How Long To Marinate Chicken

How Long Does It Take To Marinate Chicken

Ever thought about marinating chicken? Look no further. We have the complete guide to everything you need to get the best marinated chicken, for example skinless chicken breasts​ or an entire chicken. We will teach you about ingredients, texture, timing, the different types of marinade, and much more!

Marinating chicken is healthy. Marinating is most often used to add flavor to the meat and tenderize it for a better meal. So how long does it take to marinate chicken? Let's answer this question.

Introduction To Marinating

Marinating meats is a practice that dates back to the late 1600’s, when people used to pickle their raw meats in brine for the purpose of preservation.

Nowadays, we replicate this delicious art to infuse more flavor into our foods, making them much more exciting to eat. There are tons of marinade recipes out there. Chicken, a highly versatile meat, is perfect for marinating thanks to its tender nature, its smooth surface, and its supple texture.

Chicken also has a natural tasty flavor that ends up working as a complement to any additional seasoning. For this reason, chicken is a no-risk choice even if you are brand new to marinating.

Read on so you can learn how long to marinade chicken, and how to create a successful marinating experience that will put all your skills to work.

Marinating Basics: The Condiments

Condiments And Ingredients Marinating

A chicken marinade requires a much shorter time for perfect flavoring, compared to other meats. It will ultimately depend on what type of marinade you want, and what dish you are trying to create. Before we get into specific cooking times, learn more about marinades themselves. The ingredients contained in the marinade can make the waiting time longer, or shorter.

You can marinate food with a variety of ingredients with different flavors and textures. The most common marinades are acidic in nature, because the components of acid break down the meat proteins, making the cuts much more tender.

However, there is much more than just your basic liquid marinade. There are many options to choose from.

Common Chicken Marinade Ingredients

The liquid marinades are usually oily, as the sticky consistency will adhere better to meat. These include:

  • Olive oil
  • Sesame oil
  • Coconut and almond oil
  • Infused oils such as olive oil mixed with truffles, rosemary, or oregano

Acidic marinades include:

  • Vinegar and infused vinegars that come in different flavors
  • Alcohol, mainly wine, sherry and even rum
  • Fruit juices

Cream-based marinades can be found in dairy and nondairy options, which include:

  • Sour cream
  • Yogurt
  • Buttermilk
  • Infused butter

The Texture: Paste, Liquid or Rub

paste Liquid Or Rub Marinades

Marinades are usually pastes, liquids, or rubs.The time it takes you to marinade chicken will depend on what medium you use to infuse the flavors.

  • Pastes - Pastes are basically sticky sauces that are lathered on top of the meat and left there to rest. They are often yogurt or sour cream-based. Many come already prepared in jars and are easy to find in the average grocery store. An example of a paste marinade is Tandoori paste, which is one of the most common marinades and grilling sauces used on chicken, particularly in Indian cuisine.
  • Liquids - Marinades in liquid form include brine, vinegar, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, hoisin sauce, or homemade and original recipes. An example of a famous liquid marinade is liquid smoke, which infuses a smoky flavor into meats.
  • Rubs - Famous for BBQ and rib recipes, these powdered flavors that are, like the name implies, rubbed onto the surface of the meat. A very popular one used for marinating is the dry rub of “Carolina BBQ” recipes. This rub often consists on salt, oregano, brown sugar, pepper, mesquite flavor and pepper flakes.

All of these marinating methods work just as effectively in the process. There is no limit as to what you can do!

How Long To Marinate Chicken

Those unfamiliar with the process of how to marinate meats should know that marinating can be a 2 minute, 2-hour, or 2-day process, depending on what you wish to accomplish. This is why your first step should be to plan out your meal, get the right ingredients, and decide how you want to apply it.

A good marinade for chicken can take anywhere from 2 to 4 hours. A whole chicken made for roasting, can be marinated from 4 to 6 hours.

The Different Marinade Types

  • Tandoori and yogurt-based marinades - Can be marinated for 4-6 hours, but no more than that. The enzymes of the yogurt may make the texture of the chicken mushy.
  • Rub-based marinades - Fans of BBQ rubs are known for leaving the rub marinating overnight, which can also be done with chicken. The final word among rub-lovers is that the time marinating may not make a difference, but most do abide by the overnight period.
  • Liquid marinades - According to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection services, poultry can marinate in the refrigerator for up to two days. Keep in mind that if the marinade is too acidic, this may affect the texture of the chicken if left out for too long.

Some people prefer to marinate whole chickens overnight by placing them in a bag with the marinating medium applied.

​Once refrigerated, the marinade can wait all day until it is time to cook the chicken.The longer you leave chicken to marinate, the more flavor it will get.

​Compared to other meats, a whole chicken needs a relatively less time for marinating than lamb, beef, or pork. An average roast takes 4-6 hours, while steaks and fillets need about a 4-hour marinating time for a very tender, flavorful cut.

How To Marinate Most Effectively?

Using a glass or ceramic dish, mix the meat and the marinade.

If the marinade is a rub, be sure to spread the powder evenly, including putting seasoning under the skin of the chicken.​

If you are applying a sauce, such as Tandoori, use your hands to spread generous amounts of it on each piece.

Liquid marinades can be poured over or injected into the chicken. Special kitchen syringes and basters help push the flavor straight into the meat. This video shows how to inject marinades properly.

Marinating Chart

Chicken Type

Marinade Time

Internal Temperature

Chicken Breast

(Boneless, Skinless)​

2-4 Hours


Chicken Thighs

(Boneless, Skinless)

2-4 Hours


Chicken Thighs

(Bone-In, Skinless)

2-4 Hours


Frequently Asked Questions

Where do you marinate chicken?

How to marinate chicken for biryani?

Is marinated chicken good for you?

Why marinate chicken in beer?


Whether in liquid, cream or rub form, marinades help infuse just about any flavor imaginable to chicken, or any other meat. Only 2 to 4 short hours of marinating time will turn your dish into something truly extraordinary.

Try it yourself. Turn your next visit to the supermarket into an exploration of new marinades, marinating kits, and new flavors for rubs and sauces that are readily available to consumers. Got a recipe of your own? Share it with us, and leave a comment below!

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