Easy, make-ahead chicken marinades for summer grilling

Get yourself ready for summer grilling with these 7 easy, make-ahead chicken marinade recipes. Everything you need to know to make, freeze, and grill a bunch of delicious meals with minimal effort!Get yourself ready for summer grilling with these 7 easy, make-ahead chicken marinade recipes. Everything you need to know to make, freeze, and grill a bunch of delicious meals with minimal effort!

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Happy Memorial Day weekend, everyone! What are your plans? Swimming? Camping? Family BBQ goodness? Maybe all three? Our plans involve minivan shopping (so festive, I know), and some kind of sunshine-filled activity yet to be determined. And good food on the grill…that’s a must.

I love me some good grilled food. I grew up in Central California where it’s commonly over 100 degrees in the summer…and August gets downright unbearable.

I have a distinct memory of laying on my parents’ bed one night watching TGIF (good times!), and during the commercial break (at 9:00 at night), there was a brief news/weather update that announced the temperature outside currently was 98 degrees. Yuck.

The hot weather never bothered me growing up, but I can see now why my mom hated turning on the oven–or even the stove–to make dinner during those toasty months. Consequently, we grilled A LOT in the summertime.

Now that I ‘m a mom, and the primary cook in the family, I’m learning to love grilling even more–it’s a great option for making flavorful, healthy meals with very little clean-up. I’m a fan of anything that cuts down on the number of dishes I have to wash.

Lately, I’ve been trying out something new…or at least new to me. Because what’s the ONE thing that makes grilling tricky to fit into your weeknight meal plan? Remembering to marinate the meat!

In an effort to make dinnertime run more smoothly, I’ve starting marinating the chicken ahead of time in big batches and storing it in the freezer. I just buy big packs of fresh (not frozen) chicken at the store, make up a marinade, and divide the chicken and marinade into freezer bags in quantities that work for your family (I put 1-2 chicken breasts in each bag, depending on their size).

They marinate as they freeze, so they’re ready whenever you want to make grilled chicken in the future. You can just go to your freezer, pick an already marinated bag of chicken (or beef), thaw, and cook! Easy peasy.

Get yourself ready for summer grilling with these 7 easy, make-ahead chicken marinade recipes. Everything you need to know to make, freeze, and grill a bunch of delicious meals with minimal effort!

Especially with a new baby on the way, I’m looking for ways to stock the freezer (I seriously need a bigger freezer) with easy meals to make after this little guy makes his debut in a few more months. These marinades don’t take up a lot of room, but they will significantly cut down on the effort I have to put in later. Hooray for efficiency!

Wanna give make-ahead grilling a whirl? Here’s everything you need to know to create some delicious meals with very little effort.Get yourself ready for summer grilling with these 7 easy, make-ahead chicken marinade recipes. Everything you need to know to make, freeze, and grill a bunch of delicious meals with minimal effort!

How to prepare the chicken:

  1. Choose your desired marinade (or make a WHOLE bunch in one day like I did). Whisk all the ingredients together. I like to do this directly in a liquid measuring cup. It makes it easy to measure and cuts down on dishes.
  2.  Trim/cut your chicken. You want to marinate the meat however you are going to use it once it’s thawed. I often will cut them into chicken tender-size pieces or slice in half to make cutlets. If you want to do kabobs, cube it. If you want to skip the grill and do stir fry or something, cut into thin strips. Whatever you do, try to create chicken that is of an even thickness so it cooks evenly later.
  3. Put chicken in a plastic freezer bag and pour the marinade over the top.  Make sure you use the heavy duty bags…you don’t want chicken juice leaking all over the place…ewww.
  4. Put the bag of marinating chicken in the freezer, and wait for the magic to happen!

Get yourself ready for summer grilling with these 7 easy, make-ahead chicken marinade recipes. Everything you need to know to make, freeze, and grill a bunch of delicious meals with minimal effort!

When you’re ready to grill:

  1. Thaw the chicken. I recommend pulling a bag of chicken out of the freezer the night before and letting it thaw in the fridge overnight.
  2. Fire up the grill. According to Serious Eats, 375-450 degrees is ideal for cooking chicken, so aim for a medium high setting on your grill.
  3. Cook chicken 3-5 minutes per side, or until the internal temperature reads 160 degrees. Chicken is supposed to be 165 degrees for safe consumption, but if you remove it at 160, tent the plate with foil, and let it rest for 5-10 minutes before serving, it will finish cooking off the grill and you’ll get a juicier chicken breast. Say no to dried out chicken.
  4. Remove chicken to a plate, tent with foil, & let it rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Tips to Remember:

  1. Use fresh raw chicken, not frozen. The marinade can’t penetrate the meat as well if it’s frozen.
  2. Freeze the bags lying flat. I usually stack mine about 3-4 bags high on the shelf in the freezer. This will make them easier to store and they’ll thaw more evenly later.
  3. Give yourself time to thaw the chicken. This takes hardly any active prep time, but you need to remember to get the chicken out of the freezer the night before. If you need to speed up the process, you can use a cold water bath.
  4. Use a cooking thermometer! I NEVER cook without a thermometer to tell me the internal temp of my meat. They’re not that expensive, and it saves me from overcooking meat in an effort to make sure it’s cooked through. Here’s a similar one to mine.

Side note: If you need a great grill, this is the one I have and LOVE. I’m not usually a “big brand” type of person, but after having a couple of bad experiences with cheaper grills, we finally invested in this wonderful grill last year (for Father’s Day)…and I’m never looking back. We chose the smaller, two-burner grill because we don’t host a ton of huge parties, and it works great for us. This is not a sponsored post…I just really love my grill. 🙂

Okay, back to the recipes…

Here are some of our family’s favorite marinades that work well in the freezer (for the record, I don’t think I’ve seen a marinade that wasn’t freezable, so feel free to experiment).

Favorite Make-ahead Marinades

Get yourself ready for summer grilling with these 7 easy, make-ahead chicken marinade recipes. Everything you need to know to make, freeze, and grill a bunch of delicious meals with minimal effort!

Teriyaki Chicken

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Source: The Many Little Joys

Get yourself ready for summer grilling with these 7 easy, make-ahead chicken marinade recipes. Everything you need to know to make, freeze, and grill a bunch of delicious meals with minimal effort!

Lemon Rosemary Chicken

  • 1 lemon, juice & zest
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Source: The Many Little Joys

Get yourself ready for summer grilling with these 7 easy, make-ahead chicken marinade recipes. Everything you need to know to make, freeze, and grill a bunch of delicious meals with minimal effort!

Balsamic Chicken Marinade

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced (or 1 tsp. garlic powder)

Source: The Many Little Joys

Get yourself ready for summer grilling with these 7 easy, make-ahead chicken marinade recipes. Everything you need to know to make, freeze, and grill a bunch of delicious meals with minimal effort!Greek Chicken Marinade

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 1 lemon, zest & juice
  • 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic (or garlic powder)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Source: Adapted from Cooking Classy

Get yourself ready for summer grilling with these 7 easy, make-ahead chicken marinade recipes. Everything you need to know to make, freeze, and grill a bunch of delicious meals with minimal effort!

Rosemary Ranch Chicken Marinade

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup ranch dressing
  • 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, or to taste

Source: adapted from Real Mom Kitchen

Get yourself ready for summer grilling with these 7 easy, make-ahead chicken marinade recipes. Everything you need to know to make, freeze, and grill a bunch of delicious meals with minimal effort!

Southwest Chicken Marinade

  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1 lime, zest & juice
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic (or garlic powder)
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Source: The Many Little Joys

Get yourself ready for summer grilling with these 7 easy, make-ahead chicken marinade recipes. Everything you need to know to make, freeze, and grill a bunch of delicious meals with minimal effort!

Marvelous Meat Marinade

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/8 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1 teaspoon coarse black pepper
  • 2 Teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon parsley flakes
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced (or 1 tsp. garlic powder)
  • 1 teaspoon onion salt
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar

Source: The Many Little Joys

There you have it! Seven awesome chicken marinades that you can use this summer for some awesome outdoor meals. Enjoy!

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Get yourself ready for summer grilling with these 7 easy, make-ahead chicken marinade recipes. Everything you need to know to make, freeze, and grill a bunch of delicious meals with minimal effort!

23 thoughts on “Easy, make-ahead chicken marinades for summer grilling

    1. I’m not gonna lie…it makes me happy to look in my freezer and see so many yummy meals ready to go. I hope your family loves them!

  1. All of these look amazing! I love to grill in the summer time (I know me and everyone else). I will definitely be giving these marinades a try.

  2. Love this! I’ve done freezer marinades before, but you have some super yummy sounding ones that I can’t wait to try.

  3. How much weight would you say your chicken breast average per marinade? I’m making a bunch of these today and I have roughly 40 pounds of chicken that I’ll be breaking down into smaller portions (I KNOW, I order it in bulk, it’s awesome but a ton of work when it first comes in). I know you said you put 1-2 breasts in per bag, is that butterflied? Just trying to think because I have a family of 5 I feed and that seems sparse. How many pounds of chicken would each marinade feed is what I’m asking, basically. Thanks!

    1. Good question, Judy. Each bag ended up weighing between 1.5-2 lbs (mine were HUGE chicken breasts), and there was plenty of marinade. I think you could comfortably marinate 2-3 lbs of chicken with each batch of marinade, depending on how saturated you want it. Hope that helps!

    1. I haven’t done most of these in the oven because I can’t bear to turn on the oven in summer, but as a general rule I bake chicken at between 350-400 degrees for 20-30 minutes, or until whenever my thermometer reads 160 degrees. Hope that helps!

  4. Love this post. I am having difficulty finding a printer friendly button on it though. I would love to print these off and make notes when I make the recipes. Can you advise please?

  5. Jennifer, I’m working on making my recipes more printer friendly, but for now your best bet is to just copy and paste into word and print from there. Sorry it’s not simpler at this point. I promise it’s on the to do list!

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