Many people wonder, “how long should I marinade chicken” so this is a very common question. The answer is that it depends on the recipe you are using as well as how intensely you want the meat to be flavored.
If you are including a tenderizing agent such as figs, ginger, or papaya, this is going to turn the poultry mushy after about half an hour, so give it twenty minutes maximum.
Non-tenderizing mixtures can be left on for longer and some can be left on overnight. The recipe will tell you how long to leave it on for. Avoid very thick ones because these are unable to penetrate very well into the bird, which means the meat is not going to end up with much flavor afterwards.
To cook it, lift the poultry out of the marinade and put it in the pan, in the oven or on the grill. You do not need to rinse it or wipe the excess marinade off with paper towels. Leaving some of the marinade sticking to the meat is a great idea because it will enhance the final flavor.
All-Day Chicken Marinades
Most recipes are suitable to be left on the bird all day long. Perhaps you have experimented marinating steak and if you ever left an acidic mixture on an already-tender piece of beef, you will already know it is possible to over-tenderize.
The reason why some steak marinades are left on for 24 or even 48 hours is to tenderize the meat and transform it from something with the texture of shoe leather to something with the texture of filet mignon.
Chicken is not tough, and even old hens are tender once you have cooked them in the correct way, so an all-day marinade should be one which gives plenty of flavor without necessarily tenderizing with acidic liquids.
Acidic ingredients often complement poultry though, so if a recipe calls for lemon juice or white wine, you know this is for flavor and not to tenderizing an already-tender piece of poultry. It is safe to leave nearly all marinades on all day, so long as you read the whole recipe and find out what the suggested time is.
Even twenty minutes is long enough to flavor your bird, but if you plan to marinate while you are at work all day, for example, then check the marinade you are considering is suitable for that. You do not want to have an over-flavored, mushy piece of meat!
Using Chicken Marinades on Other Meats
Many marinades are versatile enough to use on another kind of meat (or even fish or veggies) as well as poultry. For example, a mustard and white wine marinade would also be good with pork or even a firm-fleshed fish. A bold red wine and chili marinade would work with steak. Something mild and delicate could be good on shrimp or fish.
The marinating time will change though, depending what kind of protein you are using. If you are marinating a whole roast, give it at least four hours, or preferably overnight if possible. Pork chops or steaks will usually take about four hours (if you are using a tender steak though, limit the marinating to half an hour or one hour in case it becomes mushy with a longer time.)
Marinating Fish and Seafood
Whole fish, steaks or filets can be given three or four hours, unless you are using an acidic marinade, in which case cut the time down to twenty or thirty minutes, else the marinade will ‘cook’ the fish.
Give squid, octopus or shrimp one or two hours or, if it is an acidic marinade, twenty minutes. You might see the fish or seafood begin to turn opaque and this means it has begun to cook, so if you see that then end the marinating and cook the fish or seafood immediately.