Can Chicken Marinate Overnight? (You Might Be Suprised)

Wondering if you can marinate your chicken overnight?

We love using a marinade when cooking chicken.

It gives added flavor and helps to tenderize the chicken.

But how long should the marinating process be?

What negative effects can it have?

Can I leave an overnight chicken marinade for the next day?


Marinating Raw Chicken Overnight – So, Can You?

There is never a simple answer!

Does your marinade have an acidic ingredient?

What are your cuts of fresh chicken?

Overnight can be a vague term, so let’s start by agreeing on a fixed time.

How Long Is ‘Overnight’?

I am specifying that ‘overnight’ is 12 hours.

This timeframe is a bit on the longer side for marinating chicken.

But in answer to the question.

Yes, you can marinate the chicken overnight but not for two days.

Read further for what a marinade will do for a piece of chicken.

With some flavorful marinade ideas and the optimum timings.


What Is the Optimum Marination Time for Your Types of Chicken?

Common misconception when marinating meat is the “longer the better”.

This might apply to other types of meat but not chicken.

The ideal time to apply a chicken marinade is 2-3 hours for an acidic marinade.

Or 3-6 hours for a simple marinade.

See the our favorite marinades for chicken here


The Art of Marinating – Why You Should Do It!

Chicken is the most consumed meat in the US.

There is dark meat in the chicken quarters, thighs, and legs.

While the chicken breasts consist of white meat.

These dense proteins can have a bland flavor if not seasoned properly.

And lose a lot of moisture.

This is why a marinade for chicken should be applied before the cooking method.

I recommend 3 types of liquid marinade for the raw meat of a chicken.

One consisting of acidic juice with dry ingredients.

Or fat and oil-based marinades like Greek yogurt or olive oil with fresh herbs.

And the last is a simple and quick marinade with fresh garlic and black pepper.

These tried & tested marinades for chicken will do the following;



Enhances the Flavor Profiles

A chicken marinade with your choice of popular ingredients?

This will penetrate and season the meat.

Flavorful chicken is produced by infusing the aromatics you enjoy!

Pack your meat with additional flavor in your homemade marinade.

Breaks Down Protein Enzymes

Acid or fat from your marinade will tenderize your chicken meat.

A process called denaturing unwinds and softens the protein molecules.

Which results in a loose protein structure for tender meat and moisture retention.

What Will Happen if You Marinate for Too Long?

Remember the protein structures?

If you leave the chicken marinating for too long in an acid such as lemon juice.

It will completely break down and results in mushy meat.

Anything over this period completely ruins delicate meats like chicken.

Another issue is the kosher salt level in your marinade.

Be aware of the amount of salt you are using or reframe from adding it.

You can always season after cooking.

It is better to be safe than sorry!


What Is the Shortest Time I Can Apply a Chicken Marinade?

Did you know that applying a marinade even for 6-8 minutes can make a world of difference?

Don’t risk ruining your food with the effects of excess marinade.

In this short time, the marinade will still add moisture and flavor to chicken.

How Do I Store the Chicken When Marinating Overnight?

Keep the marinating chicken refrigerated and in an airtight storage container.

Keep an even layer of your marinade over the chicken.

Do this by creating the marinade in a mixing bowl.

Add the chicken to the mixing bowl and coat evenly.

Then move into your container.

Do not make enough marinade to completely submerge the chicken.

This improves the chances of mushy meat at the longer marination time.


What Cuts of Chicken a Best for Marinating?

Every part of the chicken can be marinated.

Whether you have the individual cuts or the whole chicken.

Prepare the meat and apply the marinade as per the directions above.

The Whole Chicken

If you plan on marinating and cooking a whole chicken then I recommend you spatchcock it.

This is when you flatten it out by removing the spine with scissors.

It will give you more surface area to apply an even marinade.

The Chicken Legs or Thighs

Buy the chicken pieces pre-cut.

Make small incisions with a knife in the meat to the bone.

Skin-on or Skinless Chicken Breasts

Buy the chicken breasts pre-cut.

Make small incisions with a knife through the skin into the breast meat.

Chicken Wings

Buy the chicken wings pre-cut.

Cut off the end knuckle with a knife and freeze them for stock.

Marinading Overnight – The Best Ingredients for Each Cut of Chicken

I want to give you some ideas and tips on an overnight marinade.

See below for my recommendations packed with tons of flavor.


The Whole Chicken

– 3 fresh cloves of garlic (chopped)

– 5 tbsp olive oil

– 2 lemon slices that have had the juices squeezed

– Pepper flakes to taste

– Chopped fresh parsley

– 1 tbsp Italian seasoning

The Chicken Legs or Thighs

– Dash of Worcestershire sauce

– 1 tbsp garlic powder

– 1 tbsp onion powder

– 1 tbsp ground black pepper

– 2 tbsp of rice vinegar

– 1 tbsp of curry powder

Skin-on or Skinless Chicken Breasts

– 1 tsp lemon zest

– 1 tbsp tandoori paste

– 1 cup of yogurt

– 1 tsp chili powder

Chicken Wings

– 1 cup of teriyaki sauce
– 1 tsp of virgin olive oil
– 1 tbsp of lemon juice

Smoke On!


Author: Charlie Reeves
Hi, I’m Charlie, I am head taste tester at Simply Meat Smoking! I love it grilling, smoking, and getting out in the yard with the kids! The family also love to test all my recipes (especially my EXTRA CRISPY pulled pork, smoky pork loin, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill)

You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling adventures with you!

You can read more on our About Us page.

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