Everyone loves a good flavored bite of chicken. In the year 2019, it was estimated by the USDA that each American consumed 96.5lbs of chicken. Sometimes it seems like all of our good ideas have been used over and over again and leaves you with the question of what to marinate chicken with this time? Possibly you are new to cooking and marinating chicken and maybe you have been doing it for years and have run out of ideas. I am here to help you save dinner tonight.
What Does Marinate Mean?
When you marinate the meat you can use either wet ingredients or dry. Even a combination of these is mostly used in my experience. The acid and enzymes in the marinade help break down the meat’s tissue and allow more moisture to be absorbed. Marinating chicken will do this. I find marinating is essential for cooking chicken at my house. Sometimes my mom will ask me why I marinate everything, and well flavor is the answer. Wouldn’t you like to serve chicken and no one wants any ketchup or sauce with it? That is one of the best compliments a chef or home cook can get, in my opinion, the consumer not needing a sauce to flavor the food. To me, this means the chicken is flavored very well already.
Cut Of Chicken
Depending on the cut of chicken you purchase you will need to marinate differently or maybe even the same just longer in some cases. If your cut of chicken is skinless it will marinate quicker. If you leave the skin on, you will need to add time to marinate. Either way is fine, you will just need to plan accordingly.
- Chicken Breast – I highly suggest pounding your chicken breast out thinner whether the skin is on or not. Most chicken breast I have seen lately are thick and will take up to 8 hours for a marinade to do the job correctly.
- Chicken Wing – I usually marinate chicken wings for 4-6 hours. I like to make sure they have good flavor and with the skin on, this to me is an adequate time to do so.
- Chicken Thigh – This one you can go skin on or skin off as well like the breast. One thing the thigh has going for it, is it is generally a more juicy piece of chicken. You can marinate the thigh for as long as you want or no less than 4 hours in my opinion. You can cook the thigh longer without drying it out as much as the white meat like the breast.
- Chicken Leg – This is another dark meat like the thigh, but you can dry the chicken leg out pretty quickly if you do not marinate them long enough, or if you just let them cook too long. I would marinate these for 4 hours as well. Of course, you can always marinate longer but this is what I would do personally.
- Whole Chicken – I love a whole chicken. It is so versatile to change up just by a marinade and you can purchase these cheap usually. A whole bird will need to be left to marinate for at least 8 hours to overnight. I would go for the overnight method. I think this will yield the best results for all the pieces of meat you will eat off of the bird.
Keep in mind if your chicken is fresh, you can really marinate it as long as your wish up to two days. If you have thawed frozen chicken out I would not let it marinate more than 24 hours. You want to make sure you do not let your chicken spoil while trying to add flavor to it.
Tips For Marinating
If you are new marinating then you might find these tips helpful. Some of these I have figure out over the years with trial and error, and not everyone has to learn that way.
- Ziploc Bags – Spend the extra couple of dollars and get some Ziploc freezer bags for marinating. You can use a bowl that you have with a great lid that fits already in your cabinet. Here’s the thing though, the marinade will only be able to do the job you expect it to by covering the most surface area of the chicken. *As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases
- Lay Flat – Place your marinade in the zip lock bag and add your chicken. Make sure to lay it flat in a pan or a dish that can catch a spill, just in case. Squish as much air out as you can without letting the marinade come out the top. Flip it over every so often during the process.
- Reserve Some – Save some marinade to the side before you add your raw chicken. You will use this to brush your chicken or pour over a few minutes before finishing the cooking process. This will help give it that last little boost to the flavor you are wanting to achieve, and if you are grilling, it may finish the browning of the chicken on the grill.
Always discard your marinade bag as soon as you get the raw chicken out of it. Left out or spilled can cause cross-contamination this can cause bacteria to grow that will make you seriously sick. We do not have time for that, so just toss it as soon as you pull the chicken out of it to cook.
Marinate With What?
Alright, folks, this is where I get serious. I love flavor and I want the most of it in my chicken as I can get. Nothing is worse than chicken that looks perfectly looked and is absolutely flavorless. These are my top 3 go-to marinades for chicken. All for the equivalent of 1 pound of chicken.
- 3 Fresh Lemons juiced
- 1 Tablespoon of pepper
- 1 Clove of garlic crushed
- 1 teaspoon of Salt
Mix the juice, pepper, garlic, and salt together. After washing and patting dry your chicken place in your bag and pour-over. Remove as much air as you can and let marinate for the cut of chicken you have.
- 1 Clove of garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon of ginger grated
- 1/4 cup of soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons of packed light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon of water
Mix all ingredients together until the sugar is dissolved and pour over your chicken in your bag. Remove the most air you can and let marinate.
- 4 tablespoons of olive oil
- 4 tablespoons of Weber kick’n chicken seasoning
- 1 pinch of salt
- 1 half of a lime juiced
Simple but I really like this marinade. I like to serve this with a hot sauce, and a bbq sauce. So we have some for adults and for children. *As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases
- Alright don’t get mad at me for this one, keep it in mind the next time you run into the grocery for something quick and grab a jar of pesto on the pasta sauce aisle. Keep in your cabinet and pull it out when you are fresh out of ideas on how to marinate your chicken and guess what? You have a marinade in a jar.
I am all about simple and this one can not be any more simple than this.
Always remember you can add to or take away anything that you may like for more or less. This is your chicken to marinate and you want it to taste the best for you.
When you think about what to marinate chicken with today or tomorrow, don’t think it always has to be some special recipe you follow. You can’t really go wrong with any cut of chicken that you choose or how you choose to marinate it. You can try to follow everything perfectly and still not be 100% satisfied with the results. Sometimes when you mix things around yourself and step out of your comfort zone you will find what makes you the happiest, and discover your new favorite. Also, don’t be afraid to admit that all the “fancy” stuff doesn’t taste great sometimes, or that is just too much work. I like the flavor but I like to be quick as well with chicken. Go ahead and start adding some flavor to your chicken.
I hope you find the tips and marinades helpful. Please let me know what your favorite way to marinate chicken is.
Here are some simple salad recipes that will all go great with chicken.