Can beef marinate too long?

In this article, we will answer the question “can beef marinate too long?” and discuss what are the effects of marination on beef and what happens when beef is marinated too long.

Can beef marinate too long?

Yes, beef can marinate too long. The effect of marination on the beef meat depends on several factors, such as the concentration and composition of the marination juice, the temperature of the processing and the marination time.

In this way, adjusting the different parameters of marination accordingly, it is possible to marinate beef too long without having negative effects on the meat (1,2,3).

However, if the acidity and the concentration of the marination juice are high, this can lead to the over-acidification of the meat, and consequently to negative meat quality and low acceptance by consumers. 

In addition, the prolonged marination at high temperatures can lead to high microbial growth, resulting in the meat spoilage and health issues.

What are the effects of marination on beef?

The effects of marination on beef are (1,2,3,4):

An inncreased protein hydrolysis occurs due to the action of enzymes naturally present in the meat, such as calpain and cathepsin, and by the application of the marination juice, added to the acids of the ingredients, which cause the breakdown of meat proteins and improved collagen solubility.

There is an increase in the acidity of the beef meat, due to the effect of the ingredients of the marination juice, which contain acids, which have antimicrobial effects.

The pH of beef meat stored without marination tends to increase due to the action of bacteria. These metaboize proteins and release glucose, reducing the acidity. The acidity is necessary to prevent overspreading of bacteria in the food during the marination period.

The water holding capacity is an important parameter for the meat industry. A greater water holding capacity of the beef without high drip loss during cooking is desireable, as it improves the production yield. Marination can improve the water holding capacity of the beef.

Finally, a higher tenderness is achieved by marinating the beef. Due to the action of organic acids and plant enzymes, the proteins and connective tissues are hydrolyzed and converted into gellatin, resulting in a softer muscle.

This can improve the sensory properties of the beef, as tenderness is an important characteristic for the acceptibility of the meat by consumers. The beef becomes softer and juicier.

What happens when beef is marinated too long?

When beef is marinated too long, a overtenderization can happen, in addition the generation of off-odors, especially related to the bitterness of the beef (1,3).

A mushy texture, excessive swelling and a gelatinized structure can result of too high concentrations of marination juices or extended marination periods, as well as exessive acidity of the meat and darkening, resulting in a low acceptance of the product.

In addition, the overgrowth of microorganisms can occur. Although the ingredients of marination, which usually include organic acids, salts and contain antimicrobial compounds, are able to reduce the rate of microbial growth, marinating for too long may result in the increased microbial load of the beef to an unsafe amount (2).

How long should beef be marinated?

Beef should be marinated from 3 to 24 hours or even to 48 hours. The marination time can vary depending on many factors, such as the ingredients used to prepare the marination juice, the temperature used during the marination process and the type, cut and size of the beef (1,2,3,4).

According to studies, an increase on tenderness and juiciness is fastly achieved after 3 hours of marination, as well as the lowering of the pH and these parameters change slightly after 3 hours.

On the other hand, moisture and water holding capacity continue to increase after the 3 first hours of marination (1).

How to prepare marinated beef?

There are many possibilities to prepare marinated beef. Fruit juices and pomace, such as pineapple or papaya fruit, cut onion and garlic, vegetable extracts and spices, such as cinnamon, can be used (1,2,3,4).

To marinate beef, cut the beef into thick steaks and place it in ziplock bags or in glass food container with the marinade. Place it in the refrigerated for the desired time, turning the steak or beef cut over to better distribute the marinade.

Cook the beef according to the cut and your preferences. It can be stir fried, fried on the skillet, grilled or broiled and roasted in the oven. To choose the best cooking method, follow the tips of the Montana State University.

Other FAQs about Beef that you may be interested in.

Can you make beef enchiladas?

Can you make beef alfredo?

Can you make beef ceviche?


In article, we answered the question “can beef marinate too long?” and discussed what are the effects of marination on beef and what happens when beef is marinated too long.


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