The Reason Kiwi Makes A Good Marinade For Chicken

Marinating chicken and other meats can be a balancing act. We use marinades to provide flavor and also to tenderize meats, particularly if we've selected an inexpensive or tough cut. But marinating meat, whether it's chicken or steak, for too long will make the meat mushy, and The Spruce Eats points out that using marinade ingredients that are highly acidic, like lemon juice, will create a "mealy, mushy texture," particularly on the exterior of your meat.

The trick is to find the right ingredients to flavor and tenderize your chicken, hitting that sweet spot between a bird that's tough and one that's been broken down to mush. Surprising ingredients like soda can work, using the power of phosphoric acid to help begin the process of breaking down tough proteins, making for flavorful and tender cooked chicken (via Healthline). If you're looking for an unusual and effective ingredient for "the juiciest chicken you will ever have," there's no need to look further than your supermarket produce department, and the authority on all things culinary ... TikTok, BuzzFeed explains.

It has a unique enzyme

BuzzFeed tested out a recipe from a viral TikTok video, made by a shirtless Elliott Norris, that calls for marinating chicken in kiwifruit. The results? Spectacular. Why does kiwi make such a good chicken marinade? It's because kiwifruit, particularly green kiwi, contain a unique protease enzyme called actinidin, according to Actizin. Actinidin, discovered in 1959, breaks down proteins, much like other proteases found in fresh pineapple, mango, and papaya, which is the reason you can't use these fresh fruits in gelatin. Protease enzymes break down the protein mesh that forms in gelatin and makes things ... well ... gel.

Actinidin, according to Zespri, the New Zealand-based kiwifruit producer, effectively breaks down "protein and connective tissues of meat" without making it mushy. While Zespri notes that both the fruit and the skin of the kiwi can be used as a tenderizer for chicken and other meats, a company called also manufactures food-grade actinidin for use both as a meat tenderizer and also as a nutritional supplement. 

Additionally, a 2022 study in Foods suggests that eating either green kiwifruit or Sungold kiwifruit may be able to aid in the digestion of protein. Much like other marinades, the trick with marinating chicken in kiwifruit is not to let the meat sit in the marinade too long. BuzzFeed suggests that two hours in the marinade was ideal for perfectly tender, flavorful, and juicy chicken.