That Zest Life

Dry Brine Chicken – Spatchcocked & Smoked

A few years ago I discovered how easy (and cheap) it is to cook a chicken whole when you remove the spine. At Costco you can get 2 full chickens for around $13! The legs would be a couple of meals for me and then I’d use the breasts for chicken salad for the rest of the week. I cooked this meal weekly for years but got out of the habit recently. This week I scrolled across Serious Kitchen’s article on Dry Brining and I was intrigued. I’ve always wanted to try to brine a bird, but it honestly just seems like such a pain when I’m perfectly happy with the results as they are! Ultimately it’s worth the effort. This dry brine chicken had crispy skin and the meat fell off the bone.

smoked dry brine chicken on a traeger with thyme and mustard spatchcocked
After salting

How to Dry Brine

The difference between a normal brine and a dry brine is that a normal brine is a wet brine. You basically make a salty bath and let the chicken sit in the water for a day. This loosens up the meat fibers of the chicken and makes it moister. Dry brining is just putting the salt directly on the bird and allowing it to work its magic more directly. Check out the article for a more scientific explanation, but that’s the gist. Dry brining seemed way more achievable so I gave it a shot.

smoked dry brine chicken on a traeger with thyme and mustard spatchcocked
After rub

First thing you do is spatchcock the bird. This might seem intimidating, but spatchcocking a chicken is honestly SO easy when you give it a shot. First, flip the bird over and then use a pair of scissors to cut down each side of the spine. Once you’ve got the spine out, flip the bird back over and press down until it flattens. You can use regular scissors, but I highly recommend getting a pair of chicken shears. These are my favorite! You will get a clean cut without much grip strength.

For the brine, mix together the salt and baking powder. Take a pinch of the mixture and, holding your hands 10 inches above the bird, let out an even stream of salt onto the bird. Once you’ve coated the bird well let it rest for 12-24 hours in the fridge uncovered. You can rinse the bird off after it’s sat or you can leave the salt on. It will make your bird saltier so it’s up to you!

If you want to mix up the spices you can honestly do any that you like! Chili Lime, Thyme Mustard, and Jamaican Jerk are some of my favorites to use. The one listed here is for Thyme Mustard and imparts a really great chicken flavor that will go with almost any sides you’re serving.

smoked dry brine chicken on a traeger with thyme and mustard spatchcocked

To Smoke or to Bake

Adam has a Traeger and I like to put it to work whenever I can so I smoked this chicken. If you don’t have access to one (or don’t like smoked chicken), just use the oven! Besides adding smoke flavor, the brine adds most of the moisture to this dry brined chicken and relies less on the smoker than normal. Just preheat the oven to 400 and roast for 45 minutes, just like in the smoker.

I will definitely dry brine chicken for all of my future birds, smoked or baked. This was one of the moistest and most flavorful birds I have had in a long time. Plus it was super easy! Adam and I were out late last night with friends, plus I spent the day painting my table blue. I was really happy that all I needed to do was pop the bird in the oven to get lunch on the table.

smoked dry brine chicken on a traeger with thyme and mustard spatchcocked

I can’t wait for you to try this! Let me know what you think and what spices you used. I’d love to see your pictures so tag me @thatzestlife!

All of these photos are from an iPhone 11. I was at Adam’s house for the weekend and forgot the memory card to my camera! It just goes to show you that with just a little photo knowledge you can have really beautiful food photos. Just put your food by a natural light source like a window. Diffused light is best for food so use a sheer curtain or something similar. It’s best on overcast days because blue light from the sun causes your food to look blue. Try it out next time you want to post to Instagram!

Dry Brined Chicken – Spatchcocked and Smoked

Everyone loves a really juicy chicken with crispy skin. Dry brining is much easier than wet brining and yields a juicy well-seasoned bird that can be finished in the oven or in the smoker.
Prep Time1 d 30 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: smoked chicken, spatchcock chicken, traeger chicken, whole chicken
Servings: 4 servings


  • Smoker optional


  • 1 whole chicken

For the Dry Brine

  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • ¼ cup salt

For the Rub

  • dried thyme
  • ground mustard
  • ground onion powder
  • ground garlic powder
  • ground sage
  • ¼ cup olive oil


  • About 24 hours before you want to cook the bird, combine salt and baking powder in a small bowl. Remove the spine from the chicken and set aside. Taking a pinch of salt at a time, hold your hands about 6 inches above the bird and liberally apply to the entire bird, on all sides. Rub into the chicken. Refrigerate uncovered for up to 2 days, a minimum of 24 hours.
  • When you're ready to cook, either preheat the Traeger or the oven to 400 degrees. Cooking times should not vary dramatically between the two.
  • Remove the chicken and on a cutting board, apply liberal amounts of all the seasonings listed under "Rub". The quantity depends on the size of the bird, but you want a lot of the seasonings on the bird. Apply under skin as well if you are able. Use olive oil liberally to help distribute the seasonings.
  • Cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the internal temperature of the bird reaches 160 for the breasts and 165 for the thighs.
  • Let rest for 10 minutes and then carve and serve!


If you are sensitive to salt, you can wipe off the salt mixture before applying the rub. 

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