How Long Can You Marinate Chicken in Buttermilk

Using buttermilk in marinades is common in many chicken recipes.

Its often used for fried Nashville hot chicken!

But buttermilk chicken that has marinated for too long will spoil.

So read further as we explore how long you can marinate chicken in buttermilk.


There Is a Limit When Marinating Chicken in Buttermilk

Do not marinate the chicken in buttermilk for longer than 48 hours.

Thats is the limit when marinating chicken in buttermilk.

What Is the Marinating Time Limit in Buttermilk?

The lean meat proteins in chicken can be delicate.

There is less protection and resilience due to its low-fat content.

But more of that later when we take a look at the pieces of chicken.

Do not marinate the chicken in buttermilk for longer than 48 hours.

Why Should I Marinate in Buttermilk?

The purpose of marinating meat falls into 2 categories.

Flavoring the Chicken

The flavor can be bland without a seasoning mix or condiments.

A buttermilk chicken marinade is for building flavor.

With salt through osmosis.

As well as aromatics like onion powder or black pepper.

Tenderizing the Chicken

The PH level of buttermilk is 4.4 which is considered an acidic marinade.

Acidic ingredients will break down the protein enzymes in the meat and tenderize it.

In a process called denaturing.

This softens and relaxes the proteins and is a meat tenderizer.

A Closer Look at Buttermilk Compared to Other Acidic Marinades

Buttermilk is a probiotic and is not the highest acidic marinade available.

Other popular ingredients for a chicken marinade may contain fresh lemon juice.

Or a splash of lime juice and olive oil.

The PH for level for these is around 2.

Considering adding these to your buttermilk mixture?

Or using a more acidic marinade in the future?

The marinating process should only be a maximum of 1 day.

What Can Happen if You Marinate for Too Long?

The meat proteins will break down completely.

Which removes the flavor profiles.

Over-denaturation produces mushy meat instead of a tender texture.


How Long Should a Buttermilk Marinade Best Applied to Raw Chicken?

Below are the marinade timing recommendations for chicken.

The main rule is to not go over 48 hours.

Due to what we covered about the acidity level.

Another reason is regarding food safety.

Which is covered further on.

The ideal time for a buttermilk marinade to be applied is 6 hours.

This is plenty of time for chemical reactions and flavor infusion to take place.

Without risking any of the negative effects.

What Chicken Pieces Are Best for a Buttermilk Mixture?

You can marinate a whole chicken or specific cuts in buttermilk.

However, I recommend the buttermilk mixture be applied to cuts of chicken.

Like chicken drumsticks or chicken thighs.

The thicker consistency of buttermilk makes it harder to reach every area and cavity.

Plus this is generally considered a fried chicken marinade.

Below I have detailed how to prepare and how long to marinade chicken.

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.

Brine for up to 48 hours.

The Chicken Legs or Thighs

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

Marinate for up to 6 hours.

Skin-on or Skinless Chicken Breasts

Buy the chicken breasts pre-cut.

Marinate for up to 6 hours.

Stuff to Consider When Marinating Chicken in Buttermilk

Just a note on some other factors to consider.

Before adding your marinade ingredients.


Excess Salt in Your Chicken Recipe

Measure the ratios carefully for the concentration of salt added to the marinade.

Contrasting Flavors

Do the seasonings in the buttermilk complement the other flavors in your dish?

Have You Added More Acidity?

This might raise the rate at which your chicken can deteriorate.

Food Saftey Advice When Marinating Raw Chicken

Poultry food poisoning is no joke as it can be deadly!

Below is some key information to note when marinating and cooking chicken.

Do Not Keep Raw Chicken Refrigerated for Over 48 Hours

This is the other reason we don’t want to marinate over 48 hours.

Refrigeration of meat is so important to avoid bacteria growth.

But the rate will still rise even at refrigerated temperatures.

Don’t risk leaving raw poultry in the fridge for more than 48 hours.

How to Store the Chicken When Marinating

Always marinate in the refrigerator.

Wrap resealable plastic over the marinating chicken.

This will keep it airtight and reduce the risk of bacteria contamination.

Can I Keep the Buttermilk After Marinating?

No, you should not keep the buttermilk.

Disregard safety and clean contact surfaces or containers thoroughly.

What Internal Temperature Does the Meat Need to Be?

The internal temp of chicken should be 165°F before consumption.

Accurately monitor with a probe thermometer.

Which should be in the thickest parts of your chicken.

Step-By-Step Guide on Marinating Chicken in Butter Milk

I will leave you with my favorite buttermilk marinade for a fried chicken recipe.

With honest and simple ingredients.

Just like mom used to make!


-5 chicken thighs

-5 cups buttermilk (have extra buttermilk on hand)

-Purpose flour (enough to dust each piece)

-Cup of hot sauce

-1 tsp garlic powder

-1 tsp black pepper

-1 tbsp kosher salt

-1 tsp cayenne pepper

Step 1 – Make the Marinade & Prepare the Chicken

Mix everything well in a large mixing bowl except the flour.

Prepare your chicken as per the above directions.

Step 2 – Marinate the Chicken

– Submerge the chicken pieces in the buttermilk.

– Cover with wrap and ensure it is airtight.

– Refrigerate for 6 hours.

Step 3 – Dusting the Chicken for Frying

– Remove the chicken from the marinade.

– Pat down excess with a paper towel.

– Fill a bowl with flour.

– Dust an even coating of flour on your chicken.

– Repeat!

Smoke On!


Hi, I’m Charlie, I have been meat-smoking and grilling for the past 15 years. I have an array of different smokers, thermometers, and have a love for finding the right wood and charcoal combo My favourite recipes are my EXTRA CRISPY smoked pork belly, juicy pulled pork, smoked brisket, duck poppers, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill).

I loves sharing his tips with beginners, helping them navigate the world of smoking. I find it’s not just about cooking; it’s a quest for that perfect smoky flavor.

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 recipes with you!

You can read more about me on our About Us page.

Hungry For More?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *