Did you know that how long you can marinate your chicken in the fridge depends on the type of marinade?
While marinating chicken ahead of time is a great way to have a ready-to-cook meal in the fridge, this post explains how to make sure your juicy chicken recipe comes out great and your chicken doesn’t go to waste.
How Long to Marinate Chicken in the Fridge
According to the USDA, chicken should be marinated in the fridge for 2-24 hours for the best flavor and texture. Except for citrus marinades, which only need 30 minutes.
The maximum recommended time chicken can sit in the fridge in a marinade is 2 days; after that, the protein begins to break down with the acids in the marinade, and your chicken can go bad.
Personally, I prefer to marinate chicken anywhere from 20 minutes to four hours, it all depends on the type of marinade being used. More on this below.
The table below provides examples of common marinades and the time to marinate chicken in each.
|Dairy (Greek yogurt)
|Vinegar + Oil
|Soy sauce containing
|Seasonings + Oil
Minimum Time to Marinate Chicken
A marinade doesn’t take long to work its magic on chicken! Across the board, 2 hours for any cut of chicken and type of marinade is plenty of time. In fact, you can add some delicious flavor with a 20-minute marinade and transform your meal.
Does Marinating Chicken Longer Make it Better?
Since most marinades contain acidic ingredients, the longer you marinate chicken doesn’t necessarily make it better. As it sits, the proteins in the chicken begin to break down, which can change the texture of the chicken after cooking.
Now, in the case of marinating frozen chicken, it can take up to 24 hours since the chicken is both marinating and thawing at the same time. In this case, you can go longer, up to 2 days, long enough for the chicken to defrost and soak up the flavors of the marinade.
Can You Marinate Chicken Too Long in the Fridge
Yes, chicken can be marinated for too long, especially citrus-containing marinades which tend to begin breaking down the fibers of the meat, especially if it sits in the fridge for over 2 days.
Another thing to note is the sell-by date of the chicken. If the chicken is close to expiring, marinating it will not extend its shelf life. The best thing to do is freeze the chicken with the marinade in the same bag.
Is It Safe to Marinate Chicken for 4 Days?
According to the USDA’s recommended time frame, 4 days is too long to marinate chicken. The texture changes, the protein fibers have begun to break down, and you’ll risk a food-contaminated illness; therefore, it is not safe to marinate chicken for 4 days.
How to Know if Marinated Chicken is Bad
A weird smell and texture are the two common tell-tale signs chicken has gone bad. The odor will be similar to rotten eggs, while the texture will have a slimy, sticky consistency. If you detect either of these things toss the chicken out and start fresh
Does Chicken Marinate Faster in the Fridge?
Compared to the fridge, chicken marinates slightly faster at room temperature, but this doesn’t mean we should try it. It’s only recommended for quick marinades, under 30 minutes, and not for anything longer.
Keeping chicken at a temperature range of 40F – 140F is a breeding ground for bacteria. And while the USDA states you can leave perishable food (raw chicken) out for 1 to 2 hours, it’s to be used at your own risk.
Safest Way to Marinate Chicken
The safest way to marinate chicken while optimizing flavor and texture is 20 minutes to 4 hours in the fridge. This is enough time for the chicken to absorb the marinade flavors without breaking down.
Using a marinade tray or bag is also a plus because it reduces the chances of cross-contamination. A container is sturdy and can hold more chicken, but if you’re making enough for one meal, a heavy-duty zip bag works great!