Not everyone likes all Mexican spices and ingredients, and ingredients such as cilantro, cumin and chipotle peppers may be loved or hated, depending on the person eating. This means finding the right Mexican chicken marinade can be challenging, though the secret to choosing the right marinade is to keep in mind what flavors will come through in the finished product. The best marinade will contain the correct amounts of spices and herbs to suit one's particular tastes, rather than having flavors simply because they were part of the commercially produced product or an existing recipe. It also is important to realize that it is a chicken marinade — not one for beef or pork, which could have too pronounced of a flavor for chicken.
Marinades require an acid to work properly, and a Mexican chicken marinade is no different. The two main acids commonly used are lime and vinegar. Both perform well but have different tastes. For chicken breast, lime has a more subtle flavor, while the vinegar will impart a sharp tang to the meat. Robust marinades such as adobo rely on vinegar.
The best Mexican chicken marinade also will contain the correct balance of spices. One example is cumin, a common ingredient in Mexican chicken marinades and other foods. Cumin is quite aromatic and has a strong taste. It can be easy to add too much cumin, which would overpower a dish. One should be certain that the spices in a marinade are balanced, because the intensity of the flavors will multiply while the food is marinating.
One should look for marinades or recipes that use fresh herbs. Fresh herbs can make a huge difference in a marinade. Dried herbs can always be used but should be crushed before being added. Cilantro is one herb that is has a noticeably different taste when used fresh as opposed to dry.
Another consideration is how the meat will be cooked. Many Mexican chicken marinade recipes are designed for the grill. There are recipes specifically for the oven or a frying pan, but part of the reason for ingredients such as honey in marinades is that they will caramelize over a fire.
A person also should be certain the Mexican chicken marinade is right for the cut of chicken being used. Not all recipes work well with boneless chicken breasts, and others are not as good with chicken quarters. The expectation of there being skin or no skin on a piece of chicken also can affect how the marinade works. This is especially true with boneless chicken breast, which can easily absorb too much of a strong marinade and become too spicy.
Any Mexican chicken marinade that includes a lot of hot chilies also should be carefully considered before use. While marinating, the meat will take on the heat of the peppers. This could be very desirable for some people, but not for others. Reducing the amount of chilies called for in a marinade recipe will reduce the heat, if desired.
Whenever using a Mexican chicken marinade, one should follow the guidelines for how long the chicken should remain in the marinade. Many Mexican spices are very pungent and have a bad taste if eaten at full strength — a strong possibility if the chicken is marinated for too long. Chicken also is more delicate than beef and pork, so marinating it for too long could cause the chicken to begin to break down into a mushy mess.