Can Chicken Be Marinated Overnight?

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When it comes to marinating chicken, people tend to either go for a four-hour or six-hour marinade. Generally speaking, the more time the chicken spends marinating, the more flavor it develops. 

But can chicken be marinated overnight? Yes, chicken can be marinated overnight so long as you follow the correct storage protocols. On average, a chicken can be marinated anywhere from 4 hours to around 24 hours in the fridge! 

Read below to learn more about how to marinate chicken, how to store it during the marination process, and some great tips and tricks to get the most out of the chicken meat!

The Best Marination Time

The great thing about marinades is that they can be customized any way you like. You can either create a spicy marinade or go for a traditional lemon-infused marinade that flavors and tenderizes the meat as well.  

There is no set time for how long you should marinate chicken but generally speaking, 3-6 hours is the ideal time for marination.

However, it is important to note that marinating the chicken for longer does not pose any risk to the meat or your health. 

On the contrary, it can end up adding even more flavor to the meat! 

So, if marinating for longer does not adversely affect the chicken, then why do people suggest a 6-hour marination time? 

The marination time has more to do with convenience than safety. It turns out that you only need about 3-6 hours to flavor chicken. 

While you can go for a longer marination time, having the chicken marinate for half a day is usually enough to impart enough flavor.

But of course, if you have the time and want to take full advantage of a delicious marinade, then you can do that without any worry! But you may want to consider a few things.

How Long Can Chicken Marinate in The Fridge? 

The maximum time limit for marinating chicken meat should be within 48 hours. This time also coincides with the maximum storage time that raw chicken should be stored in the fridge.

Here are the steps for properly marinating chicken meat in the fridge:

  1. Properly clean the meat and drain off any excess water. Pat the chicken dry and then prepare the marinade.
  2. Marinate the chicken thoroughly, and make sure that you get all the crevasses because once the chicken is sealed in the bag or container, it is best to leave it undisturbed.
  3. Put the marinated chicken along with any leftover marinade in a food-safe, airtight container or bag. 
  4. Store the bag in the coldest part of the fridge at 40F and use it within 24-48 hours.

Again, when storing the chicken, make sure that the fridge is operating at a stable temperature of 40°F, otherwise, we wouldn’t advise storing the chicken for more than 8-10 hours. 

Type Of MarinadeMinimum Marination TimeMaximum Marination Time
Simple Spice Marinade3-6 Hours24-36 Hours
Lemon Juice Marinade 6-8 Hours24-48 Hours
Buttermilk Marinade6-8 Hours24-48 Hours
Salt-Based Marinade3-6 Hours24 Hours

Can You Marinate Chicken For 2 Days?

As mentioned, chicken can marinate in the fridge for up to 2 days but it is highly recommended that you cook the chicken before the end of the second day to get the best flavor and texture from the meat. 

Keep in mind, it is safe to marinate the chicken so long as the meat is fresh and safe to eat. 

Meaning that you can store the chicken for as long as the maximum permitted storage time, which is about 2-3 days in the fridge.

You may be able to stretch the maximum storage and marination time to about 3-4 days but by then, the meat would have become either too tender or less flavorful due to oxidization. 

Normally, chicken oxidizes slowly in the fridge but when you add citrus, spices, and herbs, the oxidization process can speed up.

This is why you should try to consume marinated chicken within 24 hours. If you can’t consume it the same day then don’t go more than 48 hours with the marinade on. 

Remember, the chicken won’t become compromised after day 2, it will just lose a lot of flavor and texture, especially if the fridge door has been opened and closed repeatedly during the storage time. 

Best Marinades For Chicken

Any type of marinade works well for chicken. Here are some basic checkmarks that are typically required for a good marinade:

  1. Seasoning (salt, pepper, spice mixes)
  2. Heat (Chili powder, smoked paprika, flakes, ground spices, etc.) 
  3. Acid (vinegar, wine, citrus)
  4. Oil (Olive oil, canola oil, sesame oil, etc.) 

All of these ingredients work together to render the skin and meat of the chicken. When applied for sufficient time, each ingredient will impart an important flavor or characteristic to the meat.

For example, the acid will work to render the meat fibers so that the meat tenderizes equally.

Meanwhile, the spices will work their way within the meat and add a whole lot of flavor and juiciness to the chicken.

Finally, the oil will keep the chicken from drying out. Any type of fat can work well with chicken but the best way to coat it is with olive oil or any other neutral-tasting oil, like canola. 

Can You Marinate Chicken In Lemon Juice Overnight? 

Lemon juice is a great go-to acid to tenderize and flavor meat. The citrus in the lemon juice is strong enough to render the meat within 6 hours.

But is it safe to marinate the chicken with lemon juice overnight?

Yes! Lemon juice can be used to marinate the chicken not just for 8-10 hours but for a maximum of 24-36 hours!

Remember, the longer you keep the chicken in the fridge with the marinade, the more flavorful the meat will become, provided that you maintain all the necessary storage conditions listed above. 

It is probably best not to marinate the chicken longer than 2-3 days as it will greatly affect the texture and the flavor of the meat. While it won’t fully tenderize, the meat may lose a lot of its flavor after 48 hours. 

Though the chicken may be able to survive longer, you might not be able to get all the flavors from the marinade! 

Tips And Tricks

Here are some important tips and tricks to help you get even more flavor by using simple marinades!

  • When marinating chicken for shorter times, poke or stab the meat with a fork at random spots after you have applied all the marinade. This will help the marinade reach deep within the meat. This strategy works great for shorter storage times but will work well for longer marination times too!
  • Never freeze chicken after applying marinade because once frozen, the marinade and meat will become dormant, as no chemical changes will be able to occur. The best way to store the marinated chicken for the long term is to store the meat in the fridge for about 1-2 days and then move it to the freezer for long-term storage. 
  • Always label and mention dates on the marination bags or containers. This will help you keep track of the food and may even prevent you from consuming compromised meat. Ziplock bags work well for this purpose and are a great way to store marinades too.
  • Marinades can be frozen or refrigerated! If you want to make a larger batch of marinade, then you can store it in the fridge for up to 5-7 days at 40F. Freeze the marinade in an airtight container for up to 2-3 months! To thaw it, simply place it in the fridge overnight.
  • Try not to refreeze or refrigerate marinated meat. Once the meat has been taken out from the fridge or freezer, it is best to consume it the same day. If you plan on marinating larger batches of chicken, then portion the meat as per your requirement so that you don’t have to thaw or take out the entire pack just to cook a few pieces. 

Related Questions 

Always marinate the chicken the right way (and with food safety in mind) to get the most out of the meat and the flavors of the marinade! Now that you know how long to marinate chicken, here are some related questions:

Can you marinate chicken for one hour?

You can marinate the chicken anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour. However, the flavor and texture of the meat will only be significantly enhanced after at least 4 hours.

If you don’t have the time, then you can marinate the meat for 15-20 minutes for a good exterior flavor. 

Can chicken be over marinated? 

You can add as much marinade as you want but typically, you will only need enough marinade to cover the entire meat.

In other words, submerging the meat in the marinade will not add more flavor or texture to the chicken and may only insignificantly enhance its flavor. 

Can you use frozen marinated chicken after 3 months?

If the marinated chicken has spent a minimum of 3-6 hours in the fridge, then it can be moved to the freezer for long-term storage. Keep in mind, once marinated, the ideal time to consume the chicken will be around 1 month. 

The chicken can also be stored for longer, up to 3-6 months, but won’t be able to provide the same flavor and texture as freshly and recently marinated chicken. 

If you’re on the hunt for some great marinade ideas, make sure to check out this video!

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