Recipe: Sweet Tea Brined Chicken for National Iced Tea Month

Chef Jill joins WCNC/NBC Charlotte, Charlotte Today Show, to talk all things sweet tea + chicken! June is “National Iced Tea Month” and a glorious time to enjoy a fresh, icy- cold glass for the South’s favorite beverage. So, while we may enjoy a glass, we can also use this delicious beverage in a marinate for chicken that when grilled, becomes a juicy and tasty addition to our summer repertoire of dishes.

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Sweet Tea Brined Chicken

Chef Jill Aker-Ray


  • 2 family-size tea bags

  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

  • 1/4 cup kosher salt

  • 1 small sweet onion, thinly sliced

  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced

  • 3 garlic cloves, halved

  • 2 (6-inch) fresh rosemary or thyme sprigs 

  • 1 tablespoon freshly cracked pepper

  • 2 cups ice cubes

  • 1 (3 1/2-to 4-lb.) cut-up whole chicken or 3 lbs cut pieces (bone-in and skin-on)


1. Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a 3-qt. heavy saucepan; add tea bags. Remove from heat; cover and steep 10 minutes

2. Discard tea bags. Stir in sugar and next 6 ingredients, stirring until sugar dissolves. Cool completely (about 45 minutes); stir in ice. (Mixture should be cold before adding chicken.)

3. Place tea mixture and chicken in a large zip-top plastic freezer bag; seal. Place bag in a shallow baking dish and marinate/chill for 24 hours. Remove chicken from marinade, discarding marinade; pat chicken dry with paper towels.

4. Light one side of grill, heating to 300° to 350° (medium) heat; leave other side unlit. Place chicken, skin side down, over unlit side, and grill, covered with grill lid, 20 minutes. Turn chicken, and grill, covered with grill lid, 20 minutes. Turn chicken, and grill, covered with grill lid, 40 to 50 minutes or until done. Transfer chicken, skin side down, to lit side of grill, and grill 2 to 3 minutes or until skin is crispy. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.


(Alternative on hot days or when outside grilling is not an option: 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place pieces of marinated chicken in a large sprayed or buttered baking dish. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove from oven. Heat a cast iron or grill pan to medium high heat, add canola oil and grill/sear chicken until skin is golden brown and crispy!)

*Serve with your favorite fresh summer produce from the farmer’s market or your garden!*