Salt crusted chicken is a technique of encasing a chicken in a salt crust before baking. The salt crust seals in flavor and juices so the chicken is perfectly tender and juicy when it’s done. It’s easy to do and a great activity for kids to help with in the kitchen!
Let’s be honest. This salt crusted chicken is not one of the prettiest things you’ll ever cook. But what it lacks in beauty, it makes up for in taste, tenderness, and fun.
I first heard of this cooking method while I was standing in line to pick up fish through our CSF (that’s Community Supported Fishery.) One of the guys in line behind us started talking about how he doesn’t have them filet the fish when he picks it up – instead, he takes it home whole, makes some ‘wet sand’ with salt, piles it on to cover the whole thing, and bakes it for 25 minutes for each inch of thickness.
I thought it sounded like a crazy kitchen experiment…so of course I had to try it. I did it with a fish first, and you can see the salt baked fish method here.
Step 1: Spatchcock your chicken
If you’re not familiar with how to spatchcock a chicken, it’s honestly so easy. You take out the giblets, then flip the chicken over, grab a pair of kitchen shears (I use these, recommended by NomNomPaleo and totally worth it!), and cut the backbone out.
If you need some detailed step-by-step instructions for your first go at it, this NomNomPaleo post will tell you how!
This is what a fully spatchcocked chicken looks like:
Step 2: Tuck the wings
Once you’ve gotten it spatchcocked, make sure you grab the wings and tuck them back underneath the breasts.
Step 3: Make your salt crust mixture.
Next, you’re going to make your wet sand. This is literally just salt and water.
You may need to adjust your ratios – just add the water a bit at a time until you have the wet sand consistency!
This was 6 cups of salt and 1 1/2 cups of water:
Step 4: Salt crust your chicken
Lastly, you just take that big bowl of salt and dump it out on top of the chicken.
Pat it down tight so everything is covered – remember, you’re making a “crust.” Try to get it so that you can’t see anything except the shape of something resembling a chicken covered in salt.
This is a super-fun activity for kids, too – just tell them to bury the chicken!
(See the water starting to pool on the sides? That happens quick, so try to work fast when building your “sand castle.”)
You’re going to bake the salt crusted chicken for awhile. I know it seems like it should be super tough, but it won’t be. It’ll be nice and tender.
The salt crust will crack a bit, and the water that pooled on the edges will brown up the salt and cook into a harder crust – that’s ok. When you touch the salt, you’ll find that it’s no longer like sand, and instead is hard as a rock.
Now here’s where the “not pretty but super fun” part comes in – you have to break through that salt!
Grab a kitchen mallet, or a knife if you prefer to pry it open through a crack, and start pulling on that salt crust. Eventually, most of it will come off in one big chunk.
Also, your chicken boob skin will probably stick to it. Sorry. I’m a huge fan of crispy chicken skin, but this just isn’t one of those recipes. The skin is what keeps the meat from getting super salty while it’s cooking – it acts as a barrier, which is exactly what you want.
If you’re doing this with kids, give them a mallet and have them smash open their salt “sand castle” that they built earlier. So much fun!
Here’s what mine looked like when I broke it open:
Yeah, so, like I said – not super pretty, and chicken boob skin stuck to the salt. BUT.
But, this salt crusted chicken is some of the most tender and juicy chicken you’ve ever had. For the salt that gets stuck in the cracks, just use a pastry brush to brush that away, or cut the chicken up into pieces and peel the skin off.
- 1 five pound chicken
- 6 cups kosher salt
- 1 1/2 cups water
- Preheat the oven to 400° and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, combine the salt and water and stir until you have "wet sand." Set aside.
- Using a sharp pair of kitchen shears, cut the backbone out of the chicken. (This is called "Spatchcocking" and allows the chicken to cook more evenly.)
- Spread a small amount (1-2 handfuls) out on the parchment paper, and place the chicken on top, laying flat.
- Pile the rest of the salt mixture on top. Pat it down like you're building a sandcastle, making sure it's completely coated, there are no holes, and no spots of skin peeking through. You're trying to achieve an even coating.
- Bake in the oven for 1 hour and 30 minutes.
- Remove from oven, and using a knife or mallet, break open the 'crust' the salt has formed over the chicken and discard. Use a pastry brush to brush off any loose salt.
- Peel the skin off the chicken to reveal the juicy, tender, and perfectly cooked meat underneath. The skin will be very salty, but the meat underneath will not be.
- Serve immediately.
Nutritional information is calculated automatically and assumes all ingredients are being consumed. As you are not going to consume 6 cups of salt, this recipe's nutrition info is not accurate. Please double-check nutrition info if important!
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 servings Serving Size: 1 serving
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 1247Total Fat: 74gSaturated Fat: 21gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 46gCholesterol: 533mgSodium: 170166mgCarbohydrates: 0gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 136g