Why You Should Shamelessly Slather Mayo On Every Chicken You Cook

When you think of marinating chicken, options like your favorite American BBQ sauce or Jamaican jerk might come to mind. But mayonnaise? It might seem unusual to slather a chicken with a mayonnaise marinade. Yet, once you discover the benefits of this approach, you may join the ranks of the fortunate, enlightened few.

One of the most intriguing benefits is using mayonnaise to develop crispy-skinned chicken. This effect is a result of the Maillard reaction, where the mayonnaise prompts the sugars and proteins in the chicken to brown and take on that delicious, complex flavor profile. While you might achieve a somewhat similar effect by simply oiling the chicken, oil doesn't adhere as well; we've all seen oils and juices pooling at the bottom of the roasting pan, rendered ineffective. Mayonnaise, on the other hand, is an emulsion. Its eggy components keep the fatty oils in place long enough to caramelize the skin. The prospect of effortlessly achieving crispy chicken skin already sounds like a compelling reason to try this method.

Mayonnaise makes chicken moist and flavorful

As a low-fat meat option, chicken is highly susceptible to drying out during cooking. Fortunately, mayonnaise offers a solution to this problem. Containing eggs and oil, which are fatty ingredients, mayonnaise helps add a bit of extra fat to the meat, which is mostly cooked off during the process.

Moreover, mayonnaise forms a protective barrier that keeps all those tasty juices inside the chicken. The eggs in the mayonnaise provide moisture and create a structure that holds moisture from the chicken's juices or steam. During and even after cooking, the chicken can reabsorb some fats and redistribute moisture, which is why it's important to let meat rest.

The appeal of mayonnaise as a marinade becomes even more exciting when you consider its fatty, paste-like texture and moisture-retaining ability, which help keep other seasonings in place. By mixing herbs, lemon juice, or any spices of your choice into the mayonnaise before applying it to the chicken, you ensure that those flavors stay on the chicken instead of slipping into the bottom of the pan.

Will mayonnaise change the flavor of your chicken?

Understandably, cooking with mayonnaise can raise concerns about altered flavors. For example, when using mayo to revamp a classic chocolate cake, it's really only a viable option because the robust flavor of chocolate overpowers it.

That being said, you don't need to worry about a mayonnaise marinade overwhelming your chicken. Instead, the mayonnaise serves to accentuate the flavors of any added seasonings, providing a base for these flavors to shine. The eggs in the mayonnaise might impart subtle smoky or sweet notes once cooked, but these will complement the chicken and your other seasoning choices.

In other words, if flavor is a major concern — and it should be — the key is not to simply slather mayonnaise on your chicken without incorporating other ingredients. Add plenty of spices or seasonings to ensure that your completed dish is not only moist and crispy, but also boasts a complex flavor profile that you enjoy.