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How long to marinate chicken for the perfect New Year BBQ

How long to marinate chicken

How long to marinate chicken for the perfect New Year BBQ

The centrepiece of a New Year’s dining table is usually a meat dish and more often than not, it’s a chicken dish. But since it can’t be any chicken dish, you’d want it to be captivating and flavourful in a way that embodies festivity and culinary excellence.

On that note, a BBQ may work well. But the key to a great New Year BBQ is delicious marinade.

How to marinate chicken and how long to marinate chicken

Most often, when it is time to start cooking and following a recipe, you may be confused as to how to marinate chicken and how long to marinate chicken for.

Chicken is a widely consumed protein but tends to fall on the mild side of taste. However, this can be fixed with the right marinade—a marinade that is a harmonious fusion of tangy, smokey, and savoury, perfectly complementing the tenderness of the meat. 

They say that “Marinating is where taste meets patience”, and they are right. Deciding how long to marinate chicken depends on the type of meat, the thickness of the meat, the flavour intensity, the ingredients you use in the marinade, and personal preferences. 

How long to marinate based on the cut of the chicken

Boneless and skinless chicken breasts: These tend to be on the bland, dry, and boring side of chicken and require shorter marinating times. Most often, chicken breasts are marinated for about 30 minutes to 2 hours. When marinating chicken breasts, it would be best to take a fork and poke some holes in the meat so that the marinade seeps into the chicken; since they are leaner, they absorb flavours quickly. Chicken breasts are not marinated for long periods since this can overpower the natural flavour of the chicken.

Bone-in chicken or thigh cuts: Bone-in and thigh cuts tend to need longer periods of marination since they contain a higher level of fat content and robust flavour. Marination can take your dish up a few notches since it brings out the tenderness of the meat. Therefore, it would be best to marinate the chicken for around 2-6 hours or even keep it overnight.

Whole chicken or larger cuts: Whole or larger pieces of chicken should be marinated for more than 6-12 hours or overnight. This allows the flavours, spices, and acidity to penetrate deeper.

Things to keep in mind when marinating your chicken this New Year

  • It is recommended not to keep poultry in the marinade for longer than a period of two days, as the marinade may start to break down fibres and cause it to become soft, pasty, mushy, and sticky. The rule of thumb in marinating is to keep it under 24 hours.
  • Always marinate your meats in the refrigerator and not at room temperature—this prevents the growth of bacteria.
  • When leaving to marinate, use a non-reactive container, like a glass, stainless steel, or food-grade plastic container suitable for marinating. Using reactive containers, such as aluminium, can affect the taste of your meat.
  • Vinegar, citrus juice, yoghurt, or wine tenderise and add flavour to the meat. However, acidic marinades follow very strict marinade times as long exposure can “cook” the meat, which may alter the texture of your meat.
  • Putting oil in your marinade mix helps to evenly distribute flavours and prevents the protein from sticking to the BBQ grill.
  • Remove excess marinade to prevent burning and uneven cooking of your meat. 
  • Piercing, poking, or skewering the surface of your chicken allows the marinade to sink in deeper, which enhances flavour and makes the meat tender and succulent.

When it comes to mastering your marinade, there are two ways this can be executed:

1. Dry or rub marinade

  • A mixture of dry spices, herbs, salt, or sugar
  • Create a flavourful crust once cooked
  • Best for grilling, roasting, or smoking

2. Wet or liquid marinade

  • Can include oil, vinegar, citrus juice, yoghurt, or liquid components combined with herbs and spices
  • This infuses moisture into the chicken and allows flavours to be immersed and blended well into the chicken
  • Tenderises the meat and can break down tough fibres if the chicken is marinated for too long

Both marination techniques aim to tenderise, infuse, and tantalise the meat with flavour. 

Tips to follow whilst marinating meats

Marination is what binds and collects the flavours of your dish and unleashes them with every bite. These are some general tips that you must follow to be safe while marinating your meats:

  • If you are freezing your marinade, keep it in an airtight or zip-locked bag. This way, you can store your marinated chicken for about 3-4 weeks, making sure that the freezer temperature stays the same or goes lower. Make sure to label the container or bag, because it must remain inside the freezer until you decide to cook it. 
  • Do not wash your chicken, because it is going to result in cross-contamination and bacterial spread. The only way germs and bacteria can be killed is through the cooking heat so this step is completely irrelevant and goes against food guidelines.
  • Follow the instructions of the recipe on how long to marinate chicken and cook it to its recommended internal temperature to ensure it is safe for consumption. 
  • Use separate cutting boards and utensils for raw meat to prevent cross-contamination with other foods.
  • Never reuse a marinade that has had raw meat sitting in it due to potential bacterial growth and risks of contamination and salmonella.

Prepare the perfect New Year BBQ by knowing how long to marinate chicken

Marinating is a great way to add depth and life to your dishes. Embrace the dawn of the New Year with flavour. Follow the above tips and tricks to bring out the best in your chicken dishes. 


To achieve the best marination, get a few marination spices and BBQ marinades that can be your secret ingredients to elevate your dishes this New Year.

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