Chicken Marinade
July 26, 2012 6:24 PM   Subscribe

What are your favorite chicken marinades?

I am on a diet that requires me to have protein at every meal, so for me, that means a lot of chicken, tofu, and cheese. However, I was a vegetarian from age 14 to 36, and neither of my parents cook, so I don't really know what to do with chicken. Lingering squickiness from my vegetarian days requires that the chicken be a nice anonymous breast portion and not an identifiable carcass or part thereof. So... marinaded chicken breast. Every day. You see the problem.

What are your favorite marinades? Don't worry about it being bog-standard and one that everybody knows, because I don't know it. If you have tips or special instructions on the marinading or cooking of the chicken, by all means, please share them.
posted by pH Indicating Socks to Food & Drink (40 answers total) 101 users marked this as a favorite
Italian Salad Dressing. Okay, really any oil and vinegar salad dressing will work. Low fat if you're trying to lose weight.

Salsa too. This recipe is really, really good. I don't use the salsa they call for though, because it isn't very good. Just use your favorite brand or the homemade stuff.
posted by TooFewShoes at 6:34 PM on July 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

Sooooo good: a couple of anchovies and their oil, a dozen kalamata olives, a cup of chopped tomatoes, 2 chopped garlic cloves, and a big splash of balsamic vinegar. Very delish. Slice the chicken up and put it with the other ingredients in a baggie for a few hours and then just put it all in a skillet and saute it till the anchovies melt and the chicken starts to brown. You can add salt and pepper to taste.
posted by iconomy at 6:35 PM on July 26, 2012 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Boneless skinless thighs. No more anatomical than breasts but so much better. Easier to cook, tastier, the works. This recipe (marinade, sauce, and gussied-up rice included) is basically the best thing ever.
posted by supercres at 6:37 PM on July 26, 2012 [9 favorites]

Best answer: Easy marinade that I'm loving right now:

3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
2 T spicy or dijon mustard
salt and pepper

Thoroughly combine all of the above, and marinate chicken in this mixture for at least three hours.
posted by artemisia at 6:38 PM on July 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

A simple trick I've developed is:

1 cup olive oil
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon Gudlen's mustard
1-2 cloves of garlic
1 tsp black pepper

Marinate in that for a bit, grill it up, good to go. And I'll be honest, I started with mustard and garlic powder rather than "real" ingredients...and it was still good.
posted by stevis23 at 6:38 PM on July 26, 2012

Yeah, seconding the boneless thighs.

Chicken adobo is life-changingly simple and awesome. Equal parts soy sauce, water and vinegar, a bunch of black pepper, a couple whole garlic cloves, and a couple bay leaves. Marinate the chicken as long as you have patience for — and then bung it on the stove, marinade and all, and let it simmer until it's cooked through.

For extra awesomeness, fish out the chicken parts, turn up the broiler, and broil them for a few minutes. This step is essential in my opinion if you've got thighs with the skin on — it crisps it right up — and optional but still nice if they're skinless.

You can do something similar with Goya's bottled mojo criollo. Put the chicken in a pot, add mojo to cover, simmer until done, broil.

You really want dark meat for these recipes, though. Breasts will dry out and get stringy if you stew them like that, whereas thighs stay moist and tender and delicious.
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:44 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding mojo criollo. If you can find it, La Lechonera is a great one too. If you want, it's not hard to make your own either though getting the sour Seville orange juice can be a little tricky. No worries - substitution is easy.
posted by jquinby at 6:46 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

btw, it's pronounced 'moho cree-O-yo' in the event you have to ask for it at a Latin market.
posted by jquinby at 6:48 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks for this question so I can steal ideas, too!
My latest and very simple marinade is just 3 ingredients:
lime juice (I juiced 4 limes), olive oil (1/4 cup or so) and garlic (3-4 cloves, minced).
You could add salt & pepper, I guess.
I just marinated chicken pieces for about 30 minutes and cooked them as kabobs. Very tasty.
posted by LilBit at 6:53 PM on July 26, 2012

Garlic and ginger chopped fine, soy sauce, red pepper flakes, a bit of sesame oil. Cut the breast into strips and leave it in that in the fridge overnight. Cook and serve with peanut sauce for chicken satay. (Peanut sauce: Chunky peanut butter, enough soy sauce to make it fluid, and slightly more lime juice than seems reasonable).

Lately, though, I find the best way to cook chicken is to rub it in olive oil, add some salt and pepper, and toss it in the oven for forty-five minutes. Delicious and keeps well. You will want to put tin foil on top if you have skinless breasts, though.
posted by 23 at 6:54 PM on July 26, 2012

Basically the components of a marinade are acid, fat, emulsifier (usually), and salt. Be aware, though, that the the acid and salt will denature the proteins after a while, so don't marinate too long. On top of those components, add spices and aromatics as desired.

Also make sure you're familiar with correct cooking temperatures in a pan do you don't have to use (awful awful) nonstick and get awesome color on the meat.

But oven cooking or slow cooking (or pressure cooking!) are definitely easier.
posted by supercres at 7:00 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, sorry-- this is a much better video on pan-cooking chicken. Hot stainless pan (Leidenfrost effect!), minimal oil, and it will tell you when it's done/ready to be flipped.
posted by supercres at 7:02 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I usually pick a selection from:
white wine (red discolors it, otherwise, go nuts), soy sauce (go easy), vinegar(sherry, cider, balsamic, herbed - so many options), sesame oil, olive oil, orange juice, lemon juice, sherry, tequila, sriracha sauce.
plus: fresh ginger, curry powder, garlic, savory herbs, cilantro, fresh basil, chili powder, red pepper, poultry seasoning

You can take boneless chicken, douse liberally with grilling spices and cook in a pretty darn hot pan. Time depends on thickness of chicken. Comes out juicy and tasty, and can be used later to top salad or pasta.
posted by theora55 at 7:04 PM on July 26, 2012

Best answer: Also, if you're really committed to breasts and not thighs, another thing to try to liven things up is is stir-frying them, which is quick and doesn't require any marinade or other prep ahead of time.

Chop em up into chunks, get a (not-nonstick) pan really good and hot, pour in some peanut oil, and cook the meat until it's just done — maybe just a few minutes, depending on how small you've chopped it. The low cooking time means the meat stays moist and doesn't dry out, and the small chunks mean that whatever sauce you put on it is right there in every bite, so a marinade isn't necessary.

There are lots of seasoning options for stir-fry. I like a little dollop of Chinese black bean sauce (you can get this in a jar, probably even at a normal white-people supermarket — Lee Kum Kee makes a decent version) and a little dollop of Sriracha or some other chili sauce. The black bean sauce is super salty, so don't go overboard with it.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:06 PM on July 26, 2012

Mr. Yoshida's Original Gourmet Sweet Teriyaki Sauce - good lord is this stuff good! Also works really well with extra-firm tofu.

For a really easy stir fry, cut up your chicken or previously-frozen* tofu into chunks, and saute in olive oil until the outside is starting to brown. Then pour in some Yoshida's, lower the heat a bit and cover. Give it a minute or two and then add veggies. Let the whole thing simmer for a while, and serve over rice. It's pretty forgiving technique. I've even accidentally burnt the Yoshida's sauce, and it was still good.

You can also freeze chicken in almost any marinade. Just be aware that if there is a lot of sugar in the marinade, the marinade itself won't freeze all the way through and will remain sort of slushy. This is ok. The chicken will still freeze solid in the marinade.

*Freezing it first gives tofu a sturdier texture that holds up better to stir frying, in my experience. Just poke a few holes in the package and microwave for 5 minutes or so, then drain. I use mostly extra-firm, but regular firm works ok too.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:18 PM on July 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

I know you are asking about marinades but I thought you might appreciate two other ways to treat your chicken breasts.

I love texture so breaded baked chicken breasts are lovely. Dip in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs (for extra crunch use Panko!) Bake and enjoy.

If you have a slow cooker, a great way to cook chicken breasts is to toss them in with a marinade and let them go for 6-7 hours on low. I love making BBQ shredded chicken this way or Mojo chicken.

Last piece of advice: when in doubt, grab a bottled sauce. Lowry's makes some delicious ones :)
posted by quietta at 7:18 PM on July 26, 2012

Don't marinate with acid. BRINE! The word marinade is related to marine, which refers to things related to salt water. You can skip the acid, really for all the good it can do in a short time-- this ain't ceviche or pickles. Brine the chicken with salt water, soy sauce, something with salt in it, and add a little sugar, too-- the mild sugar coating is going to help browning. 30 minutes is plenty for pieces. Then pat dry. (Teriyaki's fine-- it's basically soy sauce, mild vinegar, sugar, ginger and garlic-- 4 out of 5 things that'll help the flavor of the chicken.)

If you want flavor, use a rub composed of water- and fat-soluble flavors and spices. If you want those italian-dressing flavors, add italian spices to a pan-sauce, or sprinkle them on before serving. You'll get more flavor to the bird than you will by dousing it with dressing.
posted by Sunburnt at 7:20 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

This Grilled Buffalo Chicken Sticks recipe has been the hit of this summer for us. You can adjust the ingredients to your taste and heat preference. Everyone who has had them keeps asking when we're grilling some up again.

We've also done a recipe very similar to LilBit's lime recipe above adding some soy sauce in to the mix.
posted by Animus at 7:33 PM on July 26, 2012

Thirding the Goya Mojo Criollo - just fantastic stuff there. My personal favorite way to make a plain boneless-skinless chicken breast is to marinate it in mojo for a couple of hours, wrap it in foil with a bit more mojo, then throw it on the top rack of the grill for 15 minutes or so. Then, take it out of the foil and put it on the hottest part of the grill just to sear the outside. That leaves it moist inside, but seared brown and flavorful on the outside.

Also, a plain dijon vinaigrette. EVOO, cider vinegar, a good dollop of dijon mustard, salt and pepper in a jar, shake to within an inch of it's life (or until it's combined), then brush liberally on your chicken as it's cooking - or use it in foil as I've described above.

And, this stuff is incredibly good. Marinate, grill or broil, nom.
posted by deadmessenger at 8:03 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Cornell Chicken
posted by stefnet at 8:28 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

1/3 olive oil
1/3 Worchestershire sauce
1/3 Soy sauce (low sodium is fine if you care)

This is not a stir fry marinade - we often use it to bake porkchops - but as a bonus you can use it as one.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:36 PM on July 26, 2012

It's not a marinade, but if you coat a chicken breast in ranch dressing, roll it in breadcrumbs, and bake it, it's really tasty (and very easy to make).
posted by heisenberg at 8:36 PM on July 26, 2012

It's not a marinade, but here's another idea for a coating that always goes over well:

1/2 c. dry bread crumbs
1 T. grated Parmesan cheese
2 t. Italian seasoning
2 t. dried parsley
2 t. dried onion
1/2 t. pepper
1/2 t. garlic powder
1/4 t. salt

Spray chicken with cooking spray, roll in crumb mixture, put in baking dish, spray again, then bake 30 minutes at 350.

You might also try dry spice rubs; I love the Cajun seasoning mixes in the jar and there are some nice grilling spice mixes out there, too.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 10:19 PM on July 26, 2012

+1 for Cornell Chicken!

That's the recipe used by all of the fundraiser chicken BBQ's in central / upstate New York and which I loved growing up. It has a relatively mild flavor, but you can adjust seasonings and salt up or down a little. That link above has the added benefit of providing instructions for up to several hundred chickens and includes plans for building your own pit BBQ. Basically Cornell is awesome.

Turns out you can buy bottles of this marinade on Amazon if you don't love in a place where you can buy it locally.
posted by pkingdesign at 11:08 PM on July 26, 2012

posted by ms_rasclark at 11:12 PM on July 26, 2012

Tried unsuccessfully to embed a link. Here it is:
posted by ms_rasclark at 11:13 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Two family favorites where you just blend the marinade ingredients together, let it all sit on the chicken, and then freeze any leftover sauce (after cooking!) for future use.

1. Pollo Adobado!
The linked recipe's a good one. My fiance's mom adds coriander seed to the sauce. And, if you're pressed for time, you can cheat by plopping the whole chicken-sauce shebang in an oven-safe dish and slowly cooking it.

2. Pollo pibil!
Don't worry about the banana leaves, tin foil or a lidded baking dish work fine. This is another recipe my fiance's mom adds coriander to. And, again, while it's best if you can marinate for a while, it's still quite tasty if you speed up and serve plenty of sauce on top.

Note on 1: This is nothing at all like Filipino adobo, which is the one with soy sauce nebulawindphone mentioned and is also amazingly delicious.
Note on 2: Achiote's from the Yucatan, but it's also used in a lot of curries so it should be pretty easy to find. Word of Mom says the Yucateco brand paste is best. 1 plastic packet of paste=1 tablet.

posted by VelveteenBabbitt at 12:41 AM on July 27, 2012

We just tried this recipe. Marinated it overnight and grilled it when we went camping. It was delicious. (ps: we used boneless thighs)
posted by violetk at 1:08 AM on July 27, 2012

I like using Franks red hot as a marinade to make a spicy chicken breast that isn't all that spicy so other people can eat it also. Depending on your specific spice tolerance add in Siracha as required.
posted by koolkat at 1:40 AM on July 27, 2012

I like this vaguely Chinese marinade:

2 tbsp Chinese cooking wine
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1/2 tsp brown sugar
A bit of sesame oil

It comes out tasting vaguely like teriyaki, but not. Very nice with a bit of fried onions or garlic.
posted by Xany at 4:22 AM on July 27, 2012

You could make Evelyn's chicken.

One envelope Lipton Onion Soup Mix
One 8oz jar of peach or apricot preserves
One small bottle of French/Catalina salad dressing

Mix together, pour over chicken. Cook.

Okay, this was a 1970s recipe but when we were kids we thought it was the be-all and end-all. Serve over rice.

I do not endorse this recipe as it is full of packaged foods, sugar and sodium. (it's still yummy though)
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:24 AM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Pineapple juice, soy sauce, garlic & ginger.

If your dietary restrictions allow - slather chicken parts (I prefer thighs, too) with dijon mustard and roll in bread crumbs (panko is excellent here). I've been doing low-carb, so instead of rolling in bread crumbs, I roll the dijon-slathered pieces in grated parmesan cheese and bake. Equally delicious, though less crunchy.

Chicken parts, dipped in beaten egg then parmesan + bread crumb mix (though parmesan only works, too) and pan fried in a little olive oil is delicious and even more so topped with a salad dressed with a lemony vinaigrette (detailed recipe here, Thank you, Ina).
posted by sarajane at 9:06 AM on July 27, 2012

Oh and my mom's Mediterranean chicken marinade:

Olive Oil
FRESH lemon juice

I do the same thing but use rosemary in place of the oregano.
posted by sarajane at 9:28 AM on July 27, 2012

+1 to supercres's suggestion (previously)
posted by AceRock at 10:03 AM on July 27, 2012

Pickle juice with crushed garlic in it.
posted by cmoj at 11:01 AM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I don't remember where I found this set of marinades, but I use them all the time.
posted by sa3z at 12:21 PM on July 27, 2012

Three of my most common boneless chicken marinades are:

Several large tablespoons of zaatar (you can buy it at Penzey's, among many other places) and juice from one lemon. (You can add grated zest too.)

Several large table spoons ground ancho chile, New Mexico chile, or (if you have a high heat tolerance) chipotle and juice from 1-2 limes. (You can add grated zest too.)

Soy sauce, fish sauce, and rice wine vinegar, in equal parts. Optional-- add an equal part sriracha.
posted by willbaude at 3:58 PM on July 27, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks so much, all of you! These look great. I have a batch of chicken under Artemesia's balsamic and another under sa3z's Morrocon marinades right now -- can't wait to try them. ...And then work my way through the rest of your suggestions!
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 4:12 PM on July 27, 2012

Two hacks.

You can buy a lot of chicken, marinate portions in separate bags, and toss all but one in the freezer. When you want to eat that meal again, take it out of the freezer and put it into the refrigerator the night before. Basically, marinate in bulk if you can.

Also, remember that there's a few different ways to cook plain old chicken; pan fried, oven baked, grilled, and sous vide come to mind. Sous vide (water bath while in a vacuum bag) requires extra gear, but is usually the most tender.
posted by talldean at 5:41 AM on July 28, 2012

Not a recipe but an amazing bottled marinade: Veri Veri Teriyaki by Soy Vey
posted by halseyaa at 6:32 PM on July 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

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