How to Long to Marinate Chicken


How long to marinate chicken?


Chicken is a relatively thin and light protein, with a structure that is less dense than that of beef or pork. Because of this, it does not take marinades as long to penetrate the meat. Chicken does not need a marinade to make it tender, but one can greatly enhance the flavor.

Chicken, depending on the part (or whole) of the chicken, should ideally marinate for times between 30 minutes and 12 hours. See below for a table breaking down the ideal marinating times by the cut of chicken.

marinate chicken

How Long to Marinate Chicken

According to the USDA, chicken may safely marinate in the refrigerator for two days. [1]
Please remember that this is a safety number and not necessarily the tastiest number. If chicken is left to marinate in an acidic based marinade (like citrus or vinegar) for too long, it will actually become denser and tougher. If chicken marinates in an enzymatic marinade (like ginger, pineapple or papaya) for too long the enzymes can break down the protein to where it actually turns so soft that it becomes a mushy texture.

So, although chicken can safely marinate for two days, it is highly recommended to marinate it for far less time than that.

Here’s a table of recommended marinating times for chicken:

Cut Minimum Maximum
Whole Chicken 4 Hours 12 Hours
Boneless, Skinless Breasts 30 Minutes 2 Hours
Bone-in, Skin-on Breasts 1 Hour 4 Hours
Skinless Thighs (bone-in) 1 Hour 4 Hours
Wings (skin-on) 2 Hours 6 Hours
Legs (skin-on) 2 Hours 6 Hours

How Long to Marinate Chicken

Additional Info

There are certain safety precautions that should always be observed when marinating raw meats, so be sure to read our instructions on how to marinate.

Always make sure that chicken is properly cooked, the best way to tell is to take the internal temperature.

Got beef? Check how long to marinate beef.

To find out how long other foods are good for, please visit the Dairy, Drinks, Fruits, Grains, Proteins, Vegetables and Other sections of Eat By Date or use the search function below.

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