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How to Prepare Chicken

Rubs, Marinades, and Sauces

It's only natural, given the ease of cooking chicken pieces, breasts, and thighs, that there should be equally simple ways to add extra flavor and excitement to these favorites. Rubs and marinades take two different approaches to achieving this goal.

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Here are some poultry recipes from our collection:


Rubs add flavor, seal in juices, and, in some cases, form a delicious crust. They can be applied just before cooking, or applied to the food and refrigerated for several hours before cooking for more pronounced flavor.

Dry rubs are seasoning blends rubbed onto foods. They often include coarsely ground black or white pepper, paprika, and garlic powder. Sometimes mustard powder, brown sugar, and ground red pepper are used. Crushed herbs, such as sage, basil, thyme, and oregano are other good choices.

Paste rubs are dry seasonings held together with small amounts of wet ingredients, such as oil, crushed garlic, prepared mustard, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, or horseradish.


Marinades add flavor and also moisten the surface of the chicken to prevent it from drying out during cooking.

Flavoring marinades work quickly with chicken, especially boneless, skinless chicken pieces, so they are only marinated for a short period of time -- 15 minutes to two hours. You can choose to marinate chicken pieces in a plastic bag for easy clean-up.

Marinating chicken in a resealable plastic bag is easy and there's no clean up.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
Marinating in a resealable plastic bag is easy and there's no clean up.

Tenderizing marinades include an acidic ingredient tenderizing enzymes. These include, pineapple, papaya, kiwi, and figs. Bone-in chicken pieces can be marinated in a tenderizing marinade for a few hours. Boneless, skinless chicken pieces should be marinated in a tenderizing marinade for just a few minutes to impart flavor. such as wine, vinegar, yogurt, tomatoes, lemon juice, and lime juice, combined with herbs, seasonings, and oil.

Food Safety Tip!

Always marinade foods in the refrigerator to prevent bacteria from growing.

Marinating with a tenderizing marinade should be done in a glass, ceramic, or stainless steel container. The acid can cause a chemical reaction if an aluminum pan is used. Turn marinating foods occasionally to let the flavor infuse evenly.

Learn more about making rubs and marinades in how to grill. If you're interested in grilling chicken to perfection, check out our article on how to grill food.

Basting and Dipping Sauces

Basting and dipping sauces can add another boost to chicken. Basting is the process of brushing, spooning, or pouring liquids over the chicken, as it cooks. This helps to preserve moistness, adds flavor, and gives foods an attractive appearance. Melted butter, pan drippings, broth, or a combination of these ingredients are frequently used.

Food Safety Tip!

Never use marinade drained from the chicken as a basting sauce because of the possible build-up of bacteria.

While sometimes seasonings or flavorings are added to a basting sauce, you can prepare a separate recipe, if you prefer. Or, you can simply reserve some of the marinade before adding the chicken and use it to make a dipping sauce or to baste the meat while it is cooking.

Dipping sauces, such as barbecue sauce, are generally reserved for table use. Many dishes call for a separate dipping sauce recipe, but for a more simple presentation, bring in elements from the recipe, such as soy sauce, for the dipping sauce during the meal.