How to Marinate Chicken: Methods & Tips

Tips and Tricks for Marinating Chicken

If you are fond of eating chicken, you will like to relish a piece which is tender, juicy and flavourful. And to ensure that the chicken is deliciously cooked, it IS essential to marinate it. Marinating involves steeping the meat in a mixture of spices, oil and similar ingredients for softening and enhancing the taste.

Why Should You Marinate Chicken?

Without a doubt, it is the marinade which makes all the difference to a chicken dish. A good marinade which comprises of a perfect balance of spices, fat and acid content can create magic. Some of the reasons why you should marinate chicken are:

  • Marinating facilitates the breaking down of the meat tissues thereby making it tender and easier to cook. Therefore, any marinating will include acidic ingredients like yoghurt, lemon juice, vinegar or enzymatic components of ingredients like ginger, papaya, pineapple, and guava.
  • Marinating augments the flavours in the dish by seeping inside the chicken thus making it tastier.
  • It infuses the chicken preparation with adequate juiciness thereby preventing it from drying and becoming chewy.
  • In case the chicken is grilled, a marinade protects it from the harmful chemicals which get produced during grilling, owing to the heat.
  • A balanced marinade acts as a preservative and stops the chicken from degenerating.
  • It assists in making the meat tender, thus reducing the cooking time.

Why Should You Marinate Chicken?

What Are the Different Methods of Marinating Chicken?

There are essentially two ways of marinating chicken:

1. Wet Marinating

Wet marinating is completely immersing the chicken pieces in a liquid marinade. The wet marinade can be of three types: acidic marinade which includes vinegar, lemon juice, wine, citrus juices, and tomato juice; enzyme marinade which includes papaya, kiwi, and pineapple to help tenderise muscle fibre and dairy marinade which consists of yoghurt, hung curd, and buttermilk.

2. Dry Marinating

Dry marinating refers to coating the chicken parts with barbeque spices or seasoning.

Marinating Chicken – Ingredients and Procedure

It is ideal to always skin and dress the chicken before marinating it. Marinating with yoghurt is the most commonly preferred. The acids in yoghurt make the chicken softer and enable the flavours to be absorbed. The flavours come out best when the chicken remains infused in the marinade for a minimum of 6 hours. So marinating on the morning of the day you want to prepare or even the night before may work best. You can use the following steps:

How to Marinate Chicken


  • Chicken pieces – 1 kg
  • Thick hung yoghurt (unsweetened) – 1 cup
  • Ginger-garlic paste – 1 tbsp
  • Red chilli powder – 1 tsp
  • Garam masala – 1 tsp
  • Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
  • Chicken masala (optional) – 2 tsp
  • Kasoori methi – 2 tsp
  • Ghee or butter – 2 tbsp
  • Red food colour (optional) – 1/2 tsp
  • Salt to taste


  • Begin by removing the skin of the chicken and washing it properly.
  • Cut the chicken into pieces.
  • Next, prick the chicken flesh all over with a sharp knife making thin incisions. Doing this allows the marinade to penetrate deep inside.
  • Transfer the chicken pieces to a bowl. Position the bowl in a tilt so that any excess water can drain out otherwise the marinade may become watery.
  • In another bowl, mix all the ingredients to form a smooth paste.
  • Pour the paste over the chicken pieces and mix everything well. You can use your hands to do this. The aim is to ensure that each chicken piece gets covered with the marinade.
  • Place the bowl in the refrigerator, after covering, for about 8 to 10 hours.
  • Take out the marinated chicken from the fridge half an hour before cooking time for it to return to room temperature.

Easy Tips for Marinating Chicken

Some easy tips for marinating chicken are:

  • The best way to marinate chicken for BBQ is to have an acidic ingredient like lemon juice or vinegar along with fat constituents like oil, herbs, spices and syrups.
  • Opt for fresh herbs rather than dried herbs to lend a distinct flavour to your dish. In case you don’t have fresh herbs, crush the dried herbs and smear them on the chicken to maximise the flavour.
  • The favoured ratio of acidic ingredients and oil for the chicken breast must be 1:1.
  • Take care to not let an acidic marinade work on your chicken for more than six hours as it can worsen the texture by making it too dry. Marinades which do not contain acids can be left on a little longer.
  • In case you intend to marinate chicken for more than one hour, refrigerate it in an airtight glass container with a lid to retain its freshness. Avoid using metal containers or leaving it uncovered.
  • While pricking the chicken flesh, be careful not to overdo it. Piercing too much can result in tearing of the flesh or skin. You can slash the chicken with a knife to create enough surface area for the marinade to do its job.
  • You may want to use up all the prepared marinade by brushing any leftovers on the chicken or adding it to the curry later.
  • You can consider adding salt as it helps to soften the chicken by breaking down the muscle fibres. Also, a mix of salt and water may function as a self-styled brine making the chicken juicier and more flavourful.
  • You can give a quick whirl to your marinade in a blender so that the acids and fats mix smoothly.
  • It is advisable to discard any unused marinade as it can be a reason for food poisoning.


Some of the frequently asked questions are:

1. How Long Should I Marinate Chicken?

Marinating chicken in an acidic or sour marinade for a very long time can turn the chicken mushy. For boneless chicken, two-hour marinating may be adequate. Ideally, you should not marinate for more than 6 hours.

2. Is It Okay to Marinate Chicken in Yoghurt Overnight?

Yes, it is okay to marinate the chicken in yoghurt overnight. Just place it in a refrigerator to preserve it well.

The secret to cooking a finger-licking good chicken dish lies in its marinating. You can enjoy lovely chicken curry or chicken tikka by treating the chicken with a perfectly blended marinade.

Also Read:

How to Make Chicken and Lentil Soup
Procedure for Making Apricot Chicken
How to Make Chicken Biryani

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