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Can You Marinate Chicken Overnight? + The Best Time Frame

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Whether it is chicken breast, chicken thighs, chicken shawarma, crispy deep-fried chicken wings, drumstick, or some kind of chicken salad, we all love chicken. We love it in any form and it is one of the most popular foods here in the US. But not just in the US, but around the whole world.

There are plenty of reasons for this, and surely one of the most important ones is that it is extremely delicious in almost every dish and, believe me, there are plenty of chicken recipes.

It is also very healthy since it is full of protein and some vitamins like vitamin B6, which is very important for our overall health.

But, in order for your chicken dish to be delicious, you need to know how to prepare it properly. One of the most popular ways to prepare chicken before cooking it, besides breading, is to marinate it, and this applies to other types of meat as well.

But, there are some important questions that arise, and one of them is whether you can marinate chicken overnight.

The answer is “yes”, but you need to know a lot more information in order to marinate your chicken the right way and to know how long it can be preserved.

Can You Marinate Chicken Overnight?

Marinated Chicken in bowl and spices on table

As I already said, the answer to the question of whether you can marinate chicken overnight is positive, but there are some factors that influence the time frame of marinating chicken that you should know and this article outlines everything you need to know.

First things first, the estimated time that is considered to be ideal for marinating is about 3-6 hours. When I say ideal, I think about flavor and texture, not about food safety.

You can freely let your chicken marinate for more than this time frame and you shouldn’t be concerned at all. You can also marinate the frozen chicken overnight.

Overnight is about 12 hours, and those 12 hours are enough to impart flavor and you do not have to worry about the growth of any harmful bacteria that can cause food poisoning.

So, you can definitely use that time, i.e. 12-hour marinade, for your chicken to stay in a chicken marinade and cook it the next day without any worry.

How Long To Marinate Chicken In The Fridge

Marinating chicken in the fridge can be done in a time frame from four hours to 24 hours on average.

But there are some estimates that the maximum time for marinated chicken to stay in the fridge is about 48 hours, i.e. the maximum storage time for raw chicken in the fridge.

But, you also need to know some important tips when it comes to marinating chicken in the fridge in order for it to be preserved long enough and to maintain quality.

First, it is important to clean the chicken meat properly and to drain off all the excess water. After you pat the chicken dry, you can prepare your desired marinade.

When you have prepared your marinade, make sure to marinate the chicken thoroughly, whether it is whole chicken or some chicken pieces.

Of course, you cannot just put the chicken in the fridge, but you must package it properly. The best place for the marinated chicken and any leftover marinade is definitely an airtight container. You can also use a ziplock bag, but you must make sure to force out all the excess air.

And finally, when it comes to the fridge, its internal temperature must be 40 degrees F.

One more important thing is the type of marinade. Some marinades can stay in the fridge for longer than others.

For example, lemon juice marinade and buttermilk marinade can stay in the fridge for 24-48 hours, while a salt-based marinade and simple spice marinade can stay for about 24-36 hours in the fridge.

What Happens If You Marinade Chicken For Too Long?

Marinated Chicken

When chicken remains in a marinade for more than 2 days, its meat can become too tender and it can lose flavor due to oxidation. 

Even at the end of the second day, it is best to cook your marinated chicken because by cooking chicken at that time, you will preserve the quality of the meat.

This should be done for safety reasons as well because the USDA recommends cooking raw chicken within one or two days or freezing it after the second day.

I personally think that the 12-hour timeframe is the best when it comes to marinating chicken in the fridge, so I would recommend you stick with that. Anything more than 2 days is a bad idea when it comes to flavor and texture.

But when it comes to food safety, it can stay in the fridge a little bit longer, i.e. up to 3 days, but, as I already said, there is really no need to risk it.

All this is not because of the chicken, but because of the ingredients of chicken marinade which include citrus, herbs, and spices. And they speed up the process of oxidation. The chicken itself oxidizes slowly in the fridge.

Can You Freeze Marinated Chicken?

When it comes to freezing marinated chicken, it is not really recommended to freeze chicken after applying a marinade. The chicken meat will become dormant because no chemical changes will be able to occur.

It is always better to store your marinated chicken in the fridge for 1-2 days.

Speaking about the marinade itself, you can freely freeze it for 2-3 months if you have to. If you want to use it shortly, you can refrigerate it for 5-7 days.

And finally, when it comes to refreezing marinated chicken meat, just like freezing it, it is not a good idea. The meat won’t maintain its quality after it has been frozen again. So, be extra careful when freezing chicken meat in the first place.

Freeze exactly the amount you are planning to use or, if you have to freeze a large batch of chicken, then consider portioning the meat. Refrigerating chicken meat again is also not a good idea.

What Are The Best Marinades For Chicken?

Marinated Chicken slices in bowl

Alongside the answer to the question of whether you can marinate chicken overnight, I will give you the details of some delicious chicken marinades.

There are a lot of recipes for great and easy chicken marinades, but here I will mention a few that are, in my opinion, the best ones.

First, there is a Mediterranean marinade with ingredients including olive oil, oregano, black pepper, dried red chili, and lemon juice. As you can see, it contains some classical Mediterranean ingredients like olive oil and lemon, which are also very healthy besides being delicious.

A tandoori marinade is another great option for tenderizing that delicious meat. Ingredients that form this marinade include garam masala, turmeric, chili, garlic, ginger, and yogurt.

This one contains two of the healthiest herbs on the planet as its main ingredients and those are ginger and turmeric.

One of the most important chicken marinades is the so-called teriyaki marinade and its main ingredients are honey, mirin, and soy sauce. It is especially popular in Japan since its main ingredient is mirin, one of the staples of Japanese cuisine.

One very popular chicken marinade here in America is BBQ marinade and that is certainly not a surprise since BBQ is very popular in many dishes. Its main ingredients include garlic cloves, wine vinegar, paprika, and brown sugar.

And last, but not least, jerk marinade is a very interesting one because of its name but do not let that fool you.

It is a fantastic marinade that will make your chicken meat very tender and juicy. Its main ingredients include chili, garlic, ginger, brown sugar, thyme, soy sauce, and allspice.

So, as you can see, for all of you home cooks, there isn’t anything to worry about since there is a wide range of delicious chicken marinades that you can use to tenderize your chicken meat and enhance its flavor.

What Are The Benefits Of Marinating Chicken?

There are some wonderful benefits of marinating chicken meat and meat in general. Maybe the most important one is the marinade’s ability to tenderize the meat. But how does marinade do that?

Well, it has the ability to break down muscle fibers inside the meat, and that makes it more tender and juicy.

The second important benefit is flavor. A good marinade makes chicken flavorful, mostly on the surface of the meat, but also a few inches inside the meat.

It can’t penetrate deep into it because the flavor molecules are usually too big for that, but if the marinade is good, the flavor on the surface is usually enough.

There are also benefits when it comes to cooking. If you don’t intend to cook chicken breasts in a slow cooker, but you want to grill them, the marinade can be a great thing.

An acidic marinade can reduce the formation of harmful substances that are the result of excessive heat. That way, you will protect your health.

And last, but not least, is that marinade acts as a preservative. That was especially important in the past when there was a problem with coolers and when the only way to preserve the meat was to marinate it.

Final Verdict

Marinated Chicken on stick

As you have seen, marinating chicken is an excellent way to get flavorful and tenderized chicken meat that will delight your taste buds to the fullest. The only question is how to properly handle that delicious liquid.

And one of the important questions on this subject is whether you can marinate chicken overnight. And you certainly can! I actually think that those 12 hours are the sweet spot when it comes to marinating chicken meat.

The maximum estimated time for marinating chicken meat in the fridge is up to 3 days, but you have to know that it is not recommended at all for chicken to stay there that long.

And finally, you also have to know how to properly store your marinated chicken in order to preserve its quality in terms of flavor and texture. Otherwise, your chicken meat will not do well in that marinade, no matter how well it is prepared.