Why You Should Use Marinade After Grilling, Not Before

Daniel Agee; Food Styling: Mark Driskill; Accessories styling: Audrey Davis

Pickles are a surprisingly polarizing food. On the one hand, marinade enthusiasts swear by the liquid’s ability to tenderize and flavor proteins, whether homemade with secret recipes or bought from the supermarket. On the other hand, there is a claim that the flavor of a marinade only penetrates the first 1/16 inch of any protein, and that any “tenderness” is actually acid in the marinade which begins to digest the meat and makes it mushy rather than tender.

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My marinade solution: Use it after cooking!

I choose to remain neutral in this debate. And that’s because for ten years, I only use my pickles after my food comes off the grill. And yes, I know the term marinade seems to imply prior application, especially since the root is in a Spanish term for pickling in brine, but let’s not discuss semantics. A hard-hitting anointing on everything that comes out of your grill is a good thing. What makes it different from sauce? The fact that you dip your protein in it to bathe yourself in while it rests.

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Why I Marinate Meat After Cooking

The reason I started doing this was simple. I was tired of marinated meats tasting more marinade than meat, and was annoyed with how often marinades create problems when cooking. Oily marinades run and can cause flare-ups and gas-scented burns and crusts on your dinner. Any sugar in a marinade burns quickly, and that black burn can send a false cooking signal. More than once I’ve had a charred on the outside/raw on the inside chicken leg or a lamb chop with my evening. And often, marinated meats cook dry on a grill, because the salt and acid in the marinade have extracted some of the natural juices.

I also hate wasting a marinade. Once raw meat has been dipped in anything, it is no longer safe to use as a sauce or gravy. Looking at a cup or more of oil, herbs and ingredients in the trash is always a shame. So instead of soaking my meats before grilling? I let them bask in a tasty post-cooking bath, and my dinners are better for it.

First remember that the meat should rest for 10-20 minutes after the end of cooking. Letting your protein spend this time in a marinade has several benefits. As the hot protein relaxes, it heats up the marinade, bringing out maximum flavor, and some of the juices mix with the marinade to create an instant sauce. Your meat is fully coated in the marinade, but still tastes like the meat underneath, for the perfect balance. The marinade is safe to use as a sauce because it’s never touched raw meat, and leftovers can even be refrigerated and used as a dressing for no-waste application. And your marinade will never call the shots during cooking: no flare-ups, no burns, no false flags on cooking.

How to use the marinade after cooking

You can use any marinade recipe or store-bought bottle you like. Simply put in a shallow dish and remove your meats from the grill and straight into the dish, and while the meat is resting, turn every 2-3 minutes to give all sides their time in the bath. Once your meat has rested, serve with the sauce now warmed and enriched as an accompaniment.

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