How to Marinade Chicken
Learn how to marinate chicken to create tender and great tasting chicken.
This guide will give you an idea of how to marinate chicken as well as an understanding of how a marinade can be used with other foods, as well.
A marinade is a liquid solution used to flavor meats, fruits and vegetables. When used with meat, a marinade also acts as a mild tenderizer.
Unlike a brine, where the main purpose is to tenderize meat and add a little flavor, a marinade is used to flavor meat and add a little tenderizing. A brine utilizes salt as a means to tenderize meat, while most marinades rely on acidic ingredients such as citrus juice, vinegar or wine. Except for whole chickens or large birds such as turkey, a brine is a bit overkill. A marinade will be sufficient for most cut-up chicken pieces.
Today, there are currently a wide variety of marinades available right off the store shelves. If you’re new to marinating chicken, give one of them a try. They do offer convenience. Once you begin to understand the composition of marinades, you’ll soon want to start making your own. This gives you full control of the flavors. Try some of our chicken marinade recipes to get started.
How to Marinate Chicken
Clean and prepare the chicken as usual. If unsure, read How to Prepare Chicken for Cooking. Preparing the chicken first is less messy than trying to do it after it has been removed from a marinade. If cooking kebobs, for instance, go ahead and cut the chicken into the desired sized cubes.
Piercing several holes in the chicken with a fork will assist in the meat absorbing more of the marinade. Understand that this may also overpower the flavor of the chicken. Use with caution and preferably the next time you prepare the recipe if it’s determined that the chicken could use an extra kick of flavor.
Mix up the marinade. Oftentimes a recipe will require that the marinade ingredients be mixed in a saucepan and heated. If your recipe calls for this, allow it to cool as much as possible prior to adding it to the chicken. Otherwise, a glass or plastic bowl and a whisk are all that are needed.
Marinate in a plastic or glass container. Never use a metal container to marinate the chicken. Many metal containers will react to the acid contained in the marinade, imparting an undesirable metallic flavor to the food. One of the best methods is a zip-lock freezer bag. The marinade can even be mixed in the bag. Add all the ingredients, seal and shake well. Add the chicken, force out as much air as possible and re-seal. It doesn’t get a whole lot easier than that! Place the bag in another container, just in case; they’ve been known to have a pinhole in them or the seal wasn’t zipped entirely.
Always marinate chicken in the refrigerator. If doing a 10 to 15 minute marination, it’s probably safe to leave it on the counter if the chicken is going to be cooked right away. If marinating any longer, place in the refrigerator and cover if using an open container.
On longer marinating times, turn the chicken a few times. This step is much easier if the freezer bag method was used.
Keep an eye on the clock! Don’t over marinate. Chicken can easily become mush if left too long in a strong acid-based marinade. If, for some reason, the chicken won’t be cooked as scheduled, remove from the marinade. Repackage and return to the refrigerator. It should store well for up to two days. Discard the marinade.
Once the chicken has marinated, it can be removed directly from its container and immediately cooked. There’s no need to pat dry. If the recipe calls for a meat rub as the next step, patting dry is a personal choice. Don’t create extra work if not mandatory.
Leftover Chicken Marinade
Once the chicken has marinated, it’s best to discard the marinade. After all, it has had raw chicken soaking in it for some time. Plus, the ingredients in quality marinades should be fresh and they just don’t store well.
Most marinades make a great basting sauce. This works fine if the basting is done at the beginning of the cook, but it’s not recommended at the end. There’s just not enough time for the heat to kill off any of the bad stuff. If in doubt, place the marinade into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and continue to simmer for 10 minutes. A better idea is to make extra marinade and reserve some for basting only.
Marinades aren’t just for meat. They’re also great on vegetables. Apply the same method as with chicken. Dense vegetables such as carrots will understandably take longer than soft vegetables. Give it a try next time you’re grilling up some squash or asparagus. You’ll enjoy the added flavor.