Best Ever Buttermilk Poultry Brine

I hate to do two chicken posts in a row but a reader reached out to me after my Super Bowl grilling ideas post asking about using buttermilk as a brine instead of beer. So, I decided to answer that question here.

Buttermilk brining is often associated with Southern-style fried chicken. That flavor boast can be used with other cooking methods such as grilled and smoked chicken and other poultry. such as duck, quail, and even turkey. The great thing about this recipe/method is that you can use it with a whole bird or pieces. The idea is to use a delicate brine to add flavor while helping to keep the meat juicy while grilling, smoking, frying, or even tossing in your over.

But, we all know that charcoal and wood chips can’t be beat. So why not combine a buttermilk brine with your next chicken grilling session?

What is Buttermilk… Actually?


Back in the day, and still in some cultures, “buttermilk” was the liquid left in the churn after churning a whole bunch of butter! It often had bits of butter left in the mix… aka buttermilk. The kind purchased at your local grocery store is different as it’s a prepared product made from a process that is very similar to making yogurt using low-fat or skim milk.

Toss in some bacteria, add a fermenting process, etc, etc, and you have the “cultured buttermilk” found in the dairy section. The end result, from either method, is a high level of lactic acid which does wonders in the world of baking and when used as a brine.

Fun fact, buttermilk is often lower in fat than regular milk as it’s made from skim or low-fat milk. And I hate to skim over, pun intended, the full details about buttermilk but there’s too much information on buttermilk and cultured buttermilk to list here. We have grilling to get to!

Kent’s Buttermilk Brine for Chicken / Poultry

This is pretty straightforward – double as needed depending on the amount of chicken you are cooking. The recipe below will brine 4-5 chicken breasts.


  • 2 cups cultured buttermilk (aka – storebought)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • Dashes of garlic powder
  • Dashes of onion powder
  • splash of hot sauce if desired.

Combine everything in a bowl, add the chicken, cover, and place in the refrigerator for 2-4 hours. Remove chicken from brine, discard brine, and grill the chicken as you normally would using your desired seasonings and sauces. Enjoy!

Author Bio: Kent Whitaker, also known as “The Deck Chef,” is an award-winning culinary writer and cookbook author. He’s also penned Young Reader, NASCAR and History titles. The former winner of the Emeril Live Food Network Barbecue Contest also covers football, motorsports, and bass fishing. Kent currently lives in East Tennessee with his wife, son, and a couple of dogs that love when he fires up the smoker or grill. You can reach out to Kent at, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @thekentwhitaker.


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