Skip to Content

How Long Can I Marinate Chicken: [Complete Beginner’s Guide]

How Long Can I Marinate Chicken: [Complete Beginner’s Guide]

Marinating your chicken is one of the ideal ways to add flavor and tenderize it for a delicious meal. However, you have to do it right if you have to achieve the desired objectives depending on the type of marinades you want to use. So how long does it take to marinate a chicken for excellent flavor and penetration?

The time it will take to marinate chicken depends on its size. In other words, you will need 4-24 hours to marinate a whole one, 30 -120 minutes to marinate skinless, boneless chicken breasts, 60-120 minutes to marinate skin on, bone-in breast, and 1-6 hours to marinate chicken quarters, bone-in wings, and thighs.

If you are looking forward to cooking a delicious chicken meal for your family or friends and are unsure how to handle the marinades effectively, this article will make the task easier for you.

marinate chicken cook

Types Of Marinades

Since the type of marinades you select will influence the entire process, it is vital to understand the two types of marinades: acidic and enzymatic.

Notably, there are three essential components of a typical marinade; acid, flavoring agent, and oil.

Acidic Marinades

The acidic marinades use natural and mild occurring acids that assist in denaturing the proteins in the chicken that traps moisture. Ingredients such as buttermilk, vinegar, apple juice, yogurt, and wine are common in acidic marinades.

Enzymatic Marinades

Fruits such as pineapple, papaya, kiwi, and ginger are the best examples of ingredients common in enzymatic marinades. The main objective of these marinades is to help tenderize the protein in the meat, breaking down the meat’s connective tissues and muscles.

Dairy-Based Marinades

The daily-based marinades are common in Middle Eastern Cuisine, including yogurt. While they are acidic, the acid in them interacts mildly with the meat compared to other non-dairy acidic marinades.

By examining the different types of marinades, you will conclude that the marinades play two critical roles; they serve as a meat tenderizer and as a flavor enhancer.

Different Flavors Of Marinade

The different marinades are limitless, so you need to ensure that you are clear on the best marinade to use. In most cases, the flavors and types of marinades that you choose highly depend on your personal preferences and what you intend to achieve. Some of the primary examples of marinades include;

  • Red wine
  • Jerk
  • Carne Asada
  • Provencal herb
  • Lemon pepper
  • Teriyaki
  • Mediterranean Marinade
  • Tandoori
  • Barbecue marinade

The Difference Between Brine And Marinade

A brine contains salt and water, and its primary aim is to help the meat hold more moisture during cooking. It also contains flavorings. On the other hand, a marinade’s primary role is to add flavor to your meat. Unlike brine, a marinade does not have to contain salt and water. A marinade can be made up of oils, spices, herbs, and more.

How To Marinate Chicken

There are different ways to marinate a chicken. First, you may want to make your marinade by mixing different ingredients such as lemon juice, salt, olive oil, Dijon mustard, etc. It all depends on the flavor you want to infuse into the chicken. The second option is to use an all-ready marinade. Whether you decide to make your marinade by mixing different ingredients or a readymade marinade, here are the steps to follow;

1. Choose The Chicken Part To Marinate

The first step is deciding on the chicken parts you want to marinate. If you are not marinating a whole bird, you can choose thighs, chicken breasts, thighs, or wings.

2. Wash The Chicken

After deciding on the parts to marinate, the next step is to wash the chicken and ensure that you get rid of any leftover flavors from the packaging. Washing the chicken is essential as it prepares it to absorb the marinade.

3. Place The Raw Chicken In The Marinade

Use a food storage container to put your favorite marinade and place the raw chick in it. Here, you must ensure that the container perfectly fits the chicken so that the marinade covers the chicken well. You can use a food storage bag if you do not have a plastic food storage container. Avoid using metal containers because the chemicals on the metal container can react with the marinade and change the flavor.

4. Refrigerate The Chicken

Once you place the chicken in the marinade, put it in the Fridge for four hours to allow for deep penetration of the flavors. If you are not in a hurry to cook the chicken, you can leave it overnight in the Fridge for maximum flavor.

How Long Can I Marinate Chicken In The Fridge?

While marinating your chicken in the Fridge is the best for heightened flavor, there are limits that you should not exceed. Notably, the duration you can marinate chicken in the Fridge depends on the marinade you used since different types of marinades call for different durations.

The best duration to marinade chicken in the Fridge is 2-24 hours in the refrigerator. However, it is essential to note that a marinated chicken can stay in the Fridge for two days without going bad. After that, it might not be the best.

Generally, excessive marinating chicken is like overstretching, which means you can easily mess it up. If you want a delicious chicken meal, you should not marinate chicken for more than 24 hours.

marinate chicken

How Long Can I Marinate Chicken In Buttermilk?

Proper chicken preparation before putting it on the grill is a critical step for a delicious meal. One of the preparations is to marinate the chicken in buttermilk. But how long can you marinate chicken in buttermilk?

The best duration to marinate your chicken in buttermilk is 8 – 24 hours. Even though buttermilk can stay in the Fridge for 14 days and chicken for two days, you should not marinate chicken in buttermilk for more than two days. If you marinate for longer than two days, check whether it has gone bad before cooking it.

Additionally, it is crucial to understand that marinating the chicken in buttermilk for a long time will cause it to lose its flavor and texture.

However, if you want to marinate the chicken for longer without spoiling, here are a few things you can do to preserve it.

  • Add a little salt to the chicken
  • Add a clove of garlic to the buttermilk
  • Use the right freezer bag when marinating the chicken
  • Set the fried at 39 degrees F
  • Place the chicken in the refrigerator without delay

5 Tips For Successfully Marinating Your Chicken

  1. Pierce and tenderize the chicken with a fork to increase the surface area for the marinades to penetrate the chicken efficiently
  2. Use the right marinating bag to prevent any unnecessary reactions that might negatively impact the flavor of the chicken. A Ziploc bag with the air removed will be the best option.
  3. Place the chicken in the Fridge to keep it within the safe temperature zone.
  4. Use a plastic bag for marinating to save space on your refrigerator and simplify the cleaning process.
  5. If you do not have a plastic container and are therefore forced to use steel, ceramic, or glass, then ensure that you use shallow containers.


You have no excuse for getting the marinating process wrong with a good understanding of the different types of marinades and their roles in making your chicken delicious. Whether you want to marinate your chicken in buttermilk or any other favorite marinade, it is vital to adhere to timelines. Marinating for more than 24 hours is not a good idea as it might interfere with the flavors or result in the chicken going bad.