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Marinating chicken legs increases the tenderness of the meat and helps improve the flavor of the finished dish. The recipe and ingredients used in the marinade and the amount of time the chicken legs soak will have the greatest impact on the taste of the finished meat. Experimenting with different recipes, marinating chicken legs for different amount of times, and choosing different cooking methods can help an individual cook choose the best techniques. Once marinated, chicken legs should be cooked to the appropriate temperature, and basic safe poultry handling methods should be used to ensure success.
Most recipes for marinating chicken legs include an acid like vinegar or lemon juice, a fat like vegetable oil, and plenty of spices for flavor. Choosing a recipe that includes enough liquid to fully immerse the chicken will help give the entire dish consistent flavor. If the marinade ingredients and flavors are appealing, the finished chicken will likely be tasty as well. Assembling the marinade right before adding the chicken ensures that all ingredients will be fresh and flavorful. The skin can be removed prior to marinating if desired; it will be difficult to remove once the marinating is complete.
The ingredients chosen for marinating chicken legs should be assembled and completely blended. The chicken can be immersed in the marinade in a bowl or inside a zipper-seal plastic bag. For best results, marinating chicken legs for at least 24 hours is recommended. Chicken should be marinated in the refrigerator, not on the counter top, to help ensure food safety. Once the chicken is ready to cook, the used marinade should be discarded; it should not be used as a cooking or basting sauce. If basting is desired, a small amount of the recipe chosen for marinating chicken legs can be put aside before the chicken is added, then used during cooking.
As with any poultry, the marinated chicken legs need to be cooked properly. After marinating chicken legs, the pieces can be baked, roasted, broiled, or grilled; choosing a cooking method that complements the marinade recipe will result in the best-tasting chicken. All cuts of chicken should be cooked to 160°F (71°C), regardless of the cooking method used. The way the finished chicken looks does not indicate the temperature; marinated chicken may brown more rapidly than plain chicken, so a thermometer should be used to confirm that the legs are fully cooked.