The marination process is more than just adding a beautiful layer of delicious sauce to your meat. The combinations of ingredients used for marination work together to add flavor and moisture to different types of meat such as pork, and of course, chicken.
Some ingredients, such as salt, penetrate the surface of the meat and bring new pleasure to the food. In this article, we’ll look at how each of the ingredients in a successful marinade will enhance your chicken’s flavor.
We’ve also provided tips for making a delicious marinated chicken at home. It’s easier than you think!
What is Marination?
Marinating is the process of soaking meats in a seasoned sauce before cooking. Marination requires an acid such as citrus or vinegar. As an alternative, you can use an enzyme such as papaya, mango, or kiwi fruit.
These ingredients will help add flavors by penetrating the meat to add texture to the meat. The enzyme or acid added in marinade causes the food tissue to weaken on the exterior thus making the meat tender.
However, the marinade should have the right balance of acid and the meat mustn’t be in the marinade for too long. Otherwise, the chicken will become mushy and dry. Successful marination has the right balance of oil, spices, and seasonings.
The Benefit of Marinating Chicken
So now that you know what marination is what other benefits besides flavor and tenderness can the process provide? If you’ve made the marinade correctly you’ll experience the following:
- Juiciness: One of the top reasons to marinate chicken is to prevent the meat from drying out. White meats tend to be drier compared to red meats. So the marinade locks in moisture to prevent the chicken from becoming dry and tasteless.
- Crispy skin: If you’ve left the skin on your chicken, a marinade made with mango or papaya can create a sticky and crispy layer on the outside. Be sure to add salt to the skin. The fat on the meat will react with the salt making the skin crispier on the outside.
- Saves time: Did you know that marinating your chicken can reduce the time of cooking? It may cut your cooking time down by about 1/3 so keep an eye on your dish.
- Use it as a base: When grilling chicken on a barbeque you can continue adding marinade with a basting brush throughout the cooking process. This helps preserve moisture while the meat is cooking.
- Marinade as a sauce: The marinade on your chicken also adds flavor to your side dishes such as salads or vegetables. If you have marinade left over in the pan after cooking, drizzle the sauce over your other food. You can even dip rolls into the sauce.
Additionally, there are several marinade recipes you can put together that work well for whole chicken pieces or breasts. Try various spices such as chilli flakes or ginger. But ensure that the ingredients you use will work to tenderize your meat.
Can You Marinate With Italian Dressing?
Italian dressing is one of the best sauces to use for marinating meats such as chicken and steaks. It has the right combination of vinegar, herbs, oil and spices that will add flavor to your meats and provide the perfect tenderness.
Whether you’re adding marinated chicken to salads, casseroles or pasta, Italian dressing is a powerful tenderizer packed full of flavor and aroma. You can add different types of herbs and spices to your dressing but it’s always best to keep the original recipe to get the desired results.
How to Make a Delicious Italian Dressing for Chicken Marination
Many people buy their marinades because they don’t have the right recipes to make their own sauces. Fortunately, Italian dressing is effortless to make if you have the right ingredients. To get started you’ll need the following:
- A clean bowl
- 4 fresh cloves of garlic
- 1 cup of extra virgin olive oil
- ¾ Red wine vinegar
- Lemon zest from one lemon
- ¼ freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon of thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 3-4 oregano leaves
- 3-4 basil leaves, rolled and chopped into chiffonade
- 1 teaspoon of kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon of sugar
- 1 teaspoon of freshly ground peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
First, put all your dry ingredients in your bowl such as your herbs and spices. Chop up your cloves of garlic and add them to the bowl. Then add your olive oil, red wine vinegar and lemon juice to the mixture. Add your lemon zest and then whisk all your ingredients together.
You can pour the dressing over your chicken in another bowl. Or you can add whole chicken pieces to the marinade or chop chicken breasts into squares. Leave your chicken to marinade for up to 24 hours for the best flavor and tenderness.
How Long Can Chicken Marinate in Italian Dressing?
Depending on the marinade recipe you use, you can season the meat in the refrigerator overnight. Vegetables should be pickled for up to 10 minutes before adding them to your dressing.
When seasoning with acids and enzymes, be careful not to overfill the meat, as prolonged exposure to acids can affect the meat’s texture. Two hours of seasoning is enough time for the meat to absorb flavor, but poultry can be seasoned in the refrigerator for up to two days.
The amount of time to marinate chicken will also depend on whether you’re marinating a whole chicken or different parts of the chicken. See the table below on how to marinate the different parts of a chicken.
|Chicken pieces||Marination Duration|
|Drumsticks (legs)||12 hours|
When done correctly, the marinade softens the meat, moisturizes and enhances the flavor of the food, and makes the meat a better cut. For good marination, timing matters.
How Each Piece of Chicken Must be Marinated
Various ingredients are used to marinate chicken based on portion sizes and cuts. Let’s talk about this in more detail:
- Chicken wings: Typically, chicken wings are marinated in sauces with a higher level of acidity. This makes the skin on the outside crispier. Use a marinade that has vinegar or lemon juice as the main source of acidity.
- Thighs: If you’re making chicken thighs you may want to use a marinade with the right balance of stickiness and sweetness. Use pineapple or mango juice.
- Drumsticks: This type of chicken piece can also be coated in a marinade with a high acidity level and salt to make the skin crispy.
- Breasts or tenderloins: Italian dressing is the perfect marinade for chicken breasts or tenderloins because it has the right amount of spices and acidity. Recipes with red wine vinegar and lemon zest enhance the flavor profile of the chicken.
What if the Meat is Marinated for Too Long?
How long you marinate your meat will depend on the type of meat you’re marinating. Some meats can be marinated within 6 to 24 hours. As mentioned before, it’s safe to marinate chicken for up to two days.
But if you marinate your meat for two long the enzymes and acid in the sauce will start to break down the fibers in the meat. Over marinating can change the texture of the meat causing it to become mushy.
Furthermore, chicken that’s kept in the fridge for too long can end up spoiling. So only marinate chicken for the specified amount of time for each piece so that your chicken doesn’t lose its flavor and texture.
Is There a Way to Preserve Marinated Chicken For Longer?
If you’re big into meal preparations, then the good news is you can preserve your marinated chicken for more than two days. Meal preparations are ideal if you’re on a special diet or if you want to save time prepping dinner or lunch.
All you have to do is place your marinated chicken into Ziploc bags and place them in the freezer. You can prepare four Ziploc bags depending on how much chicken and marinade you have.
You may need to make extra marinade because you want each bag to be filled with enough sauce to cover all the chicken pieces. Make sure you leave your chicken in the marinade for at least an hour before placing the bags in the deep freeze.
To thaw the bags of marinated chicken, simply place it in a bowl of hot water. Once thawed you can cook your chicken as normal.
In a Nutshell
Marinated chicken can be fully seasoned within 30 minutes to 2 hours depending on the recipe you are using. However, you should leave your chicken in the marinade for a few hours. If you only marinade your chicken for 5 minutes your chicken won’t be as tender or flavorful.
Moreover, you can keep your marinated chicken in the refrigerator only for 2 days. After 2 days it would be unhealthy to eat. Or you can freeze your bags of marinated chicken to preserve your meat for longer.
To conclude we recommend marinating your chicken for 24 hours and leaving it to rest for 10 minutes before cooking it. Hopefully, these marination key points will help you in your next cooking venture.