Last Updated: September 14, 2022

How Long Can You Marinate Chicken?

how long can you marinate chicken

Depending on the kind of marinade you are using and how you are marinating it, chicken can be marinated for anywhere between 1 hour – and 48 hours. Chicken is classified as white meat, and like most white meats, it doesn’t require too long to marinate. Today I shall teach you about marination times for different marinades and more!

How Long Should You Marinate Chicken?

Like I just said, white meat or any meat shouldn’t be marinated for too long. You might be wondering why that is. Well, a common misconception is that the longer you marinate the meat, the better it gets. While that statement isn’t completely wrong, it’s not completely right either. You see, meats tend to get tough and often start disintegrating when they are left to marinate for too long.

Note: When you use thick marinades, it requires less time to marinate. Similarly, thinner and runny marinades take more time to marinate. 

According to the USDA, chicken can be left to marinate in the fridge for 48 hours. After that, it is best not to eat that chicken. 2 days should be the maximum amount of time and no more. Always follow what the recipe is telling you.

As a general rule of thumb, I recommend you follow this rule:

Chicken CutsMaximum Time
Whole Chicken48 hours
Wings24 hours
Thighs24 hours
Drumsticks12 hours
Breasts24 hours
Tenders12 hours

This should be a baseline for marinating time. There are lots of factors to consider when marinating. Let us discuss that now.

What Things to Consider When Marinating the Meat?

There are many things to consider when marinating that will determine its marination duration.

  • Type of marinade: Every marinade has different ingredients. Usually, acidic ingredients and sauces take less time to marinate.
  • Refrigerated or Unrefrigerated: If you plan on marinating in the refrigerator, then you can marinate for a longer duration, which we don’t suggest you do.
  • Cuts of meat: Usually, smaller cuts take less time as the marinade can easily penetrate the meat.
  • Safety: Always wash your hands, and yes, all the utensils you use, as bacteria can easily grow on them.
  • Utensils: Depending on what the marinade is, you need to select the marinating utensils.

Tips : Marinating the meat in the refrigerator is always best as it’ll reduce the risk of spoiling. It is often a good idea to use deep containers for marinades. Ziplock bags are a good choice as you can throw them away after you use them, saving you cleaning time. You can freeze the zip lock bag directly with the marinade and chicken inside it in the freezer for future use.

Caution :

Do not use aluminum foil to marinate meat because the metal may react with the marinade. Do not use leftover marinades and throw them away.

How to Tell If the Marinated Chicken Has Gone Bad?

Marinated chicken can easily go bad, so if you see any of these signs, you should discard the chicken immediately.

  • The marinade is bubbling.
  • The mixture has gone slimy.
  • Funny smell.
  • Discoloration of the meat, spoiled meat has a greyish color.

What to Marinate Chicken with?

Chicken can be marinated in a plethora of ingredients. Some common ones are:

  • Oils: Olive oil, peanut oil, mustard oil, etc.
  • Herbs: Cilantro, coriander, thyme, rosemary, etc.
  • Spice: Garlic, ginger, onions, peppers, etc.,
  • Sauce: Worcestershire sauce, BBQ sauce, Soya sauce, Chilli sauce, etc.
  • Liquids: Orange juice, pomegranate juice, etc.
  • Acids: Lemon juice, vinegar, etc.
  • Dairy: Milk, buttermilk, yogurt, etc.
  • Wine: Red wine, White wine, etc.,
  • Seasonings: Salt, pepper, jerk seasoning, peri seasoning, etc.

Brining and marinating chicken are often interchanged, but the processes are very different. You see, the main reason for marinating is to enhance the flavor. While bringing does enhance flavor when herbs and spices are added to it, the main objective of bringing meats is to make them juicy after cooking.

How to Store Marinated Chicken?

Simply store any marinated chicken by first portioning them. Portion them according to your requirements. Next, pour them into ziplock bags and get out as much air as possible. Then simply place them in the freezer and allow them to freeze. They will stay good for an indefinite amount of time.

When you want to eat them, let them thaw in the refrigerator and then reach room temperature. After that, you can cook them.

Some FAQ

How long should you marinate chicken in buttermilk?

Anywhere between 12-48 hours.

How long does it take to marinate chicken?

Depending on the ingredients, chicken, and other factors, it is somewhere between 1-48 hours.

How long can seasoned chicken sit in the fridge?

Up to 2 days at max.

Can I freeze marinated chicken and store them?

Yes, you definitely can.

Does skin-on take more than skin-off chicken?

Yes, usually, you should let them sit a bit longer if they are skin-on chicken.

Does cutting the chicken into small pieces reduce marinating time?

Yes, as the marinade can easily penetrate the meat.

To Conclude

There is no perfect marinade out there. The perfect marinade is whatever you like, and you should always experiment with food and play around with ingredients to see what you like. I personally like Worcestershire sauce + lemon/orange juice + salt + pepper, and a dash of chili powder! Try this out and let me know. Also, don’t forget to share your marinade recipe with me!

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