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How Long Can You Keep Marinated Chicken In The Fridge? Know The Hacks To Treat It Better

“Life tastes better when you marinate your experiences.”  – Jasmine J. Anderson

And so does chicken. Any delicious chicken preparation needs a well-marinated chicken to start with. It is a part of the preparation process. Marination is done to infuse the flavours into the chicken and tender it. 

But, how long should you marinate the chicken, and how long can you keep it in the refrigerator? It depends on the type of chicken, its cut, and the recipe. Standards define how long it can be kept in the fridge to keep it fresh and good to cook.

We will discuss the various ways to marinate chicken and the duration for which you can leave it in the fridge before cooking. 

What Does Marination Mean?

Marination is the process of soaking food in a mostly acidic liquid and spices to infuse the flavour inside and tenderize it. The word’s origin comes from brine (aqua marina or sea water) in the pickling process.

This also led to the technique of adding flavour by immersion in liquid. The liquid in which it is soaked is called marinade. 

The marinade adds flavor to the chicken, making it soft and ready for cooking. Marinades mostly have one or more acidic components like fruit juice, vinegar, and wine, or enzymatic components such as pineapple, papaya, guava, or ginger.

Marination is an essential part of cooking when it comes to meat products. Well-marinated meat makes cooking easier as the seasonings are already inside to make the dish flavorful. 

Marination is necessary before grilling meat because harmful substances might form on the surface because of the high, intense heat produced by grills. An acidic marinade is helpful as it reduces the formation of these chemicals.

Chicken breasts tend to dry out on the grill, so marination helps them to retain moisture. Italian Dressing is an excellent and popular basic marinade. Marinades can be homemade or packaged ones bought from the market, depending on your requirement. 

How To Marinate Chicken?

There are two ways of marination:

  • Dry marination: BBQ spices, dry herbs, or dry rubs like Tex-Mex, Cajun, or Jamaican are used for this.
  • Wet marination: As the name indicates, it involves a marinade liquid. It can be an acidic marinade (wine, vinegar, citric juices, etc.), enzyme marinade (fruits like kiwi, papaya or its leaves, or pineapple, which helps break down muscle fiber), or dairy marinades (yoghurt and hung curds). 

The process of marination

  1. Prepare the marinade- Use ingredients per your requirement, like honey, lemon, orange juice, wines, vinegar, olive oil, yogurt, tea, coffee, herbs, salt, pepper, chili, etc. 
  2. Add a fat ingredient like oil or syrups.
  3. The ratio of oil and other ingredients containing acids for acidic marinade should be 1:1.
  4. For herbs marinade, try using fresh herbs on top of dried herbs for more flavor.
  5. An acidic marinade should not be kept on the chicken for more than 5 to 6 hours, as if you keep it longer, it will dry the chicken.
  6. Any marination that goes more than an hour must go into the fridge in an airtight glass container with a lid, not metal containers.
  7. Pierce the chicken moderately with a fork, or slash it with a sharp knife (it creates more surface area) for the marinade to seep into the chicken.
  8. Never serve uncooked marinade (one that has come in contact with the chicken), as it can lead to food poisoning.
  9. Do not leave marinades for an extended period, especially acidic ones. Non-acidic marinades can be left longer, preferably not more than 24 hours.
  10. Avoid any artificial food flavor, colors, and preservatives.
  11. Salt helps loosen the muscle fibers to make the chicken tender if added in larger quantities.
  12. Blend your marinade in a blender to mix the acids and fats into a smooth solution for better results. 

Safety Measures

The marinade might pick up bacteria from the raw food it comes in contact with, like uncooked meat, fish, and seafood. That is why keeping the marinating item in the refrigerator is essential instead of room temperature. 

Avoiding aluminum foil, pottery products, or metal bowls other than stainless steel is better, as the marinade acid can react with the metal or glaze to release lead or other elements. Glass, food-safe plastic vessels, or a disposable ziplock bag are safer options.

Do not reuse the containers used for marination to store food unless adequately washed. Any used marinade should be discarded and not poured over the food while cooking. Rather, keep aside a separate portion if you wish to use it for basting or as a sauce.

How Long Should Chicken Marinate Before Cooking?

The amount of time for marination depends on the different cuts of meat. For example, keeping chicken for too long in an acidic marinade can denature proteins and toughen their texture. Then, you choose a milder acidic marinade for a shorter time. On the other hand, if you keep the meat for too long in an enzymatic marinade, it can make it mushy.

Two hours of marination is long enough for chicken pieces, while beef and pork take longer, like 1 to 12 hours. The timings vary according to different vegetables, seafood, and fish types.

How Long Should Chicken Marinate Be Kept In The Fridge?

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, marinated chicken can be kept in the fridge for up to two days. After that, discard any uncooked marinade.

Most marinades work within a few hours and not days. So, by keeping it for too long, the chicken texture might get hampered. Make sure to check the recipe for the recommended timing.

Marination is also significant from the perspective of the poultry industry and market. A study investigated the effects of various marination processes on the quality characteristics of chicken breast prepared with chicken feet gelatin and wheat fiber. 

The composition (w/w) of the marinade was water (10%), soy sauce (12%), phosphate (0.3%), wheat fiber (1.5%), and chicken feet gelatin (1.5%). No significant differences in the samples were subjected to different processes other than the color. 

It showed that the proper selection of mechanical processing is vital for improving the quality characteristics of marinated chicken breast, considering the types of final products.

Can We Marinate Cooked Chicken?

Yes, you can marinate already cooked chicken by adding ingredients like soy sauce, red wine, and honey so that your already cooked chicken won’t dry out. 

Some Recipes To Cook Marinated Chicken

There are innumerable dishes that you can make using marinated chicken. The marination process depends on the type of dish you want to make. Here are some fantastic recipes that you can try out. 

How Long Can You Keep Marinated Chicken In The Fridge


Cooking is a passion that many people enjoy, but a few excel in it because they have mastered the art by experimenting with the basics. An expert must know the tips and tricks for a good marinade and the marination process to bring out an excellent chicken dish.  

A delicious output needs a good, flavorful input. These marination hacks will help you prepare raw chicken with a ‘dressing to kill’. What comes out at the end will be mouthwatering and too hard to resist. 

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Paula Hughes

I’m Paula, and I’m absolutely in love with food blogs. I’m a foodie at heart but being the mother of two small boys, it’s not always easy to keep up with fancy dinners… so I rely on the support of other blogging moms like me to help along the way.

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