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How Long Can You Marinate Chicken?

Posted in Food Safety on August 31, 2022

Chicken can marinate for up to 24 hours, but overnight is recommended. Any longer does not make them work better, and there is a risk of it becoming mushy and possibly unsafe to eat.

Why Should Chicken Only Marinate for 24 Hours

Raw chicken should only be stored in the refrigerator for one to two days, according to Federal Food Safety guidelines. After this, dangerous amounts of bacteria can grow, and there is a risk of food poisoning. This is especially true when the meat is in contact with other ingredients (like in a marinade). Basic marinades are a combination of rich oil, salt, sugar, and a tangy acid such as lemon juice, vinegar, or yogurt. This helps tenderize and flavor the chicken.

However, marinades also break down tougher muscle fiber; if it sits too long, it essentially turns mushy. Therefore, chicken with marinades that contain acid should ideally sit between five to six hours or overnight. Chicken with marinades that do not have acid can sit for up to 24 hours maximum.

How to Safely Meal Prep Marinated Chicken

Instead of letting chicken sit in a marinade for days at a time, prep and store the marinade separately, then add it to the meat the night before you plan to cook it. Place the chicken in a zip-top bag, pour the marinade over, and gently remove as much excess air as possible before sealing. Put the bag on a rimmed baking sheet or tupperware to catch any juice that happens to seep out. Alternatively, you can toss the chicken in a marinade and then freeze it. Once it is frozen, the marinating process stops until you thaw the meat.

How to Tell if Marinated Chicken Is Bad

Any uncooked marinated chicken sitting in the fridge for longer than two days should be thrown out. If it has been less than 48 hours, look for the following signs:

  • Smell: If the smell is pungent, like rotten eggs, or ammonia, it should be discarded. Fresh and safe to consume chicken should not have a funky smell.
  • Texture: Bad chicken can appear slimy or sticky to the touch.
  • Mold: Any growth or spots of green or black fuzz is mold, which means the chicken is spoiled.
  • Color: Discoloration can be hard to tell in marinated chicken, so you may have to look for other signs. However, if parts have turned a dull gray, it is bad.

If you consumed contaminated chicken from the store or believe a restaurant served you contaminated chicken, a food safety attorney may be able to help.

How Long Does Cooked Marinated Chicken Last in the Fridge?

Once marinated chicken is cooked, it will last for three to four days in the fridge. However, it cannot sit at room temperature longer than two hours after cooking. If it was left sitting out longer than two hours, it should be thrown out. At that point, dangerous bacteria begin to grow, and reheating will not make it safe. If consumed, there is a risk of getting food poisoning. Before eating cooked marinated chicken that has been in the fridge, still, look for signs of spoilage before eating. To detect if the chicken has gone bad, check for changes in smell, texture, and color.