Chicken is one of those difficult meats to work with. It sounds counterintuitive since it’s one of the most commonly eaten around the world, but actually nailing the cooking of chicken can be much more complicated than it seems.
Contrary to popular belief, marination doesn’t really do all that much when it comes to cooking chicken. The familiar narrative is that acids break down the proteins in chicken which tenderises the meat. But that’s unfortunately not the case. At best, it coats the meat with flavours that then remain when the chicken is cooked. In the case of dairy-based marinades like yoghurt, the lactic acid can have a slight effect on the collagen-protein bonds, but only if injected into the meat, and that too, over a longer period of time.
Don’t fret though, it doesn’t mean that marinating is entirely unhelpful, it just means that you don’t have to spend so long worrying about it. So overall, good news! Marinating chicken beforehand can help impart extra flavour to the skin, especially when aromatics are used in the marinade. Since chicken is very easy to overcook, it helps to get all the extra flavour in from the beginning and cut a few minutes off your cooking process.
Try these 5 basic marination techniques to ensure you have the headstart on perfectly prepared chicken every time.
This go-to method for chefs involves soaking chicken in heavily salted water for anything between 12 and 24 hours. The salt prevents the loss of moisture from the tissues while also imparting more flavour. If you have time, this should surely be your solution.
This is a method that many fry cooks swear by, especially in the southern states of America. The creaminess and texture of the buttermilk can help breading or batter adhere which also adds a layer of tangy flavour to the chicken. Overnight is best for buttermilk.
A favourite in Indian preparations, yoghurt is the perfect marinade for tandoor or baked dishes and even for curries. It can be marinated for as little as 30 minutes to create a layer that protects the delicate chicken from drying out and can add more creaminess to a curry.
4. BBQ Sauce
This is more about convenience and flavour than texture and you can even use a blend of dry spices to season the chicken. It’s best to rub either the sauce or dry mix into the skin of the chicken 15 minutes before cooking and continue to brush it on through the cooking process.
This is a great choice if you want a fresher edge to your chicken, perhaps to use in pasta or while roasting. Try not to leave it for more than an hour or two however since the acids in the lemon can affect the outer layer of the chicken and start the cook the meat and make it tough.