Marinades are a treasure trove of flavor, and chicken is the perfect candidate for marinating. However, how long should you marinate chicken?
What happens when you marinate chicken too long? To understand how long to marinate chicken, you must know what a marinade it.
- What Is a Marinade?
- Can You Marinate Chicken Too Long?
- How Long Can You Marinate Chicken?
- What Can You Marinate Chicken With?
- How Long Can You Marinate Chicken in Lemon or Lime Juice?
- How Long Can You Marinate Chicken in Yogurt?
- How Long Can You Marinate Chicken in Buttermilk?
- How Long Can You Marinate Chicken in the Fridge?
- Final Thoughts
What Is a Marinade?
A marinade is a wet solution used to drench foods, most often meats, prior to cooking.
The main purposes of marinades are to add flavor to and tenderize foods.
This is accomplished by breaking down the food before it hits the meat.
The breakdown is attributed to acidic ingredients such as vinegar, wine, or fruit juice.
However, the breakdown can also be caused by enzymatic elements in pineapple, papaya, and ginger.
Additionally, it allows the marinade to penetrate the meat, sealing in moisture while it is cooking.
Can You Marinate Chicken Too Long?
In short, yes, you can marinate chicken too long. Chicken is a very forgiving cut of meat.
But when it sits in an acidic marinade for too long, it will become dense and tough.
No one likes tough chicken. Even though chicken breast can be marinated for up to two days, it’s best not to marinate it for that long.
How Long Can You Marinate Chicken?
Generally speaking, chicken can be marinated for up to two days.
However, this time can vary based on the cut of chicken, the size of the chicken, and the type of marinade.
How Long Can You Marinate Chicken Wings?
Chicken wings are most often marinated using acidic ingredients. However, there are several different kinds of marinades for chicken wings.
Honey BBQ, buffalo, chipotle, and honey garlic are a few of the popular marinades.
Chicken wings are relatively smaller than other types of chicken. Thus they should not be marinated for more than 24 hours.
If the marinating time exceeds this period, the marinade will disintegrate the chicken wing tender properties and ruin the quality of the wings.
How Long Can You Marinate Chicken Thighs?
Like chicken wings, chicken thighs are also a relatively small cut of meat. Chicken thighs can be bought boneless or bone-in.
Chicken breasts are very tender. In fact, they are more tender than chicken breast.
This is why you can cook chicken thighs longer than chicken breast and still yield tender, juicy meat.
You should not marinate chicken thighs for prolonged amounts of time. Chicken thighs can absorb a marinade in as little as 15-30 minutes.
Two hours would be the optimal marinating time for chicken thighs.
However, you should not exceed 24 hours unless they will turn into a mushy disaster.
Chicken thighs will disintegrate, especially if the marinade is acidic based.
How Long Can You Marinate Chicken Legs?
Contrary to popular belief, the legs are one of the delicate parts of the chicken.
Therefore, most leg or drumstick recipes do not call for marinating the leg. They are usually breaded or seasoned instead of marinating.
However, this does not mean chicken thighs cannot be marinated. Chicken legs should be marinated for 30 minutes-2 hours but do not exceed 12 hours. I
t will degrade the meat so much that it may fall apart.
How Long Can You Marinate Chicken Breasts?
Chicken breasts are usually seen as a harder cut of meat to prepare. But when it comes to marinades, it’s by far the easiest to marinate.
Most often, chicken breasts are sold boneless.
It is also tougher than the rest of the chicken, making it decreasing the chances of it turning into a pile of mush.
The most important information you need to know about marinating chicken is that some marinades work against chicken breasts.
Some marinades make chicken breast tough, while others tenderize it.
Chicken breast can be marinated for up to 24 hours, but you should aim for a time frame of two hours for the best results.
Acidic-based marinades will cause the chicken breast to get tough if it sits for more than 2-3 hours.
What Can You Marinate Chicken With?
Chicken is very versatile. Thus, it can be marinated with a plethora of flavors.
The most common ingredients include buttermilk, lemon or lime juice, vinegar yogurt, and so much more. The most important factor to remember when it comes to marinating chicken is the time.
How Long Can You Marinate Chicken in Lemon or Lime Juice?
Lemon and lime juice are one of the most acidic ingredients used in marinades.
Nevertheless, they give the chicken a robust, zesty flavor when used with the right seasonings.
But this marinade, though flavorful it can be harsh on chicken if it marinates for extended periods.
Marinate chicken for no more than two hours in citrus-based marinades.
How Long Can You Marinate Chicken in Yogurt?
If you love trying new flavor combinations, a yogurt-based marinade may be best.
Even though it seems quite strange, yogurt pairs well with yogurt.
Yogurt has lactic acid. Although some individuals worry that yogurt will have a bad reaction to chicken, there is cause for concern. Yogurt makes chicken tender and juicy.
Best of all, you can marinate chicken in 15 minutes using Greek yogurt.
You can also let it sit in the fridge for 24 hours. Unlike other marinades, your chicken will not become tough or mushy.
How Long Can You Marinate Chicken in Buttermilk?
Buttermilk is another famous marinating ingredient that’s most often used when frying chicken.
Although buttermilk contains acid, you can marinate chicken for longer periods of time.
While it is not necessary to marinate chicken in buttermilk for hours on end, you have to let the buttermilk do its job.
Marinate your chicken for a minimum of 12 hours.
There is no doubt that buttermilk creates a tender and juicy chicken it should not be marinated for more than 48 hours.
How Long Can You Marinate Chicken in the Fridge?
Marinating chicken in the fridge is the safest method. Plus, this method is faster.
Never allow your chicken to marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes.
The chicken will become and enter the temperature danger zone. This zone ranges from 40°F-140°F.
Marinate your chicken in the fridge for 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.
Now that you know the basics of marinating chicken, you can marinate your chicken freely.
You do not have to worry about your chicken becoming tough or mushy.
You might also be interested in the following:
- How Long to Marinate Beef Jerky
- How Long to Marinate Ribs
- How Long to Marinate Chicken Thighs
- How Long to Marinate Tofu
- How Long to Marinate Flank Steak
- How Long to Marinate Pork Chops
- How Long to Marinate Chicken in Buttermilk
- How Long to Marinate Shrimp
- How Long to Marinate Salmon
- How Long to Marinate Steak
I have been smoking and grilling meat from an early age and enjoy sharing my knowledge and expertise through the hundreds of articles I have written about BBQ. I hope to make everyone’s BBQ journey that little bit easier.