How Long Can Chicken Marinate in a Fridge: A Brief Guide To Chicken Marination
how long can chicken marinate in the fridge

Chicken dishes are some of the best and easiest to cook when you are expecting guests. Almost everyone loves chicken. Whether you’re feeding kids or adults, tender, juicy chicken breast preparations appeal to people of all ages. From organizing homely parties, and friends’ gatherings, to hosting backyard parties, chickens remain one of the essential items to make the dinner table full of varied dishes.   

The best part about chicken recipes remains their diversity. You can settle for different parts of the chicken like its breast, wings, legs, etc., to prepare different dishes.  From chicken Rossetti to chicken barbeque, every chicken dish comes with its unique taste and flavor. 

While the chicken cooking time remains substantially lower than other types of meat, it also needs thorough marination for the perfect taste. Many people feel confused about the exact time a chicken needs to marinate. If you too are wondering how long can chicken marinate in the fridge, here is a brief guide for your chicken marination.

What is a Marinate

chicken and marinate

Marinate refers to a juicy liquid mixture of several ingredients that are put over the meat to inject more flavor into it. Additionally, marinates often trigger the muscle fiber breakdown process that reduces the cooking time.

Consequently, you get tender, juicy, well-cooked chicken that smells good and tastes heavenly. No matter how perfectly you cook the chicken, if the marination process goes wrong, it won’t taste as good.

The success of cooking an authentic chicken recipe depends on its marination. Therefore, knowing the right ways of chicken marination is essential for all.

Types of Chicken Marination

making marinate

Chicken marination does not always mean laying the washed chicken with some ingredients and leaving it in the fridge. Marination remains the key element for the flavor the chicken acquires after cooking.

If the marination is done properly, the dish will taste amazing. If not, the dish will lack its authentic taste.  However, broadly, marinades can be of three varieties – acidic, enzymatic, and dairy-based.

1. Acidic Marinades

Acidic marinades refer to the natural, subtle acids that help in breaking down the muscle fibers to take the trapped water out. Protein cells generally retain a lot of water. When the chicken muscle fibers break down, this water comes out making the chicken tender and juicier.

Many expert chefs prefer using acidic marinades in adequate quantities. However, too many acidic marinades can ruin the taste of the dish. The following ingredients are examples of a few natural acidic marinades. Vinegar

  • Lime Juice
  • Apple Juice
  • Yogurt
  • Buttermilk
  •  Wine

2. Enzymatic Marinades

Enzymatic marinades are also a popular choice for marinated chicken. For certain chicken preparations, the sour flavor of acidic marinades can be a mismatch. If your chicken recipe needs something more delicate and subtle, you can try enzymatic marinades.

This variety of marinades is also effective in breaking down the chicken muscle fibers and taking out the much-needed juicy part to make your dish delicious.  The following ingredients are popular choices for enzymatic chicken marination.

  • Papaya
  • Ginger
  • Pineapple
  • Kiwi

Of these ingredients, papaya is particularly an effective one for reducing the overall cooking time of your chicken and tastes great in curry.

3. Dairy-Based Marinades

The most popular choice for the dairy-based marinade is yogurt. Middle Eastern countries use yogurt as an essential ingredient for their chicken recipe marinades. When you try an international recipe to surprise your guests, choose yogurt over other acidic marinades for your preparation.

Yogurt contains lactic acid that interacts with the muscle fiber less vehemently than the other acids. Therefore, for subtly cooked chicken recipes with an authentic flavor of local spices, yogurt remains one of the best choices.

How Marinades Work

marinate chicken

No matter the choice of marinades, they always offer a double benefit. First, your chicken becomes tender as you let it marinate and the flavors and tastes of the ingredients enhance the overall taste of the preparations. If you wish to marinate chicken with any ingredient, the following are a few tips you should keep in mind to make the most of it.

  • Use Ziplock bags to let the chicken marinate appropriately. When you keep the bag air-tight, the chicken pieces do not lose additional moisture due to the action of acidic marinades. Therefore, your chicken pieces retain enough moisture to taste soft and delicious.
  • Avoid using aluminum containers for marinating chicken with acidic marinades. When aluminum comes in contact with acid, a reaction takes place. Consequently, the chicken may become discolored or lose its authentic taste.
  • Do not leave your marinade at room temperature. Marinades are moist and offer a favorable condition for bacterial growth. If you leave the marinade for long hours at room temperature, bacterial growth might ruin your efforts.
  • Don’t use the leftover marinade for other cooking purposes. Dispose of it and make a fresh marinade if you need to brush some of it after the cooking is over.
  • If you are all set for cooking the chicken wings, make sure to pat them dry before dipping them into egg or breadcrumb. This process will help you get the brown crispy crust that defines chicken wing fries.

Factors for Deciding How Long to Marinate

Chicken marination will not be the same for all preparations. The factors that decide the exact duration for which you should marinate chicken remains as follows.

1. The Size Of The Pieces

  • If you are cooking chicken thighs, even 15 minutes of marination will do. To be sure, you can marinate the thighs for up to 2 hours – but not more. Thighs are small pieces that do not require long-duration marination. 
  • For chicken breasts, the marination duration remains anywhere between two hours and 24 hours. If you are marinating overnight, keep the container inside the refrigerator.
  • For chicken tenderloins, the marination time should remain within two hours to 12 hours. Much like thighs, tenderloins do not need extended marination hours.
  • If you are preparing chicken drumsticks, 21 hours of marination will do the trick.
  • Chicken wings also do not require long marination hours. Marinade the wings for a maximum of two hours to cook them perfectly.

2. The Preparation

Sometimes the preparation of the chicken is the most critical factor in deciding the marination time. If you follow a recipe book for the preparation, you will find detailed instructions for marination there. Typically, if your preparation needs slow cooking, avoid long hours of marination. If it is fried or grilled, longer marination hours are generally the ritual.

How Long Can Chicken Marinate in the Refrigerator?

The shortest answer to this question is two days. You should always keep in mind that chicken is a perishable animal protein. When marinated, it becomes more susceptible to bacterial growth.

Therefore, if you choose to leave marinated chicken outside the refrigerator, it can go bad within a few hours. However, refrigerators do offer a dry and cold atmosphere that protects the marinade for quite a long time.

Many people use even three- or four-day-old marinades for cooking. According to health standards, any marinate older than two days is not safe for health. While two-day-old marinates are fine for cooking, you might not experience the same texture or flavor of the preparation.

To enjoy the chicken preparations at their best taste, marinate the chicken pieces for not more than 24 hours.

Is Five-Day-Old Marinate Safe for Eating?

No, it is not. The chicken marinates should not be more than two days old if you intend to eat healthily. Even if the marinate looks perfect and does not smell odd, it might not be entirely safe for eating after a certain time.

How to Handle Chicken Properly?

The chicken that goes into the marinade needs to be clean and hygienic. Below are a few tips for handling chicken the right way for the perfect marination.


When you are dealing with raw chicken, keep everything clean – from your hands to the cutting boards, everything that touches the raw chicken should be clean before and after use. You can use warm, soapy water to clean the knives, cutting board, and the kitchen top area for hygiene safety.


Do not leave the chicken pieces in warm conditions after purchasing them. Try to use a plastic box to store the chicken inside the fridge to restrict dripping.

Cooking Safety

Check if the very core of the chicken is cooked before serving it. Half-cooked chicken is particularly harmful to health.

Final Words

Chicken marination is an integral part of many chicken recipes. The final taste and flavor of a chicken dish often depend on the quality of its marinades. No matter the choice of marinades, the simplest answer to the question, “how long can chicken marinate in the fridge?” is between two days and 48 hours.

Related Posts

Subscribe To Our Weekly Newsletter

Get notified about new articles