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Citrus Brined Chicken for Grilling in the Winter

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Our citrus brined chicken leg quarters are prepared with oranges, lemons, and limes. It’s a flavorful and juicy chicken recipe, perfect for smoking or grilling in the winter, and the ultimate remedy for cold weather days!

We’ve been feeling the cold weather blues lately! Therefore, we decided to bring some serious sunshine to our smoker with a citrus brined chicken leg quarters recipe. It’s perfect for smoking or grilling in the winter!

We used a mix of orange, lemon, and lime to create a winter citrus brine. These fruits are at their sweetest and juiciest right now (November to March). So bundle up and get ready to fire up your smoker or grill!

Tips for Grilling in the Winter

Winter is here, but if you’re like Marrekus, then you know that every season is smoking and grilling season! Here are some tips to keep your winter grilling game strong.

  • Let your smoker or grill warm up longer than usual. It may need some extra time to get hot when it’s cold outside!
  • Protect your grill from the winter elements by investing in a good quality cover. It shields against snow, sleet, and rain, helping your grill stay in top-notch condition.
  • Try to keep it closed! Every time you open the lid, you’re letting out heat. Monitor your food using a wireless grill thermometer, like this MEATER, and only open the lid when necessary. This helps maintain a consistent cooking temperature.
  • Embrace winter flavors! Experiment with smoky woods like apple or cherry, and consider incorporating winter citrus brines and marinades, or festive spices.

Winter Citrus Ideas

These winter citrus fruits are in season from November to March and are perfect for smoking and grilling in the winter. You can make a winter citrus brine, marinades, grill the fruit, or use the juice for added flavor.

  • Oranges: Squeeze some fresh orange juice into marinades or use orange zest to brighten up your rubs. Grilled orange slices also make a fantastic side dish or a sweet topping for desserts.
  • Grapefruit: Slice them in half, sprinkle with a touch of sugar, and throw them on the grill for a caramelized treat. The smoky flavor balances the citrusy punch, making them an excellent companion to grilled fish or chicken.
  • Clementine: Mix the juice with soy sauce, garlic, and ginger for a delicious marinade. It works wonders on shrimp or chicken.
  • Lemons: Grill halved lemons and squeeze them over your grilled veggies or seafood for a burst of freshness.

To Brine or Not to Brine

People often ask, when to brine or not to brine. Here are some tips to help you determine when it’s a good idea and when you should skip it.

When to Brine

  • Lean Cuts: When you’re cooking leaner cuts of meat, brining helps these cuts stay juicy and succulent during grilling, preventing them from drying out.
  • Longer Cook Times: For recipes that involve longer cooking times, brining helps prevent it from drying out.
  • Enhancing Flavor: When you’re looking to infuse extra flavor, brines allow the flavors to penetrate the meat. Experiment with herbs, spices, and aromatics!
  • Frying or Smoking: If you’re planning to fry or smoke your meat, like these lemon pepper chicken wings or Old Bay hot honey wings, a brine can help! It adds an extra layer of moisture, ensuring your chicken is crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. For smoked chicken, the brine helps lock in that smoky flavor.
  • Grilling: Specifically, when grilling chicken breasts, which tend to be more prone to drying out, a quick brine before grilling can make all the difference in keeping them juicy and flavorful.

When Not to Brine

  • Shorter Cook Times: For quick-cooking cuts or recipes with shorter grilling times, skipping the brine won’t compromise the tenderness.
  • Last-Minute Grilling: When you’re in a hurry or just decided to grill chicken on a whim, skipping the brine won’t ruin the recipe.

Ingredients: Citrus Brine for Chicken

  • Water
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Oranges
  • Limes
  • Lemon
  • Red onion
  • Garlic
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Worcestershire sauce 
  • Soy sauce

Directions: Citrus Brined Chicken

  1. In a large pot, combine water, kosher salt, raw sugar, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and soy sauce. Stir the mixture well until the salt and sugar are fully dissolved.
  2. Squeeze the juice from the halved oranges, limes, and lemon into the brine mixture. Drop the citrus halves into the pot as well. Add the chopped red onion and smashed garlic cloves.
  3. Place the pot on the stove over medium heat. Warm the mixture, stirring occasionally, until it reaches a gentle simmer. This helps to infuse the flavors and ensure all ingredients are well incorporated.
  4. Once the mixture has simmered for a few minutes, turn off the heat and let the brine cool to room temperature.
  5. Place chicken leg quarters in a large container. Once the brine has cooled, pour it over the chicken, ensuring that it’s fully submerged. If needed, add additional water to cover.
  6. Seal the container and put it in the refrigerator. Let chicken brine for 2 to 4 hours (see FAQ below for recommended time when using other cuts).
  7. After the brining time is complete, remove chicken leg quarters from the brine. Rinse under cold running water to remove excess salt from the surface.
  8. Pat dry with paper towels before adding any seasonings.

Recipe for Grilled Chicken Leg Quarters

  1. Generously sprinkle citrus brined chicken leg quarters (or breast, drumsticks, etc.) with seasonings.
  2. Preheat your smoker or grill to medium-high heat. Aim for a temperature of around 375-400°F (190-200°C).
  3. Lightly brush the grill grates with olive oil to prevent sticking and achieve beautiful grill marks.
  4. Place chicken leg quarters on the preheated grill. Cook until the internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C) in the thickest part of the meat. Flip halfway through the grilling process.
  5. Once chicken reaches the desired internal temperature, remove from the grill and let it rest for a few minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh citrus slices for a burst of freshness. 

Chicken Grilling Times

  • Chicken Leg Quarters: 15-20 minutes per side
  • Chicken Breasts: 6-8 minutes per side
  • Chicken Thighs and Drumsticks: 20-30 minutes, flipping occasionally
  • Whole Chicken: 15-20 minutes per pound

The internal temperature in the thickest part of the meat should be 165°F (74°C).

FAQ

How long should I brine chicken?

The brining time depends on the cut of chicken. We recommend the following:
Chicken Leg Quarters: 2-4 hours
Whole Chicken: 4-12 hours
Chicken Breasts: 1-2 hours
Chicken Thighs or Drumsticks: 2-4 hours

What is the best grilling temp for chicken?

The best grilling temperature for chicken generally falls in the range of 375°F to 400°F (190°C to 204°C).

Can I roast citrus brined chicken instead of grilling?

Yes! Bake in the oven at 375°F (190°C) until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C).

Print
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Citrus Brined Chicken for Grilling in the Winter

  • Author: cooks with soul
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Brine: 2 hours
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 hours 45 minutes (including brine)
  • Yield: 8 servings 1x

Description

Our citrus brined chicken is prepared with oranges, lemons, and limes. It’s a flavorful and juicy chicken recipe, perfect for smoking or grilling in the winter, and the ultimate remedy for cold weather days! 


Ingredients

Scale
  • 45 pounds chicken

Citrus Brine for Chicken

  • 4 quarts water
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup raw sugar
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 4 oranges, halved
  • 2 limes, halved
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 1 large red onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed

Chicken Seasoning

  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground white pepper
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon of Cajun seasoning


Instructions

  1. In a large pot, combine water, kosher salt, raw sugar, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and soy sauce. Stir the mixture well until the salt and sugar are fully dissolved.
  2. Squeeze the juice from the halved oranges, limes, and lemon into the brine mixture. Drop the citrus halves into the pot as well. Add chopped red onion and smashed garlic cloves.
  3. Place the pot on the stove over medium heat. Warm the mixture, stirring occasionally, until it reaches a gentle simmer. This helps to infuse the flavors and ensure all ingredients are well incorporated.
  4. Once the mixture has simmered for a few minutes, turn off the heat and let the brine cool to room temperature.
  5. Place chicken pieces in a large container. Once the brine has cooled, pour it over chicken, ensuring that it is fully submerged. If needed, add additional water to cover entirely.
  6. Seal the container and put it in the refrigerator. Let it brine for the recommended time, depending on the cut. See Notes
  7. After brining time is complete, remove chicken from the brine. Rinse under cold running water to remove excess salt from the surface and pat dry with paper towels.

Grilling Instructions:

  1. Mix chicken seasoning ingredients in a small bowl, then generously sprinkle citrus brined chicken with the seasoning blend.
  2. Preheat your grill to medium-high heat. Aim for a temperature of around 375-400°F (190-200°C).
  3. Lightly brush the grill grates with olive oil to prevent sticking and achieve beautiful grill marks.
  4. Place chicken on the preheated grill. Cook until the internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C) in the thickest part of the meat. Flip halfway through the grilling process.
  5. Once chicken reaches the desired internal temperature, remove from the grill and let it rest for a few minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh citrus slices for a burst of freshness. 

Notes

The brining time depends on the cut of chicken. We recommend the following:
Chicken Leg Quarters: 2-4 hours
Whole Chicken: 4-12 hours
Chicken Breasts: 1-2 hours
Chicken Thighs or Drumsticks: 2-4 hours

Keywords: citrus brined chicken, grilling in the winter, winter citrus

3 Comments

    1. Hi! Yes, you can definitely bake these chicken thighs in the oven. Preheat your oven to 400 F and roast in oven for 30 – 40 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches at least 165 F. Hope this helps!

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