How Long Can Chicken Marinate In The Fridge? [A Complete Guide with Q&A]

Who doesn’t get excited over a juicy chicken dish brimming with flavors? 

 Chicken is such popular and versatile meat that delights in any makeover you give it, from roasted and broiled to souped and baked.

 While you can get by adding chicken slices directly in a casserole or stew, rubs and marinades elevate your chicken dish to a whole new level.

 Which brings us to the most important question you may have. 

How long can chicken marinate in the fridge before it gets closer to spoiling? 

 According to food experts, marinated chicken can last for 2 days in the fridge. You should try and use it within a day or two to ensure maximum freshness and flavor.

What happens to the marinated chicken that is left lying in the fridge for three or five days, or longer?

 With this guide, I hope to provide the right answer to this pressing question, including how to know whether your juicy chicken has passed its best-by date.

 But before we delve into it, let's find out

 

Why You Should Marinade Your Chicken?

 If your meat is dry after grilling or roasting, then a marinade will help tenderize the chicken and add flavor as a bonus. 

 And if you’re drooling over some chicken drumstick, wings, or even a fried chicken, you know the marinade makes all the difference. 

 Whether you use an acidic, creamy, or oil marinade, the result is the same –more flavor and fewer chances of the meat going dry and stringy (unless you overcook it).

 If you’ve noticed your whole chicken is suddenly easier to cut into smaller serving pieces.

 While some believe that marinades tenderize meat, it doesn’t actually do much. The paste or liquid barely permeates the surface and can’t turn the chicken juicy or tender.

 

How Long Is Chicken Marinated? 

 It will depend on the type of recipe and the marinade you use. While chicken requires a shorter soaking time compared to other meats, some recipes will have you wait impatiently! 

 Some cooking styles require a longer soak of your chicken, with the chicken imbibing some of the flavors. Usually, cooks recommend a minimum of 30 minutes to around 6 hours, although some recipes will require you to aside the meat for 12-24 hours. 

 Of course, you have the quick rub option with salt, spices, and seasonings. If you want a quicker prepping option, this gets your chicken to the cooking pot in less than 10 minutes. 

 Given that raw chicken spoils faster when kept out, placing it in the fridge allows the marination to work its magic and keep the food safe.

Check out: Can You Freeze Chicken Salad? [Full How-To Guide + FAQs]

Roasted chicken cuts marinated with rubs on top of pita

How Long Can Chicken Marinate In The Fridge?

According to the USDA site, while it possible to store marinated but uncooked food for longer, 2 days is the optimum time. 

Even the best quality raw chicken will remain germ-free and taste good only when you store them for the correct amount of time. 

 If you store it for more time, the marinade could turn the chicken mushy. Some types of marinades can also alter the taste of the meat making it sour or bitter. 

The timeline will also depend on the marinades you’ve used. Different ingredients can affect the texture and flavor when used beyond a particular duration.  

The type of chicken meat you’re cooking will reduce or increase the marination time as well.

ice topped with marinated chicken and broccoli with French fries on the side

Can you use the marinade used to soak raw chicken?

Please resist the temptation to use the leftover liquid in the bowl. While the cold prevents food bacteria from multiplying rapidly, the raw marinade could harbor germs that can cause food poisoning.   

 If you want to brush it on your chicken or other meat, boil it well before using it.

You may also like: All You Need to Know About Healthy Non-Perishable Food


Can You Keep Marinated Chicken In The Fridge For Longer? 

We plan to make a special dish or have dinner plans drawn up with friends or family. Something comes up and the dish doesn’t get made.    

Then you’re as likely to keep it marinating in its juices because you think the chicken breast or thigh will be tastier and juicer.

 As a result, you leave the marinated chicken in the fridge for over a week. 

 Unfortunately, from past experience, the reverse is true. Marinate it too much and you make a mess of the uncooked meat, and worse still, have spoiled food you need to dump in the garbage.

 If you use marinated poultry, specifically raw, that has been in the fridge for more than three days, you’re risking food-borne illness. Add to this, the meat’s texture undergoes a drastic change. What you have is mushy food that looks least inviting and smaller cuts that fall apart while cooking.

Skewered chicken cuts marinated with different ingredients

How Long Can I Store Chicken Marinades?

 As you’ve seen, marination time is not the same for different cuts. The soak time also changes with the kind of marinade you apply to the chicken.

 As a general rule, smaller and thinner pieces of meat benefit more from being drenched with oil or liquid, while dry rubs and pastes work for bigger parts and whole chicken.

Let’s look at some popular meat cuts and common marinades, and for how long you can store them in the fridge.


Whole Marinated Chicken 

For the soaking liquid or rub to work, you need to allow marination to continue in the fridge for at least 4 hours. A whole bird does benefit from a longer and stronger marinade. This is a marinated meat you can store the longest – 2 days.


Marinated Chicken Thighs

Chicken thighs are more tender than breasts, and quicker marinades work best. You can marinate anywhere from 20 minutes to 24 hours. 

 if you’re using an acidic coating (lemon or vinegar) stick to 2-0-30 minutes. For seasonings, cream pastes, or herb-oil infusions, marinate stay good for a day. Avoid storing in the fridge for a longer duration than this.


Chicken Breasts Marination

As this is one of the thicker meats, you don’t have to worry about marination time. Infuse the meat for 2 hours or even keep it for two days in the fridge before you cook it.

 

Marinated Chicken Drumstick (Legs)

Legs are delicate and more tender than thighs and these parts cook well with a short time and mild marinade. The optimum time you can keep it marinated in the fridge is between 20 minutes and 2 hours. 

You can keep them overnight in the refrigerator or for up to 12 hours. Any longer and the meat could deteriorate.

 

Marinating Chicken Tenderloins

These tenders are small and thin cuts and do with a short marinating time. 20-30 minutes is good enough. If you’re not planning to cook it immediately, soak it overnight or for 12 hours, not any longer than that.   


Chicken Wings Marinade

A flavor infusion of acidic marinades is what makes these party food and appetizers tasty. Keep them in the fridge for1-2 hours.

Barbeque-ready chicken with spicy liquid marinade
 

Marinades and soaking time in the fridge

Marinades work differently depending on whether you’re using an acidic or oil-based ingredient. Other types of marinades like fruit juice, dry rubs, and creamy ones tend to have shorter or longer time durations.

Here is a table that shows the optimal time chicken can marinate in the fridge based on coating ingredients:

Marinade

Food Type

Time In Fridge

Acidic

Lemon juice, vinegar

30 minutes – 3 hours

Fruit juice

Citrus and berry

2-24 hours

Liquids

Sauces like soy

2-24 hours

Dairy and creamy

Yogurt, buttermilk

1-24 hours

Rubs

Seasoning, spice mix, herbs

1-48 hours

Oil or liquid

Vinaigrette and salad dressing

1-48 hours


How should you store marinated chicken in the fridge?

 You can store it anywhere in the fridge but keep it covered. Place the chicken along with marinade liquids in a ziploc bag, resealable silicone bags, glass jars, and stainless steel or non-toxic plastic containers.

 Don’t use metal containers such as aluminum as the acids in the marinade can react with the metal and affect the texture and mouthfeel of the food.

Related: Can you Eat Chicken Left Out Over Night?

 

Final Thoughts

Marinades do elevate your chicken dish and make it more flavorsome and juicer. But not all marinades and meat cuts are equal. 

Some last for 2 days in the fridge while others have a very short window of time –30 minutes to 2 hours

While two hours is the ideal time, you can use acidic-based marinades in 30 minutes or less. And some meats like whole chicken do with a longer or extended marination. 

Don’t fret over an extra hour or two as it is not a major cause for concern.

Have you eaten chicken that has been marinated for a long time? Do you have a favorite marinade recipe?  Tell us about your experiences in the comments.

 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

I tried to answer some common questions for which readers may need answers.

 

Can you cook 5-day-old marinated chicken stored in the fridge?

Marinated chicken cuts last anything from 2 to 48 hours, Anything stored beyond that is an invitation for bacterial growth and resulting foodborne illness. Avoid cooking marinated meat that has been in the fridge for more than two days.

 

Is My Refrigerator Marinated Chicken Spoiled?

If your marinated food smells off or tastes weird, throw it away. Any sign of mold and lumpy texture is an indication of spoiling. Don’t ever cook that piece of chicken.

 

Is the fridge better to store marinated chicken or the freezer?

Plan to use the marinated chicken within 2 days, simply store it covered in the refrigerator. For a weekend or batch cooking marinades, the freezer is the place to go.

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