You won’t believe how easy this is.

By Stacey Ballis
Updated February 27, 2020
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It’s tempting to think of marinade as the miracle move of cooking meat. Families swear by their secret marinade recipes, restaurants have built reputations on theirs, and all across the land as soon as the weather warms enough for the griller-in-chief to tap a new propane tank, all kinds of proteins are slid into bags or containers, swimming in a savory soup of flavorings that everyone believes will result in the ultimately tender and perfectly flavored meal.

But we’re all doing it wrong.

Debunking the Traditional Marinade Myth

Here’s the thing: Marinade actually doesn’t do much for meat—particularly thicker cuts—as it only penetrates about 1 millimeter deep. And contrary to what might sound logical, the longer you marinate a cut, it’s not going to go any deeper. In fact, it’s going to overdo that thin layer and leave it mushy or even dried out.

Experts agree that if you feel compelled to marinate, do it for no longer than two hours, and with thinner cuts like chicken breasts, pork chops, steaks, cutlets, and chunks or slices for kebabs and stir fries.

Game Changer: Marinate After

Get ready to have your mind blown. I’ve discovered that using a marinade after cooking or grilling is a flavor power move that you’ll love. By adding your marinade to an already cooked product, here’s what happens.

1. You don’t have to worry about timing, acid levels, or burning.

2. You get all the fresh flavor with no losses due to soaking or cooking. You can use fresh herbs, which bloom in the heat of the cooked protein instead of dying, intensifying a flavor that usually gets muted.

3. As your meats rest, whatever fats and juices leak out mix and mingle with your marinade and blend the flavors for a harmonious result. Further, the resting meats will re-absorb some of those warming juices into the surface.

How to Marinate Your Meat After Cooking

1. Make any marinade you love or open up a bottle of your favorite. Note: Avoid salad dressings as marinades; they’re far less flavorful and often contain sweeteners, stabilizers, and gums, which do your meat no favors.

2. Cook your protein however you like.

3. As soon as it comes off the heat, put it in a glass or plastic container, pour your marinade over, tent with foil and let it rest for what your recipe advises (probably 10-30 minutes).

4. Serve your meat with some of that warm sauce poured over.

Inside tip: If you are grilling and your marinade has citrus in it (lemons, limes, or oranges), cut an extra one or two pieces of the fruit in half and place them cut side down on the grill to cook along with your meat. Squeeze the grilled citrus juice over the meat and marinade for even more fabulous flavor or serve them on your platter for guests to squeeze their own.