Because marinating for hours on end is not worth your time.

Hold onto those tongs! We've got some news that might change how you grill. We're here to let you in on a little secret: Marinating meat isn't always all it's cracked up to be. "Even left overnight, a marinade won't reach the center of a T-bone," says assistant food editor Riley Wofford. Even on smaller pieces of meat, marinades really don't have much of an effect.

Though marinating may be familiar and satisfying—you're getting ahead on prep and looking forward to a flavorful entrée to come—with just a few exceptions, the mixture won't do much more than coat the surface of the meat. It won't tenderize it, and it will only impart the more forceful flavors on the surface of the meat or just below. What's more, when left to marinate overnight, the acidic part of the solution—wine, vinegar, or citrus juice—can break down meat's exterior proteins so much that the surface becomes mushy. Riley's revolutionary suggestion is to skip the marinade entirely. Think of all the time you'll save: No more prep is needed on the night before you plan to grill.

marinaded chicken in pan
Credit: Kate Sears

Wondering what you should do to impart flavor to grilled meats if you're not going to marinate them? Our food editors have a solution that they've tried and tested in their own backyards and patios: They prefer simply to season the meat liberally with salt and pepper before cooking, then drizzle on a fresh, bright sauce once done.

Riley starts with extra-virgin olive oil and adds lemon juice and zest, thyme leaves, and red-pepper flakes for chicken; grated garlic, cilantro, and lime juice and zest is her go-to for pork or steak. You can also try soy sauce or tamari with rice wine vinegar, honey, and toasted sesame oil on chicken, pork, steak, or fish. Consider these faux-marinades your new best friends for grilling.


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