How Long to Marinate Chicken (For Super Juicy Chicken)

Wondering how long you need to marinate chicken?

The marinating process can be tricky.

They are many things to consider such as;  what is the cooking process.

Will you use acidic ingredients?

There is no “one size fits all”, but I think that’s a good thing!

And we haven’t even touched on the fresh or dry seasonings to use.

The most crucial key to factor when you are marinating is the timing.

So if you want succulent chicken make sure you find out exactly how to marinade your chicken below

Let’s get into it!


Chicken & 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 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 2 types of liquid marinade for the raw meat of a chicken.

Either consisting of acidic juice with dry ingredients.

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

But more of that later!

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


Enhances the Flavor Profiles

A chicken marinade with your choice of popular ingredients?

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.

Marinating Chicken – For How Long?

The general rule of thumb for an acidic marinade with chicken is…

No longer than 24 hours! and defiantly not two days of marinating.

This is the absolute threshold otherwise you will guarantee a spoilt dinner.

Don’t have very long and are you wondering if it’s still worth marinating?


I find that a quick marinade for 10-15 minutes makes the world of difference.

Spring up a simple marinade and apply it to your type of chicken just before cooking.


What Will Happen if You Marinate for Too Long?

Remember the protein structures?

If you leave the chicken marinating for too long it will completely break down.

This 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 even reframe from adding it at all.

You can always season after cooking.

It is better to be safe than sorry!

Do I Need to Do Anything Before Marinating?

Depending on the part of the chicken you may have to make some adjustments.

This could be in the form of cutting so the marinade penetrates deeper.

Or creating more of a surface texture area.

Wash raw meat with cold water and pat down with a paper towel before marinating.

This will remove excess water and reduce harmful substances contaminating it.

Food poisoning from chicken can kill you.


How Should I Apply the Marinate to My Raw Chicken?

– Plan the amount of marinade you need with the amount of meat you have.

– Make the marinade.

– Prepare the chicken as per the directions below.

– Put the meat in metal or glass containers.

– Add the marinade, making sure you are covering the complete surface area of the meat.

– Store airtightly and refrigerated for your desired time. (Not over 24 hours)!


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 smoking 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 legs 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 wings pre-cut.

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

Type of Marinade & Ingredients – Ideas for Your Chicken

Don’t succumb to boring chicken!


A Whole Tandoori Chicken

A cup of yogurt and garam masala spice rub with ginger garlic paste.

Finish the tandoori yogurt marinade with a pinch of fresh citrus zest

Mediterranean Chicken Thighs

Citrus juice with a dash of olive oil.

Add crushed garlic cloves and a Italian seasoning dried mixture of herbs.

Asian Inspired Chicken Wings

Sesame oil and white rice vinegar.

Chili powder and black pepper.

Complete with freshly chopped green onion.

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.

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