How Long To Marinate Chicken In Buttermilk 

Buttermilk Fried Chicken Drumsticks

Whether you are making buttermilk fried chicken or throwing your buttermilk marinated chicken on your natural gas grill or in the oven, buttermilk and chicken go hand in hand. However, have you ever considered why chicken is marinated in buttermilk? More importantly, how long do you marinate chicken in buttermilk?

What Does Marinating Chicken In Buttermilk Do?

While many people eat buttermilk fried chicken, most are unaware of why chicken is marinated in buttermilk. Buttermilk is an acidic ingredient. Therefore, buttermilk tenderizes buttermilk chicken. 

Like vinegar and lemon juice marinades, buttermilk breaks down the chicken’s protein strands, making the meat nice and tender and allowing the marinade’s flavor to penetrate the meat.

Buttermilk is also used to give fried chicken a crispy, crunchy coating. 

How Long To Marinate Chicken In Buttermilk?

The amount of time to marinate chicken in buttermilk varies. You should marinate chicken in buttermilk for at least 4 hours.

However, buttermilk needs time to do its thing. So, I’d recommend marinating your chicken in buttermilk a little longer than this.

Most people recommend marinating chicken in buttermilk for up to 24 hours. However, 12 hours does the trick just fine. 

I know what you’re thinking, isn’t buttermilk an acid. You are only supposed to marinate chicken in acidic ingredients for 5-6 minutes to get the best flavor and texture. However, buttermilk is different, so the rules for marinating chicken will change slightly.

A marinade needs time to do its job. Buttermilk contains acidic probiotic bacteria. Compared to other acidic ingredients like lime juice, buttermilk moves at a snail’s pace. It is not fast-acting, so it needs more time to tenderize the proteins of the chicken.

Can You Marinate Chicken In Buttermilk Too Long?

Yes, you can marinate chicken in buttermilk in chicken too long. The maximum time you can marinate chicken in buttermilk is 48 hours. However, some chicken experts would say that marinating chicken in buttermilk is pushing it.

Unlike other acidic marinades, buttermilk will not cause the chicken to become mushy. If the chicken sits in the buttermilk for too long, it may develop a stringy, chalk-like texture. It will ruin the chicken’s texture, making it much less satisfying to eat.

Furthermore, raw chicken only lasts in the fridge for 2 days. So, you should cook the chicken after 48 hours. If your dinner or lunch plans change, you can cook the chicken and store it in the fridge or freezer for another day.

Nevertheless, you should use your buttermilk-marinated chicken within 24 hours. The chicken will be fine if it sits in the fridge for another day. However, using it within 24 hours will provide the best results.

How To Marinate Buttermilk Marinade

All of this talk about how long to marinate chicken in buttermilk is bound to make you crave buttermilk-marinated chicken. Here’s how to make a quick buttermilk marinade.

Since the base of the marinade is buttermilk, you will need 1- 1 1/2 cups of quality buttermilk. The seasoning you use for the marinade can vary depending on your preference.

You can add salt, pepper, smoked paprika, mustard powder, cayenne pepper, and so many other seasonings. You can also add a little lime juice or lemon juice to give the chicken a bright, zesty flavor.

You can use minced garlic. However, it may be best to use garlic paste if you are frying the chicken. Garlic can burn easily, and no one likes the flavor of burnt garlic.

Hot sauce like sriracha or chili powder can jazz up your buttermilk marinade by giving it a mildly spicy flavor.

Can You Reuse Buttermilk Marinade?

Absolutely not. Never reuse buttermilk marinade. Raw chicken contains harmful bacteria, including Salmonella, Campylobacter, Clostridium perfringens, and so many other types of bacteria.

Reusing the buttermilk chicken will be like adding gasoline to your food. It will expose you and anyone who consumes the chicken to food poisoning.

Symptoms of food poisoning include abdominal cramps, nausea, tiredness, vomiting, aches, chills, and diarrhea. Although symptoms are usually mild, food poisoning symptoms can become severe and life-threatening.

Furthermore, food poisoning can affect some people more than others. For example, the elderly, pregnant women, children under 5, or anyone with a compromised immune are at greater risk for developing food poisoning.

Usually, you would be able to heat the marinade on the stove until it holds a steady temperature of 165°F for at least 1 minute. However, buttermilk has a low-fat, high protein profile.

Therefore, heating buttermilk will cause it to curdle. Essentially the milk solids and whey will separate, leaving you with a nasty liquid-like mess. 

In contrast, most chefs do not recommend reusing buttermilk because it loses its flavor after a while. So, reusing it will be a waste of time as it will add no flavor to the chicken.

Can You Freeze Buttermilk Marinated Chicken?

Buttermilk freezes really well. So, yes, you can freeze buttermilk marinated in chicken.

Marinade your chicken in buttermilk for 4-24 hours, then place it into a ziplock bag. Before sealing the bag, press the excess air out of the buttermilk chicken. 

You can also place the buttermilk chicken into vacuum sealer bags and use a vacuum sealer to seal the chicken in the bag. Label the buttermilk chicken with today’s date so you don’t have to guess when the chicken was frozen. Place the buttermilk chicken into the freezer, and that’s it.

The buttermilk chicken will last in the freezer for 3-6 months. Remove it from the freezer when you are ready to cook your buttermilk chicken. Place the buttermilk chicken into a container, place it into the fridge, and let it thaw overnight. Make sure you place the buttermilk chicken on a shelf by itself to avoid cross-contamination.

Do not thaw the buttermilk chicken at room temperature. By the time it thaws, the chicken will be filled with so many bacteria that it will be unsafe to eat.

Final Thoughts

Buttermilk and chicken go together like fried chicken and French fries. It tenderizes the chicken and makes it taste amazing. But if you marinate your chicken in buttermilk too long, it can develop a stringy texture. So do not marinate your chicken for more than 12-24 hours.

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