How Long to Marinate Chicken

Nicole Austin

Make delicious marinated chicken without a lot of fuss by following these simple tips and guidelines for marinating chicken.

Marinating meat, poultry, fish or even plant-based proteins such as tofu, easily adds an incredible depth of flavor to your finished dish without a lot of hassle.

This quick step involves a bit of simple planning ahead just enough to let your ingredients soak in an amazing sauce, changing the entire mealtime experience.

With endless marinade recipes catering to all flavor preferences, like our beloved Mediterranean marinade, marinating chicken, fish and meat is an easy and delicious way to kick things up a notch in the kitchen.

How long to marinate chicken? Or how long to marinate salmon? Here we're breaking everything you need to know specifically about marinating chicken.

Spicy Ginger Grilled Chicken Thighs with Mango Avocado Salsa Photo

How Long to Marinate Chicken

It can be difficult to find new ways to mix up the same old same meats or meals, but marinating is extremely simple with delicious, predictable results.

The best part about marinating chicken is that the meat doesn’t break down easily, like fish does, so the rules are a bit more flexible and forgiving!

For instance, while you want to only marinate salmon for 20 to 30 minutes, chicken does best with several hours of resting, developing flavor and texture.

How Long to Marinate Chicken Breast

When considering how long to marinate chicken, the type of chicken and whether it is boneless or bone-in is part of what you must consider.

For instance, 5 to 6 hours minimum is the ideal marinating time for the thick meat of chicken breasts.

Prick the surface of the meat with a fork or score it with a knife to encourage the marinade to soak in as far and easily as possible.

Tip: Marinating your meat the morning-of will make quick work of dinner without disrupting your midday.

Spicy Ginger Grilled Chicken Thighs with Mango Avocado Salsa Image

How Long to Marinate Chicken Thighs

Even half an hour of marinating bone-in meat is going to add lots of body and flavor to your food.

For chicken thighs, half an hour to four hours is an excellent amount of time to marinate prior to cooking, without breaking down the protein in the meat.

Tip: Pat down marinated meat before grilling to help avoid flare-ups.

How Long to Marinate Whole Chickens

Whole chickens do best when marinated between 4 and 12 hours, but it's arguably best rightat the 12 hour mark.

Apply the marinade to the entire bird, including under the skin and in the cavity, then cover the bowl or tray with foil and place in the fridge.

Tip: Washing chicken prior to marinating is never recommended. This can cause cross-contamination of bacteria in your prep area, which can make you sick.

Oil and Vinegar Dressing Picture

How Long to Marinate Bone-In Chicken

For marinating bone-in chicken, the general rule of thumb is that 5 to 6 hours of marinating time will produce excellent flavor and texture.

Even 10 minutes of marinating when you’re on a tight timeline will give the exterior of your chicken a rich flavor that will improve the quality of your meal.

Spicy Ginger Grilled Chicken Thighs with Mango Avocado Salsa Picture

How Long is Too Long to Marinate Chicken?

Have you ever heard of the phrase “too much of a good thing?” This sentiment does actually apply to marinating chicken.

Longer than 24 hours in marinade can cause the proteins in the meat to break down and become mushy - not the goal for a delicious dinner!

The takeaway? Keep the marinating to a minimum by preparing it in the morning when you have a busy day ahead, or even the night before if needed.

For the very best results, midday on weekends is a great time to place your meat in a marinade.

However, even last minute or in a pinch, marinating for even ten minutes or more while you prepare the sides for your meal will add flavor and body to your chicken without a lot of hassle.

Oil and Vinegar Dressing Pic

Our Favorite Marinade Recipes

Our simple yet flavorful fajita marinade recipe is an easy way to prep chicken for rice bowls, traditional fajitas, or even just to mix up your regular chicken dinner.

Our versatile soy sauce marinade will taste wonderful on fish, chicken, pork, beef, or tofu. It's perfect for Asian dishes, but versatile enough for topping salads or grain bowls, too.

A summer-friendly favorite, marinated chicken kebabs on the grill are a delicious way to enjoy an old favorite while adding new taste and texture to your routine.

Finally, don't miss our herb-packed chimichurri sauce recipe! The fresh cilantro will wow your taste buds will impress your guests at your next dinner party!

Planning a dinner party and need some inspiration?

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Nicole is a self-published author of fiction novels, and a lover of food and spending time in the kitchen with her six children. She lives in coastal Maine where she loves exploring new recipes especially those that can save time, money and wow a crowd.

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