Jazz up your chicken with a flavorful marinade.
Affordable and nourishing, chicken is a weeknight dinner staple, and if you know the formula for a good marinade, it never gets boring. Marinades are generally composed of oil, acid, and flavorings like spices and herbs—and don’t forget the salt! It’s not an exact science, but a 3:1 ratio of oil to acid is a helpful guideline. As you get more experienced, you’ll be able to eyeball amounts with ease.
When it comes to the marinade, there’s endless room to play; for example, you could go Greek with lemon juice and oregano, or whip up a sweet-and-tangy barbecue sauce. If possible, start marinating chicken as early as the night before you cook it to infuse the meat with flavor, but even 20 to 30 minutes will make a difference if that’s all you have time for.
Keep reading to discover how to marinate chicken so it never tastes bland and dry!
How to Marinate Chicken Breasts
Be generous with the salt and other seasonings in your marinade, because only some of it will sink into the meat—even if you let it marinate overnight. Chicken can be a bit bland, so it can take a punchy marinade.
Make the marinade in a bowl, then transfer it to an airtight container—like a resealable plastic bag or a food storage container—that will fit all of the meat.
Add the chicken pieces and submerge them in the marinade. To ensure that the flavor gets into the meat, you could slash the meat a few times with your knife beforehand, but it’s not essential.
Close the container and transfer it to the refrigerator to marinate for a maximum of 24 hours.
Now that you know how to marinade chicken, we’re sharing five chicken marinade ideas to get you started. Stick to that 3:1 ratio of oil to acid, and adjust the spices according to your preferences, and you'll set yourself up for success.
Lemon-garlic marinade: Combine olive oil, lemon juice, minced garlic, chopped parsley, salt, and black pepper
Fajita marinade: Combine olive oil, lime juice, minced garlic, chili powder, ground cumin, chopped cilantro, and minced jalapeño
Cilantro-lime marinade: Combine olive oil, lime juice, minced ginger, chili flakes, chopped cilantro, salt, and black pepper
Spiced yogurt marinade: Combine full-fat Greek yogurt, lemon juice, minced garlic, ground cumin, ground coriander, chili flakes, salt, and black pepper
Pesto marinade: Combine olive oil, lemon juice, minced garlic, chopped basil, chili flakes, salt, and black pepper
How Long to Marinate Chicken
The ideal amount of time to marinate chicken depends on the cut of meat you’re working with. If you’re marinating a whole chicken, for example, we’d suggest marinating it for closer to 24 hours so that the flavors really have the chance to settle. On the other hand, for something like chicken wings, even just 30 minutes is enough time to give the meat some good flavor.
Related:How to Grill Chicken Thighs
Just make sure that you don’t marinate chicken for much longer than 24 hours, because the acid in the marinade will start to make the meat stringy and tough—no, thank you!
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