Marinades are a great way to boost the flavor and improve the texture of grilled meats. If you’re planning on grilling chicken and pork at the same time, can you marinate them together? Let’s find out.
Can You Marinate Chicken and Pork Together?
We wouldn’t recommend marinating chicken and pork in the same container. Raw chicken might contain salmonella bacteria, which could contaminate the pork. The risk is slight, but it’s better to be safe than sorry, especially since chicken should be cooked to a higher temperature than pork.
Why should you start your barbecue by marinating the meat? In a word: flavor.
Your marinade ingredients should imbue the meat with multiple layers of flavor. When you choose the right ones, they’ll complement the meat’s natural qualities, adding complexity to even the simplest dishes.
Some ingredients are also designed to break down the meat’s protein strands. This promotes tenderness, in contrast to the crisp exterior of the grilled meat.
Common marinade additions include buttermilk, yogurt, lemon or lime juice, soy sauce, raw honey, and vinegar. Vinegar is an effective tenderizing ingredient, but have caution, as it can impart a sour flavor if you use too much of it.
The Importance of Timing
You might think that it’s better to leave meat in the marinade for as long as possible. After all, your goal is to contribute flavor, and the more time the food spends in the marinade, the more flavorful it will be. Right?
Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Leaving meat in the marinade for too long will give the finished product an unpleasant mushy texture. This is true especially if the marinade contained acidic ingredients.
If the marinating times we’ve listed below seem too short, bear in mind that these mixtures don’t penetrate very far beneath the meat’s surface in any case. That’s true no matter how long you leave the meat in there. A too-short marinating process is preferable to an overlong one.
Chicken is an exceptionally lean meat. As such, it requires only a brief marinating period.
Boneless chicken breasts should spend a minimum of 30 minutes and a maximum of 4 hours in the marinade. If the breasts still have the skin and bone attached, you can give them at least 1 hour, but you should remove them after 4 hours.
Bone-in dark meat—thighs, wings, and chicken quarters—can handle a longer marinating time. 2 to 6 hours is standard. You might be able to leave them in the mixture overnight, assuming that you get up early enough to rescue the meat before the 6-hour mark.
If you’ve purchased a whole bird, give it at least 4 hours in the marinade to allow the mixture to penetrate. Whole chickens allow for a bit more leeway—they can spend up to 12 hours in the marinade before the texture starts to suffer.
Although some cuts of pork are considered lean, a fully grown hog is a large animal that offers a myriad of different textures. As such, the marinating times may vary considerably.
Pork tenderloin, chops, and loin roasts should spend around 4 to 6 hours in the marinade in order to reap the benefits. An overnight marinating time is permissible, but be sure not to go overboard, as it is possible to leave the pork in the mixture for too long.
Shoulder cuts like the pork butt and picnic roast can marinate for up to 12 hours. That said, we don’t recommend marinating these cuts. They need to cook for such a long time that they get tender enough on their own. They also have enough fat to provide intense pork flavor.
Can You Marinate Chicken and Pork Together?
Now that we’ve covered the basics regarding chicken and pork marinating times, the question remains: Is it okay to marinate them both in the same container?
The short answer would be no. When it comes to the handling of raw meat products—especially poultry—it’s better to err on the side of caution.
You probably already know that chicken, unlike beef, should be cooked to at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit in order to be safe to consume. Why the difference?
It’s because there’s a chance that the chicken meat might be harboring salmonella bacteria. On most meats, this bacteria is present only on the surface, but with chicken, the contamination can occur all the way through to the center.
This bacteria will be destroyed when exposed to high temperatures. The USDA recommends the 160-165 degree threshold for chicken because at these temperatures, the bacteria will be killed off in a matter of seconds.
By contrast, you would have to hold chicken cooked to 136 degrees for over an hour in order to ward off potential infection. That’s an impractical prospect—you might as well just finish cooking the chicken to a higher temp.
In theory, it would be permissible to consume raw or undercooked chicken as long as the bird was farm-raised and slaughtered by hand. However, even if you had access to such a product, raw chicken has an unpleasant texture in the first place.
The USDA used to recommend an internal temperature of 160 degrees for all pork products as well. Today, however, the risk of contracting a bacterial infection from infected pork is very slight. You can cook the meat to 145 without worrying.
The bottom line? Keep chicken and pork separate before you cook them. You won’t have to worry about cross-contamination if you cook pork to 160 degrees, but depending on which cut we’re talking about, there’s a good chance that will make the meat too tough.
A Word About Flavor
Even if the risk of infection was nonexistent, we would still recommend marinating pork and chicken separately. Why? Because this allows you to use ingredients that will play to the individual strengths of both chicken and pork.
Since chicken is so lean, the marinade should include plenty of olive oil. This will help keep it moist during the cooking process. Buttermilk and yogurt marinades are also great options for promoting moisture as well as tenderness.
We like to add a good dose of citrus juice to chicken marinades as well. Lemon juice is standard, but feel free to experiment depending on how the chicken will be served.
Try lime juice and red pepper flakes the next time you’re grilling chicken to make fajitas or tacos. Tangerine juice and shallots make delicious marinade ingredients when the grilled chicken will be used as a salad topping.
Pork marinades benefit from more intense ingredients. Soy sauce, Worcestershire, brown sugar, and mustard will all provide pork with a delicious flavor boost. Just be careful not to overdo it with the sugar, or it will burn once exposed to the heat.
To kick things up a notch, add a tablespoon or two of bourbon to your pork marinade. This ingredient pairs especially well with apple juice or cider vinegar.
We like to use pork in Asian-inspired recipes, so soy sauce provides a nice template for those recipes. Try adding some hoisin sauce and a teaspoon or two of sesame oil to your marinade, then serving the grilled pork alongside steamed white rice and snow peas.
Chicken and pork might require similar marinating times, but it’s not a good idea to marinate them in the same container. Just to be on the safe side, keep the two types of meat separate until it’s time to cook them.