Should You Poke Holes in Chicken Breast to Marinate?

Last Updated on July 26, 2023 by Lauren Beck

As a seasoned cook with countless experiments in the kitchen, I’ve often pondered the question: Should you poke holes in chicken breast to marinate? It’s a topic that has sparked passionate discussions among food enthusiasts. 

Today, we’ll explore this technique, drawing from my own experiences, to uncover the truth behind the flavorful mysteries of marination.

Should You Poke Holes in Chicken Breast to Marinate?

Poking holes in chicken breasts before marinating is debated. It may help flavors penetrate deeper, but other factors matter too.

 Proper marination and coverage are crucial. If short on time, try injecting marinade or tenderizing. Experiment to find what works best.

Does Poking Holes in Chicken Make It More Tender?

Poking holes in the chicken breast before marinating can actually make it more tender. When you poke small holes in the meat, it creates channels for the marinade to seep into, allowing it to penetrate deeper. 

As a result, the flavors of the marinade are not just limited to the surface but also reach the inner layers of the chicken, enhancing its taste and tenderness.

What Tools To Poke Holes In Chicken?

You can use a fork, a meat tenderizer, or even a skewer to poke holes in the chicken. Creating small punctures in the meat is important without tearing it apart. 

The goal is to create pathways for the marinade without compromising the structural integrity of the chicken breast.

How Deep Does Marinate Penetrate?

The depth to which marinade can penetrate chicken breasts depends on several factors, including the thickness of the meat, the duration of marination, and the size of the holes. 

Generally, the marinade can penetrate up to 1/4 to 1/2 inch into the chicken. However, remember that marinating for longer periods can allow the flavors to penetrate deeper.

How to make marinade penetrate chicken?

To make the marinade penetrate chicken effectively, follow these steps:

  1. Puncture the chicken breast with a fork or other suitable tool, creating small holes.
  2. Place the chicken in a shallow dish or a resealable bag.
  3. Pour the marinade over the chicken, ensuring it covers the entire surface.
  4. Massage the chicken gently to work the marinade into the holes, and coat the meat thoroughly.
  5. Cover the dish or seal the bag, then refrigerate and let it marinate for the recommended time.

What Not to Do When Marinating Chicken?

While poking holes in the chicken breast can be beneficial, there are some things you should avoid when marinating chicken:

  • Don’t use excessive force when poking holes, as it may result in tearing the meat.
  • Avoid using acidic marinades too long, as they can break down the protein fibers and make the chicken mushy.
  • Don’t reuse marinades that have come into contact with raw chicken, as they may contain harmful bacteria.

How Do You Make Marinade Penetrate Faster?

If you’re short on time and want to speed up the marinating process, you can try the following techniques:

  • A meat injector [1] injects the marinade directly into the chicken, ensuring it reaches the inner layers.
  • Tenderize the chicken breast before marinating by gently pounding it with a meat mallet. This helps to loosen the muscle fibers and allows the marinade to penetrate faster.


In my culinary journey, I’ve discovered that poking holes in chicken breasts before marinating can indeed make a difference. The flavors penetrate deeper by creating channels for the marinade to seep into, resulting in a more tender and flavorful chicken. 

However, it’s not the only path to deliciousness. Proper marination techniques, allowing sufficient time for flavors to meld and ensuring complete coverage, can yield exceptional results. Ultimately, the choice is yours. 

Embrace the adventure of experimenting with different methods and finding what suits your taste buds. Happy marinating!


Lauren Beck
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