Can You Marinate Steak for Too Long?

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Steak is never the cheapest or easiest of meats to prep when you want to treat yourself to a delicious dinner. You may be tempted to try and make the most of the meat by throwing as many herbs into a marinade as possible and leaving the steak to soak. But is it possible to marinate steak for too long? 

You can keep raw steak marinating in your fridge for up to 3 days without it turning rotten. However, after 24 hours, the acidity in the marinade intended to tenderise the steak will break down the muscle and fat too much. You will be left with an unsalvageable mushy mess. 

What Is The Best Length Of Time To Marinate Steak? 

Despite what most recipes say, the best length of time to marinate your steak is 12 hours. 

12 hours will be enough time for the steak to absorb the delicious flavours of the marinade. It is also the perfect length of time for the meat to tenderise, just enough to be mouth-watering without falling apart entirely during cooking. 

You do not have to marinade your steak for precisely 12 hours, but getting as close to that time frame as possible will improve your steak’s quality once cooked. 

Of course, getting a 12-hour window can be challenging. If you want to eat at 7pm, you’ll need to get the steak in the marinade around 6:30am. This might not be feasible.

Keep in mind that 12 hours is a time frame for an average-sized piece of steak. If you use smaller or larger cuts, you must adjust the marinating time accordingly. 

How Do You Avoid Mushy Steak?

Most steak recipes require you to marinate your steak for 24 or even 48 hours. However, even when following this time guide, you may find that your steak still turns mushy. 

The thing is that while any liquid marinade could potentially turn meat soggy and gross, it is not necessarily a liquid ingredient that will give your steak a bad texture. The acidic ingredient you use will be to blame for an oddly textured steak. 

When a steak is marinated before being cooked, it will be wonderfully tender and should melt in the mouth. This is due to using lemon juice or vinegar, which adds acidity to the marinade, tenderising the meat as it soaks. 

Even if you only marinade your steak for a couple of hours, how much acidity you add to the marinade will dictate if the steak turns mushy or not. 

When you add too much acidity, the meat will over-tenderize in the same way that if you marinade the steak for too long, it will also be too tender and turn squishy. 

If you are used to following steak recipes precisely but still have problems getting the steak the right texture, reduce the level of acidic ingredients you use in the marinade and reduce the amount of time you leave the meat to marinate. 

What is the Best Steak Marinade?

Marinades don’t need to be complicated and our ultimate steak marinade recipe proves that. Marinate each steak in the following for between 8 and 16 hours:

  • 1tsp Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1tbsp Soy Sauce
  • 1tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1tsp Dijon Mustard
  • Half a Grated Garlic Clove
  • Twist of Black Pepper
Best Steak Marinade

Can You Freeze Steak In A Marinade? 

Prepping and cooking a steak can be a lot of effort when you’re leading a busy life but trying to eat healthy, nutritious meals. But what if you could cut that effort in half? 

To save time on a busy weekday night, you can prep your steak in advance by freezing the steak in a delicious marinade.  

Raw steak freezes very well, especially if it is frozen while still fresh. So long as you are quick to freeze the steak as soon as you have dropped it into a marinade, you won’t have to worry about the acidity of the marinade turning the meat into mush. 

The best way to freeze a marinated steak is to prepare and mix the marinade in a freezable bag or container. Then take your fresh steak, place it in the marinade and pop it into the freezer. 

You can freeze marinated steak for up to 6 months. 

When you are ready to cook the steak, allow it to defrost naturally in your fridge for around 2 hours until the steak and marinade have entirely defrosted. 

At this point, you will want to re-season the marinade as the flavours would have become diluted while being defrosted. Avoid adding acidity to the marinade, as this will still run the risk of over-tenderising the meat. 

You will then need to leave the steak in the marinade for up to 6 hours to really enhance its flavour. 

Typically, fresh steak should be marinated for 12 hours. But because the steak would have been frozen in the marinade, it would have already had plenty of time to absorb some of the flavours. 

All that’s left to do is cook the steak in a hot pan and serve it with some delicious veggies. 

Marinating Steak FAQs

Do you have more questions about steak and how long you can marinate it for? Then check these out:

How Long Can You Marinate Steak in Soy Sauce?

Steak can be marinated in soy sauce for around 24 hours. Err on the side of caution to avoid ruining the texture of the steak.

How Long Can You Marinate Steak in Lime Juice?

You can safely marinate steak in lime juice for 48 hours however this is likely to ruin the texture. Instead, stick to marinate steak in lime juice for up to 18 hours.

How Long Can You Marinate Steak in Worcestershire Sauce?

Worcestershire sauce is quite a strong flavour so, to avoid ruining the steak in terms of both flavour and texture, you’ll want to limit the marinating time to 12 hours or so.

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