Years of testing have taught us that while marinades will never turn a tough cut tender, they are an important flavor contributor. Here are our tips and techniques for getting the most out of a marinade.
To determine how far flavors in different marinades might penetrate into meat, we place boneless skinless chicken breasts in four different soaking liquids (variously made with soy sauce, yogurt, wine, and lemon juice and garlic). We soaked all four batches a full 18 hours, then cooked them in a 300-degree oven until the internal temperature registered 160 degrees. We then cut off 3 millimeters from the exterior of each breast (a good 2 millimeters beyond where it was clear the soy and wine marinades had penetrated). Finally, we tasted the trimmed chicken side by side with the breasts we baked at 300 degrees without marinating. Tasters could find no distinguishable flavor differences among any of the batches. Our conclusion: Marinade flavors do not penetrate meat beyond the first few millimeters, no matter what the mix.
We've found that following the steps below ensures the most possible flavor and juiciness from marinated meats.