This Is the Best Marinade for Chicken Breasts

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Photo: Claire Lower

I have written about mayonnaise, chicken, and mayonnaise on chicken a few times now. I like to brush it on a whole roaster to encourage browning on the skin, and use it as a breading substrate for nuggets, yet I had never tried using it as a marinade for boneless, skinless breasts, mainly because I am not in the habit of eating those. The pale cut of meat is usually too utilitarian for my decadent palate. (I know, in my brain, that “food is fuel,” but I’ve only recently started thinking of it that way thanks to lifting, which requires more fueling myself more than I am used to.)

In my mind, chicken breasts have always been firmly associated with diet culture thanks to their low-fat, low-calorie reputation (when, in reality, thighs aren’t that much higher in calories and taste much better). But some people legitimately love a chicken breast, and those people deserve hacks too, so I decide to finally give the “mayonade” a try.

There are a lot of “recipes” for mayo-marinated grilled chicken, but the beauty of this particular marinade is that it’s a neutral-tasting, fat-heavy substrate that can carry any flavor you mix into it. It coats and soaks the protein with a mixture of oil and egg, protecting it from drying out when it’s being pan fried or grilled. Unlike pure-liquid marinades, it clings to the chicken while it works, then stays on the surface while you cook, providing a nonstick coating that keeps your meat from sticking to pans and grill grates without any lubrication.

For my mayonade, I mixed 1 teaspoon of Lawry’s garlic salt and 1/2 teaspoon of white pepper into 1/4 cup of Duke’s mayonnaise. I placed two chicken breasts in a freezer bag, pounded them out until the were half an inch thick, then smeared the mayo mixture all over both breasts.

A few of the recipes had told me that a few hours was plenty of time for the marinade to do its work, but I beg to differ. I cooked one breast after a few hours of marinating, and one the next morning after an overnight spell in the fridge. Both were pan-fried to around 155℉. The first breast was fine—it was fairly juicy and flavorful, though dry in a couple of spots on the edges—but the breast that marinated overnight was outstanding. It was incredibly moist and juicy, with a golden, savory crust. It was what I have always wanted a chicken breast to be, with minimal effort on my part, which is exactly what I want when I’m trying to fuel.

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How to make mayonated chicken breasts

Ingredients:

  • 2 chicken breasts, about 1 1/2 pounds total
  • 1/4 cup mayo
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • Optional: Any other powders or potions you wish to add to give it more character. Hot sauce, MSG, cumin, tumeric, any blend you desire—you get the idea.

Put both breasts in a zip-top freezer bag and seal it. Grab something heavy—I used a metal soup ladle—and bash the breasts, starting at the center of the thickest part and working outward, until both pieces of meat are uniformly thick, somewhere in between 1/2-3/4 inch.

Mix the remaining ingredients together, smear the mixture on both pieces of chicken, and let them hang out in the fridge overnight.

Grill or pan fry however you usually do, or about five minutes on each side over medium heat or hot coals, until the breast reads 155℉ on an instant read thermometer.

 

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