Chicken Kitchen: How Long to Marinate Chicken?

Marinating is one of the oldest tricks in the book in making a great meal. It is a simple method, but it does not seem to be doing its thing with chicken meat.

Did your marinated chicken ever come out as too stringy or too mushy? You are not alone. Others like you face this problem too.

You might be surprised, but the problem may not be with your chicken meat. It might be your marinating time.

Are you now wondering how long to marinate chicken? We have your back. Let us answer that question today.

How Long Should You Marinate Chicken?

How Long Should You Marinate Chicken

We have a thing for aged products, may it be cheese, wine, or meat. 

This process might be why people have the wrong idea with marinating and other methods. Some think the line “the longer, the better” would fit into other techniques.

You might be surprised, but that is not the case with marinating.

For one, USDA suggests that it is only safe to marinate poultry for up to 2 days. Keep in mind that we are only talking about what is safe here. As you will see later, if you want tasty chicken meat, the marinating time needs to be less than two days. 

Unfortunately, no set time will work out for every chicken meat and meal. The set time would depend on several things. Let us examine two of the main factors below.

The Chicken

Of course, the first thing that would affect the marinating time is the chicken itself.

The best marinating time depends if you are dealing with chicken parts or a whole chicken.

Ideally, a whole chicken would sit in the marinade for no more than 12 hours. The parts should ideally only sit in the marinade for a max of 6 hours.

Don’t know how to cut a whole chicken into parts? It’s easy! Check out our discussion about it here.

Are you dealing with parts? The best marinating time will be affected if you are handling white or dark meat parts.

Don’t know your way around white and dark meat? Click here.    

Except for the wings, white meat parts usually take a shorter period than dark meat parts. The max for white meat is around 2 hours, and for dark meat (and the wings), it is 6 hours. 

To add, having the skin on or off the chicken would also affect the time. As you might expect, having the bone or not will also have an effect.

Are you dealing with skinless chicken? It would be a good idea to shorten the marinating time. 

The Marinade


Another thing that will have an effect on the marinating time is the marinade itself. 

There are many marinade recipes. Usually, these recipes come with a set time.

If you follow the recipe to the dot, you should also follow the suggested time. The marinade and the marinating time are connected. Treat the recommended time as part of the recipe.

Do you want the dish to turn out how the recipe book says? Do not treat the recipe and suggested time as separate things. If you make any change to one, you likely have to make changes to the other also. Next time you see a marinade recipe, try to keep in mind that these two things go together.

It is okay if you want to change the recipe or the marinating time. Just make the needed adjustments on the other side too. Sometimes, this means you have to go through a few trial and errors.

Shortening the Marinating Time

One of the reasons to marinate is to add flavor to the meat. 

Many worry about under marinating. Sometimes, some forget that letting the chicken sit in the marinade for too long is also a problem. It is true the chicken needs to sit in the marinade for some time for it to work. Well, we might have the solution for these marinating problems.

Did you forget to marinate the chicken meat? You can still cook that dish. You only have to make the marinade stronger. With the right concentration, it would be alright to marinate a chicken for under an hour.

Tips and Things to Consider

chicken Marinating Time

Here are some other things you might want to consider when marinating.


Many great chefs note that it is good to cook meat at room temperature.

That rule also applies to marinating. When you marinate chicken meat, you want it to be at room temperature. If it is still frozen or even cold, it will have an effect on the marinade. It will also have an effect on the chicken meat’s ability to absorb the marinade.

That is why many experts choose to marinate their chicken for a few minutes instead. They do not let the meat sit in the marinade in the fridge overnight. Again, note that they shorten the marinating time by making the marinades stronger. 


Again, many marinate to add flavor to the meat. But the marinade should only help emphasize the taste of the chicken meat. It should not overpower it.

Do you want to keep the classic chicken taste in your meal? Do not take the bones out! It is a great way to keep that chicken flavor that many love.

The Marinade After Marinating

chicken Marinating

Some like to reuse cooking oil. Because of that, you might be wondering if you can also reuse the marinade after marinating.

Could you? Yes. That is, once you boil it for a good amount of time. Is it recommended? It depends on who you ask, but we do not. 

Raw meat could have some harmful stuff in it. But it is still safe to eat because many of these things usually die once it goes through heat. (Don’t forget that cleaning the chicken properly is still vital, of course.) Since the meat has not gone through heat yet when you marinate it, those things could go to the marinade.

Why Marinate?

Marinating is a simple process. Despite that, it helps bring out the best in many dishes. 

It helps in adding flavor to the dish, and it also helps in making the meat tender. 

When marinating is done wrong, you only take advantage of one of these things. Sometimes, none!

When you marinate too long, you will either get chicken meat that is too chewy or mushy. You miss out on a tender piece of chicken meat! 

It is also true if you do not soak the chicken in the marinade long enough, you do not get a tender or flavorful piece of meat!

Marinating might be a simple process, but it looks like it is an art that could be hard to perfect. Is it? 

It does not have to be! As you have seen today, you can marinate for minutes instead of hours. You only need to make a few adjustments to the marinade.

Why Marinate chicken

Marinated Chicken Recipe

What better way to celebrate your new marinating knowledge than to put it into action? Try out one of these recipes for your next chicken meal.

The marinating process needs time. But marinated dishes are quick to prepare and cook. Next time you need to prepare a quick dish, then you might want to go for a marinated dish!

There are many marinades you can try. You can even put your twist on each one to make it even more special. What is more fun is there is a marinade for baking, grilling, you name it!

To get you started, you might want to browse through and try these marinades:

As a tip, for trying out new marinade recipes, you might want to use chicken parts first!


How long to marinate chicken?

Contrary to what many know, the phrase “the longer, the better” does not apply to marinating.

It is safe to marinate chicken meat for up to two days, but it is not the most ideal period for a tasty meal.

When it comes to marinating chicken meat, you would want to keep it to less than a day. Ideally, no more than 12 hours.

Unfortunately, there is no perfect marinating time that will work for all occasions. The perfect marinating time would depend on the chicken cut as well as the marinade.

This extra step might seem like a hassle for some. But this will help you avoid tough and mushy chicken on your table.

If you want to know more about tips like this, then you can check out our cooking tips. We will see you there!

Marinate Chicken

Leave a Comment

Chicken & Scratch

Chicken Scratch is the ultimate destination for you to learn about chicken breeds and improve your chicken farming skills. Explores the world of chickens from raising chicks to collecting eggs, Learn about different chicken breeds and discover the happy raising chicken tips.