Marinating Chicken: How to Enhance Flavor and Tenderize for Delicious Results

White meats, and in particular chicken, are appreciated for their ease of cooking and low-calorie intake: to make them even better and discover original tastes, then, we have an interesting opportunity. Marinating the chicken, in fact, proves to be a simple and quick operation, and allows us to bite a piece that is tasty, tender, and juicy at the same time, with many possibilities to customize the ingredients of the marinade for always different, original, and tasty results.

Why marinate chicken

Give an extra gear of flavor to the meat, but also (and above all) make it softer and prepare it for cooking. these are the two key aspects of marinating, the process of “immersion” of an ingredient in an emulsion usually composed of an acid part (ensured by citrus, vinegar, or wine), a fat component (such as oil), and an aromatic component (herbs and spices).

Marinating chicken is a very simple operation, which adds flavor to the meat and makes it more tender because it starts the process of breaking down its tissues.

This is a fundamental step especially for some types of cooking (in particular grilling) and ensures a series of important benefits:

  • Marinating the chicken prevents the meat from drying out and becoming chewy when cooked.
  • It helps to soften the chicken and makes it juicier.
  • It acts as a preservative.
  • It helps to reduce cooking times and therefore does not “dry” the meat excessively (as happens with prolonged cooking).
  • It allows us to create new recipes: white meat – even rabbit and turkey, therefore – is very versatile and lends itself to welcoming various types of marinades. which can therefore transform a simple dish into a surprisingly tasty and original preparation.

How to marinate chicken

To make a perfect marinade for chicken we must first decide what cut of meat to prepare and then select the ingredients accordingly.

The immersion time of the meat in the emulsion varies according to the type of cut chosen, and in particular, the boneless pieces of chicken should on average remain in marinade for at least 30 minutes up to 2 hours. while parts such as chicken breasts, thighs, wings, or whole thighs with the bone must marinate for at least an hour and up to 12 hours.

To make the difference is obviously also the type of marinade chosen because for example prolonging the time of an acidic marinade can make the meat soggy, while instead if the base of the marinade is a dairy product the times can lengthen up to 8 hours for boneless chicken and up to 24 hours for chicken with the bone without negative consequences.

Tips and tricks

But before discovering what are the techniques and ingredients to make a marinated chicken, it’s time to find out what are the other “tricks” to know in advance.

As mentioned, the ideal marinade is composed of combining an acidic ingredient, a fatty ingredient, spices, herbs, and additional syrups that give a specific flavor to the chicken.

We can use various recipes of marinades, using ingredients such as honey, lemon, orange juice, wines, vinegar, olive oil, yogurt, tea, coffee, aromatic herbs, salt, pepper, chili, and even Coca-Cola or other exotic condiments.

The acid component is fundamental because it serves in practice to pre-cook the meat, while the fat component softens the consistency, avoiding the annoying sense of stringy meat: usually, their ratio should be equal, 1: 1, but this can vary depending on the recipe.

To speed up the amalgam of flavors, and for better results, we can also quickly pass the marinade in a blender, so as to combine the acids and fats in a homogeneous solution.

Someone also recommends superficially pricking the chicken with a fork, so that the marinade penetrates better, but taking care not to affect the meat itself.

The marinade should be prepared in a baking dish or a glass or ceramic container, healthier and safer than metal or plastic, to be covered with a tight-fitting lid or special food film.

Everything should be stored in the refrigerator to avoid possible alterations of the meat at room temperature. In addition, it is dangerous to serve the marinade raw, because as we know raw chicken is a food potentially loaded with pathogens and microorganisms (therefore, the marinade should be cooked with meat, brushing it on the pieces, or thrown away).

Regardless of the type of cooking, then, marinated chicken meats should be removed from the fridge at least an hour before, because they must be cooked at room temperature to maintain softness.

Techniques for making marinated chicken

There are two main methods of marinating chicken: stewed or dry.


As it is easy to guess, dry marinating is carried out using mainly fresh or dried herbs and the classic barbecue spices (rub), to be crushed and rubbed on the meat to release maximum flavor.

To make a perfect rub for chicken we can use a one-to-one ratio of spices plus half a part of salt, using chopped dry chili pepper, white pepper, fresh chili, mustard powder, garlic powder, onion powder, coriander, cumin, dried citrus peel, cane sugar, paprika, sage, thyme, rosemary, basil, and ginger powder.


More articulated is the marinade of stewed chicken, which is performed by completely immersing a piece of meat in a liquid composed of various ingredients, essential to add moisture, soften the chicken, and give a more intense and diversified flavor.

To prepare a marinade for chicken we must use the spices and herbs that we prefer in a one-to-one ratio, plus half a part of salt, adding enough liquid to cover them.

Among the ingredients that we can use are vinegar, soy sauce, beer, wine, Bourbon, Worcestershire sauce, oil, yogurt, coconut milk, lemon, fruit juice, honey, molasses, mustard, mustard, or even enzyme components such as papaya, guava, ginger, and pineapple.

If we decide to use more liquids, we must blend them together before proceeding with the recipe and add the dry ingredients together, stirring until the desired consistency is obtained.

Marinated chicken, the most famous recipes

The simplest recipe is chicken marinated with chicken with garlic, oil, and lemon juice, then cooking the meat in a pan or in the oven.

If we are looking for some more particular combination, which enriches the taste of the dish and also characterizes its aroma, making the dish irresistible even before tasting it, we can try for example the chicken marinated with mustard and honey, which creates a contrast of flavors between sweet and acrid that will surprise the palate of diners, or even take advantage of the classic Sicilian salmoriglio or prepare a delicious beer chicken.

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