How Long to Marinate Chicken for Perfect Taste?

How Long To Marinate Chicken

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When chicken is marinated, its flavor and taste changes completely. However, one of the biggest concerns of a beginner is about the duration for which the chicken has to be marinated.

While different dishes have different time durations of marinating, but there are some ground rules that must be followed to ensure optimum flavors.

When chicken is submerged in a combination of oils, spices, and acids, it turns tender and very juicy. Isn’t this exactly what you demand from your chicken?

Why Should I Marinate Chicken?

1. What Is Marinade?

Before we can cover any further, it is important to understand the basics. Marinade is the combination of different ingredients in which you dip the chicken completely for it to adapt the fluids and the taste.

2. Type of Chicken Marinade Bases


Many people might say that dairy-based marinades are only used for tenderizing, and they cannot be more right. The enzymes in the meat is activated by the calcium. It breaks down the proteins by itself.  


The marinades that are made with bases like vinegar, wine or any other highly acidic juice like citrus fruits or tomato are the acidic bases.

Acids basically lose the bond between proteins in the meat which leads to possible unravelling and loosening up. However, after some time, the bonds between proteins are formed again, making the meat tight and squeezing the juices back out.

Enzyme Marinade

The papain and bromelain content in fruits like papaya leaves and kiwi helps in breaking down the muscle fiber. If you leave the meat in these marinades for too long, they can make the meat’s texture spongy and mushy.

The natural juices of meat flows out and the wet marinade will make its way inside the meat. However, when you cook the meat, the wet marinade that was once absorbed by the meat evaporates, making the meat tough and dry.

3. Why Should I Marinate Chicken?

Marinate is important to add flavor to meat. The oil-based marinades add moisture to the meat as well. Also, the ones with dairy will tenderize the chicken. Buttermilk and yogurt and popular marinade ingredients to tenderize the meat.

How Long To Marinate Chicken?

Why Should I Marinate Chicken


1. Things You Need To Know

The food safety is of paramount significance. You should treat the meat carefully and wash hands every time you touch it.

  • Marinade comes in contact with raw meat for the longest time. It is undeniable to prevent bacterial growth in it. That’s fine because you will cook it, but you need to be careful with the leftover marinade.
  • It is important to store the unused marinade in a right kind of container. You can use plastic resealable bags or glass containers. Make sure that the container is not opened till you are ready to use the marinade.
  • Do not use an aluminum bowl for marinating chicken in it. The aluminum is not a suggested metal to be used for acidic foods. The metal will react and mess with the taste and color of chicken.
  • You should always marinate chicken in a refrigerator than a counter. Because of the raw meat, the bacterial will start to grow in marinade and it will be better to keep it on low temperatures to slow down the bacterial formation.

2. How Long To Marinate Chicken?

CutMinimum TimeMaximum Time
Whole Chicken4 hrs12 hrs
Boneless, Skinless Breast30 mins2 hrs
Bone-In, Skin-On Breast1 hr4 hrs
Skinless Thighs (Bone-In)1 hr4 hrs
Wings (Skin-On)2 hrs6 hrs
Legs (Skin-On)2 hrs6 hrs
  • Whole Chicken: The whole chicken is in weird shape and thick from different places. You can marinate it for a minimum of 4-hours and for a maximum of 12-hours. Just make sure to keep it inside the refrigerator.
  • Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast: Chicken breast without bone or skin is compatible to marinate for 30-minutes on the minimum side while you can marinate it for 2-hours max.
  • Bone-In, Skin-On Chicken Breast: Chicken breast with bones and skin can be marinated for 1 – 4-hours.
  • Skinless Thighs (Bone-In): The thighs that contain bone can marinate for 1 – 4-hours.
  • Chicken Wings (Skin-On): The wings take more time than other parts in the marinate process. You can keep them submerged in marinade for 2 hours minimum and for a maximum of 6-hours.
  • Chicken Legs (Skin-On): The legs will also take a minimum of 2-hours of submersion and the maximum time of 6-hours.


For a beginner, it is very important to follow the rules if you want to limit failed attempts of making lip-smacking meat. It takes a lot of time in becoming a pro with chicken-based meals.

Just remember, marinating can make your experience of cooking chicken a lot better. It adds flavor and tenderness to the chicken. Make sure to use it in the next recipe you plan to make.