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5 make-ahead chicken marinade recipes to help you keep your cool at mealtime

Let your fridge do the work for you with these flavorful marinade recipes.
/ Source: TODAY

The fridge and freezer are crucial components of any kitchen, no doubt.

But they can do more than just store ingredients and leftovers for you! Let your chill chest work as your sous chef by using its icy interior to easily and safely marinate family-friendly chicken dinners in five delicious flavors: Thai Coconut, Classic Italian, Provencal Herb, Mojo Citrus and Teriyaki.

This no-fail, no-sweat method of marinating can even help you prep a bunch of meals that will get you through the next few weeks. Simply make an assembly line of bagged chicken and marinade, and freeze according to the instructions below. When it comes time to defrost the chicken in the fridge, it's pre-marinated for your convenience, letting the marinade work its magic as both it and the meat thaw.

Each of the following homemade marinades makes enough to coat 1 pound of chicken (about 2 large boneless, skinless breasts or thighs) in a 1-quart zip-top bag. Double the quantities for larger dinners and gatherings.

How to make the chicken marinades:

5 great chicken marinade recipes: Thai Coconut Marinade; Classic Italian Marinade; Provencal Herb Marinade; Mojo Citrus Marinade; Teriyaki Marinade
Casey Barber

Place the chicken in a zip-top bag. Whisk the ingredients (listed below for each marinade) together in a bowl, then pour over the chicken. Seal the bag tightly, pressing the bag gently to remove as much excess air as possible.

Place the bag(s) on a rimmed baking sheet to catch any stray juices just in case the bag isn't perfectly sealed.

If you'll be marinating the chicken to eat for dinner tonight or the following evening, simply refrigerate overnight, up to 24 hours (no need to freeze).

Freeze your meat on the baking sheet or plate until completely solid, then stack and store them in the freezer for up to three months. Defrost the bag in the refrigerator up to 24 hours before you plan to cook and serve the chicken. For safe handling, never thaw the bags at room temperature on the kitchen counter.

To cook the chicken:

Marinated chicken
Casey Barber

Once the marinated chicken is fully defrosted, cook it as you prefer: on an indoor or outdoor grill over direct heat for 7-10 minutes, flipping once or twice; on the stove in an oiled frying pan for 12-15 minutes, flipping as needed; or in a 375 degree oven for about 20 minutes — until the thickest part of the chicken registers 165 degrees on a meat thermometer.

Ready to inject more flavor into your meals? Here are some delightfully delicious marinades for your chicken.

Chicken Marinade Recipes

Thai Coconut Marinade

  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons light coconut milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 large garlic clove, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger (from an approximately 1-inch-long knob of fresh ginger)
  • 1 small Thai or Fresno chili pepper, thinly sliced (optional)

Classic Italian Marinade

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 large garlic clove, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley or 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes

Provençal Herb Marinade

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 large garlic clove, roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon or stone-ground mustard
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano or 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 pinch dried thyme

Mojo Citrus Marinade

  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 large garlic clove, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro or 1 teaspoon dried cilantro
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Teriyaki Marinade

  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons pineapple juice
  • 1½ tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger (from an approximately 1-inch-long knob of fresh ginger)

This post was originally published June 3, 2015.