Soak Chicken In Milk? How And Why

Chicken is such a versatile meat that you can use for cooking, such as smoking like in my chicken drumstick recipe, sauteing, boiling, and frying. Many chicken recipes can tell you to prepare the chicken by soaking them in milk. So, why soak chicken in milk?

Let’s find out the answer in my post below!

Why Soak Chicken In Milk?

why soak chicken in milk
Soak chicken in milk to tenderize before cooking

If you have been cooking at home for a long time, you definitely have encountered recipes asking you to soak the chicken in milk. Chicken and milk seem like a strange combination in a dish, especially when the result has nothing to do with milk-like flavor. So, can you soak chicken in milk, and why do you soak meat in milk?

Most recipes will tell you to soak chicken when they are raw. Cut a few sections and drown the chicken in the milk mix overnight. When reading this, we can slightly understand the reason behind this act. It is not an unnecessary step, but it’s an underrated method to make juicy chicken.

Soaking chicken is a similar technique to marinade chicken in milk. They are used for maintaining the juiciness and tenderizing the poultry or meat before going through a cooking process like sauteing, frying, or deep-frying as they will dry out most of the moisture in the meat after. As a result, the poultry will both be crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.

However, it doesn’t mean you can use any type of liquid to soak the meat in, as there is actually a chemical reaction backing up why using milk specifically is effective for tenderizing chicken.

How Does Soaking In Milk Work? 

Here is a fact when soaking in milk:

Not all milk is perfect for soaking chicken meat. There are different requests for a specific type of dairy product for soaking chicken in different recipes.

When comparing soaking chicken in milk vs buttermilk, you can find many South-style recipes that prefer to use buttermilk to soak chicken. In other countries like Greece or Indian, they prefer creamier dairy products like plain yogurt.

Although they are asking for a different type of milk for this job, there is one thing in common: they are all fermented dairy products.

The reason lies in the components inside of fermented dairy products. Specific enzymes and acids in these products are used for one goal only: breaking down the tough structure of the meat.

So, when they penetrate the meat through the soaking meat in milk technique, these enzymes and acids will find the collagen inside and break down their structure.

That’s why you can find a lot of acidic ingredients in marinade recipes like lime juice, lemon juice, vinegar, and wine. They are effective acids that can be combined with oil, seasonings, and additional flavorings to produce a flavorful impression.

Collagen is known to be the protein that keeps the muscle tissues together and creates the flexibility and toughness effect on your meat. When they are exposed to high heat, this structure will be broken down generally. When soaking the meat in milk, you can start this breaking down process sooner and tenderize the meat before cooking.

Although milk might have a soft and creamy taste, enzymes and acids loosen the collagen structure, specifically lactic acid. This is the main acid in milk, alongside calcium, a natural type of enzyme that can break the protein in meat in a period of time. Calcium also helps to boost the tenderizing process to move faster than normal.

Having lactic acids breaking the protein’s structure and a boost of calcium enzymes, milk is certainly one of the most efficient soaking agents for tenderizing meat and poultry.

Soaking and marinating methods help you prepare your meat better for cooking with an extra effect of softness and tenderness. So, what are the ways to tenderize chicken? Let’s find out below!

How To Tenderize Chicken

We all want to enjoy a soft and tender chicken in our mouth with a flavorful combination. To achieve that effect, there are many ways to prepare your chicken. So, how do you tenderize chicken? And what are ways can you tenderize chicken?

Soaking In Fermented Dairy Products

As we know, soaking in buttermilk is the best way to tenderize chicken to get that soft and tender effect. You can maximize the use of the liquid by adding flavors to the chicken meat by seasoning the raw pieces of chicken before soaking them.

A simple seasoning style like pepper and salt is enough to spice up the meat. You can also use different ingredients to season your chicken to your desired flavor, like Cajun or Italian style.

Once you have seasoned the chicken well, prepare a container with enough room for your chicken to submerge in the milk. Once you have placed them all inside, you can cover the container and put it in the refrigerator.

Normally, to allow the mixture to affect your meat, it takes around an hour for the acids and enzymes to break down some protein structure. The longer you leave the mixture to do its job, the more tender and soft the meat will become. I would recommend you soak the chicken overnight to achieve the best result.

To know the steps to tenderize chicken in milk better, you can read more in my fried chicken marinated in milk recipe below!

Marinating In Acidic Products

Another way to tenderize the chicken is by marinating it with acidic products like vinegar, alcohol, or lemon juice. These acids will work amazingly on your meat in a few hours. Furthermore, you can also mix them with different ingredients to create a flavorful taste.

However, the acidic marinade doesn’t work like soaking milk in terms of usage time as the acid in these components is stronger than the lactic acid in dairy products. This results in breaking down the outside structure of the meat and leaving a stringy and dry effect on your meat.

Therefore, it is best to leave the acidic marinade for 5-6 hours to allow the meat to absorb the flavors without breaking all the surface texture.

Pounding The Meat

If you’re in a hurry, you can also tenderize the meat with some physical force. This is the oldest yet effective way to loosen any muscle tissues of the meat by using a meat mallet, rolling pin, or skillet.

This way is the most suitable when you need to fry or saute the chicken for a quick meal. I would not recommend you prepare chicken for grilling in this way as physical force ruins the consistency and integrity of the meat outside. This is the answer to how to tenderize chicken breasts as it works best on boneless pieces like cutlets or steaks instead of a roast.

Before pounding, you need to cover the meat with some saran wrap or plastic wrap to ensure the meat stays altogether when you pound them. Then, use an appropriate force to pound on the meat until they are spread out thinly. This process can take around 2-3 minutes, depending on how thick the piece of meat is.

Fried Chicken Marinated In Milk Recipe

A great fried chicken should be crispy and flakey on the outside but soft and tender on the inside with amazing flavors. In this milk marinade chicken recipe, you can achieve this result with the soaking milk method and the right combination of ingredients.


  • 10 – 12 cuts of chicken
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 4 cups vegetable oil
  • Two teaspoons cayenne
  • Two teaspoons garlic powder
  • Two teaspoons salt and black pepper
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • One tablespoon paprika
  • Two teaspoons baking powder
  • Two teaspoons oregano
  • One teaspoon onion powder

How To Do It?

  1. Firstly, you need to cut the chicken in appropriate sizes to prepare them for the soaking process.
  2. After that, you need to marinate chicken in milk before frying first. Take out a bowl and pour in the cup of milk with one teaspoon of cayenne, garlic powder, black pepper, and salt. Then stir the milk marinade for chicken well.
  3. Submerge the pieces in buttermilk and use a cling film to cover the bowl. Put in the fridge for 4 hours or up to one day.
  4. After you have soaked the chicken in buttermilk well, you can drain out all the mixture.
  5. Use a tray or a dish for combining cayenne, garlic powder, flour, baking powder, oregano, garlic powder, white pepper, and onion powder to create a dry mix. Then dip each piece of chicken into the mix. Coat all the sides of the chicken well to ensure no cracks or holes are left.
  6. Heat the oil from 350 degrees Fahrenheit to 356 degrees Fahrenheit. Gently drop in the batch of chicken and deep fry them for 6-8 minutes for each side. Once the color becomes golden brown, they are good to serve.
  7. Put the pieces of chicken on a wire rack with a paper towel underneath. Once they are drained out of oil, you can serve them right away!


Can You Freeze Milk Marinate Chicken?

Milk marinated chicken has the same way of storing fried chicken. Therefore, you can definitely freeze them for many months in a freezer bag to avoid freezer burn.

Does Milk Tenderize Meat?

As mentioned above, the lactic acid in milk can be used to break down the collagen of all the meat and poultry. Depending on how tough the meat is, the soaking time can last longer.


One of the key elements in making a great chicken dish is keeping the chicken meat tender and soft. This can be achieved in many ways, but the most common way is soaking them in milk.

After this post, I hope it has answered your question, “Why soak chicken in milk?” and shows you the importance of preparing the meat before cooking.

Kevin Richard

Hi all! I’m Kevin. I spend plenty of time in the kitchen every day because I love cooking healthy and delicious foods for my family and friends. Cooking gives me a chance to be creative and fun. It’s also one of the most meaningful ways to express my love and take care of my little family.

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