yogurt) and the result would be thicker, slightly tart, and flavorful. The kind from safeway starts with lowfat 1% milk, so it's not that bad! This is the juiciest chicken I have ever made!
  • Prep time: 20 minutes
  • Cook time: 1 hr
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Labor Intensity: It would be good to have an extra hand.
  • 30 servings, adjust by 1.5x if your group tends to eat multiple servings.


  • 20 lbs Boneless skinless chicken thigh (breast will work too, but I strongly suggest thigh, use fresh chicken, not frozen)[$1.99/lb on sale at Safeway]
  • 1/3 cup salt (you may want to use just 2 tablespoons if already salted- read note below)
  • 2 tablespoons black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Korean red pepper (gotchugaru, but crushed red pepper will work too)
  • 2 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup Italian seasonings (I prefer 1/8c dried basil + 1/8c dried rosemary instead)
  • 2 cups Buttermilk ($2/qt, bottom shelf of milk section at Safeway)
  • 2/3 cup tabasco or other hot sauce (optional)
  • Total: about $42.00


  • Mix seasonings and buttermilk in a bowl. Stir until dissolved.
  • Dip each chicken piece in seasoned buttermilk and place on a large tray. Pour excess buttermilk over the pieces and toss around in the tray to distribute evenly.
  • Put pieces in large ziplock bag and store in fridge. Try to squeeze all the air out before sealing
  • Let it sit for 2 hours (or overnight)
  • Grill or pan fry the meat.

Tom's Tips and Tricks_______________

It could be difficult to get the salt right on this one. One trick that poultry companies do is pre-brine the chicken. The ones from safeway might say something like "up to 15% solution added" in the fine print on the bottom. By soaking it in a salt solution, it absorbs more water. This increases the weight and price (profit). Some are much lower (3-4% solution). The fool proof way is to do a test batch before a meal and then readjust the recipe. One quick way is to fry 1 piece and taste it. If it's too salty, add more sugar-- until sugar is doubled (it mutes the salt in a similar way it takes away the sour taste in lemonade) and mix it around and let it sit for 30 minutes. If not salty enough, add more salt, or reduce the sugar by 1/2.

When you pan fry, it may stick to the pan, don't move it yet or it will tear. Allow it to fry for a little longer and it will come off easily with a nice crisp skin.

Don't add any oil to the pan (if it is non-stick), add very little oil if at all.

You can use chicken breast, but chicken thigh will be much juicier and taste better. I would not recommend using bone-in chicken because it tends to be raw near the bone. If only bone-in is available, you can cut the bone out.

If the meat is still raw when you serve it, microwave it.

If you use frozen chicken, be sure to fully defrost it. There is a lot of water in the form of ice around each piece and you need to pat it dry before soaking it.

[Alternate variation] You can bread the meat with bread crumbs and egg and fry with oil.

[Possible side dish] salad and rice

New look!

I redesigned the site with a new template. Suggestions are welcome.

Faux brine

Here's a technique I developed for our post GLive celebration lunch we had after service at Gracepoint Fellowship Church. I have a similar technique I also developed specifically for chicken.

For stories about Glive as well as other stories from Gracepoint Fellowship Church, visit www.gracepointstories.org

Short version:

Note: This works well for small pieces of meat. It doesn't work as well for a large roast. This technique really helps for bulk cooking. When making 4 steaks, it may just be easier to measure out the salt and rub it on the meat instead.

Cut meat into serving size pieces. For every lb of meat, mix 3/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp black pepper, 5 tsp water (click here for conversion info). Mix solution until salt is dissolved. Put the meat in a large stock pot or large bucket. Pour solution over the meat and mix it until each piece is coated (imagine salad and dressing). You know it's coated if there is black pepper on the meat. If you find pieces without pepper, you need to mix the meat more. Allow it to sit for about 30 minutes, mix it around again and then put it in ziplock bags (squeeze out all air) and transport to grill or store in fridge. (let it sit for about an hour more if possible)

Don't panic- it really isn't that much solution, but that's ok: it's not really a brine

Long explaination:

How does brining work? Meat in a salty solution absorb the salt into the cell. The concentration inside the cell increases from the salt and osmosis forces water into the cell. The salt helps denature the protein and as the proteins unravel, new crevices form where water can fit. The water holding capacity increases simultaneously as osmosis pulls in more water. The resulting meat is much jucier, and can remain jucy even when fully cooked. In addition, the meat is now seasoned and much more flavorful

Brining is excellent for keeping fully cooked pork and poultry moist. It's generally not needed for beef since you can serve it rare/medium rare. A brine is about 6% salt solution in which 1/10 of the salt is incorporated into the meat over the course of hours. The remaining brine is discarded. There's too much room for error, it's easy to over salt meat by brining too long. It's great for turkey, but this process could be improved given the right circumstances.

If you cut up meat you expose more surface area and allow greater transfer. This allows a short brining time with a high concentration solution. A salt solution is saturated around 20% so that's where we start. By increasing concentration (or reducing water) the meat will absorb all the solution. (Just make sure each piece gets coated with solution) In the end there is no leftover solution to throw away. If there is 100% retention, we can calculate and control how much salt to use and all of it will be incorporated into the meat, allowing us to hit that 1% sweet spot. The ratio of salt : pepper : water is 1 : (1/3) : 6

Once the meat is seasoned, allow it to sit for an hour or two so the salt can distribute evenly within the meat.

Sirloin steak (post glive celebration lunch)

Quick Look_______________

After Gracepoint Live we had a massive BBQ with 650lbs of sirloin steak. With such portions, we needed a quick, easy, and foolproof method to season all the meat. After many tests batches, a method was developed. The result? Juicy meat with perfect flavor.

Check out our intro video for Glive and other videos at www.gracepointvideo.org
  • Prep time: 20-30 minutes
  • Cook time: 1 hr
  • Difficulty: Easy.
  • Labor Intensity: It would be good to have an extra hand.
  • 30 servings, adjust by 1.5x if your group tends to eat multiple servings.


  • 20 lb Top sirloin steak or roast [$2.99/lb on sale at Safeway]
  • 1/3 cup salt
  • 2 tablespoons black pepper
  • 2 cups water
  • Total: about $60.00


  • Cut meat into smaller pieces and put into a large stock pot or bucket (ideally 1 in thick, 2-3 in wide)
  • Mix salt, pepper, and water in a bowl. Stir until dissolved, add a little more water if necessary.
  • Slowly pour solution over meat as you mix it around. Make sure each piece is coated.
  • You can check it by looking for black pepper. If you don't see it on the meat, it means it hasn't come in contact with solution, toss meat until all pieces have pepper on it.
  • Allow it to sit for 45-60 minutes, toss it around once or twice during that time.
  • Store it in ziplock bags and transport it or store in fridge. Try to squeeze all the air out before sealing
  • If you can, allow the meat to sit for a couple hours (or even overnight) so the seasoning can evenly distribute.
  • Grill or pan fry the meat.
  • Cover the meat with foil and allow it to rest 10 minutes before serving

Tom's Tips and Tricks_______________

Letting the meat rest covered for 10 minutes allows it to cool and reabsorb the juice. Cutting it immediately will lead to drier meat. For more info click here.

Just make sure each piece gets solution. If there is any leftover in the end, evenly distribute it among the ziplock bags.

It's not like your typical marinade/brine, it's very little solution (saturated). Don't panic when you see how little solution there is, it's that very reason that this whole process works!

[Possible side dish] salad and rice

salt pt.2

There are many different types of salt out there and it may seem a bit confusing, maybe this will help. If you have any knowledge/experience on this, feel free to leave a comment.
  • Kosher salt: usually doesn't have any additives, cleaner taste, coarse structure, less dense (need more volume to get same amount of salt), dissolves slower/penetrates meat slower because of large structure
  • Table salt: very fine, has anti-caking additives, a bit metallic tasting
  • Sea salt: has natural minerals, light flavor, more expensive (note: not all sea salts are equal, different "impurities" lend different characteristic flavors)

Side note: how could salt be kosher? Kosher salt is called that because of it's large grain structure. It takes longer to dissolve and remains on the surface of meat for a long time. Blood is pulled out of the meat which is important to the koshering process. Because it's slow to dissolve, it's not recommended for baking.