Marinating beef is a great way to add flavor and tenderness to your meal, but how long can you keep it in the fridge before it becomes unsafe to eat?
The answer is not as straightforward as you might think. While the United States Department of Agriculture recommends keeping marinated steak in the fridge for up to five days, many marinade recipes are designed to work much faster than that.
In this article, we’ll explore the ideal marinating time for different types of meat and marinades, as well as best food safety practices to ensure your marinated beef stays safe and delicious.
So, let’s dive in!
How Long Can You Keep Marinated Beef In The Fridge?
According to the USDA, marinated beef can be safely stored in the fridge for up to five days. However, this time frame may vary depending on the type of meat and the strength of the marinade.
For delicate meats or strong acidic marinades, the marinating time should be reduced to avoid breaking down the meat fibers. Generally, chicken, pork, and beef can be marinated for 30 minutes up to 24 hours, depending on the strength of the meat and the marinade.
It’s important to note that marinating meat for more than 24 hours is not recommended as the acidity of the marinade can break down the muscle fibers of the meat, resulting in an undesirable texture and flavor.
For fish and shellfish, 15 minutes to an hour is enough time for the marinade to penetrate without “cooking” the flesh. Seafood has thinner cell walls, making it easier for the marinade to penetrate.
Understanding The Basics Of Marinating Beef
Marinating beef is a great way to add flavor and tenderness to your favorite cuts of meat. The key to a successful marinade is finding the right balance of acid, oil, and seasonings. Acidic ingredients like vinegar, lemon juice, or wine can help tenderize the meat and enhance the flavors of the marinade. Oil helps to transfer flavors and slow down the breakdown of the meat fibers. Seasonings like herbs, spices, or soy sauce can add depth and complexity to your marinade.
When marinating beef, it’s important to choose the right cut of meat for your desired method of cooking. Tougher cuts like flank steak or brisket benefit from longer marinating times to help break down the muscle fibers and improve tenderness. More tender cuts like filet mignon or ribeye may only need a shorter marinating time to enhance their natural flavor.
It’s also important to consider the strength of your marinade. Strong acidic marinades can break down the meat fibers too much and result in a mushy texture. For delicate cuts of beef, it’s best to use a milder marinade or reduce the marinating time.
When marinating beef, it’s recommended to use a non-reactive container like glass or stainless steel to avoid any chemical reactions with the marinade. Always marinate in the refrigerator and never at room temperature to avoid bacterial growth.
Signs That Your Marinated Beef Has Gone Bad
Even if your marinated beef has been stored in the fridge for less than five days, it’s important to know the signs of spoilage. The first and most obvious sign is a slimy surface film that you can see or feel on the meat. The film will be clear or yellowish in color and will make the steak appear shinier than usual. It will also have a slippery or sticky feel when you run your fingers over it. This slimy film is a tell-tale sign of bacteria growth and indicates that the meat is no longer safe to eat.
Another sign of spoilage is discoloration. If your marinated beef has a strange color, like more brown, yellow, or green than the bright, purplish red meat color it should have, this could be a sign of spoilage. You might see just a few patches of discoloration rather than the whole steak slab, but spots of odd color are still a sign that you should avoid eating it.
The most unmistakable sign of spoilage is the odor of the meat. The smell of bad beef can range from slightly “off” to rancid. If your marinated beef smells sour, vinegary, metallic, or like bad cheese, these are all warning signs that the meat may be spoiled. If you marinated the steak yourself, smell the meat before you apply the marinade, then soak the steak for a short period of time in the refrigerator to ensure that you can correctly attribute the cause of any sour smells.
If there are any signs of discoloration or sliminess on your marinated beef, this is also a sign that it has gone bad. Additionally, if the beef smells rank or sour, then it is likely that it has spoiled and should not be eaten. It’s always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to food safety and discard any meat that shows signs of spoilage.
Tips For Properly Storing Marinated Beef
Proper storage of marinated beef is crucial to ensure that it remains safe to eat and retains its quality and flavor. Here are some tips for storing marinated beef in the fridge:
1. Use an airtight container: Store the marinated beef in an airtight plastic container, or seal it in a snap lock bag. This helps to prevent air and moisture from entering the container, which can cause the meat to spoil.
2. Keep it at or below 40°F: The fridge is the best place to store marinated beef if it is intended to be consumed within five days. To extend the shelf life of the meat, place the container in the coldest part of your fridge (optimally at 40°F or 4.4°C) and keep it closed to avoid contamination.
3. Avoid metal containers: Marinating meat in a metal bowl before storing it in the fridge could affect the meat’s quality due to the metal’s reaction with any acidic contents present in the marinade.
4. Label and date: Label the container with the type of meat, date of marination, and expiry date. This helps you keep track of how long the meat has been stored and when it needs to be consumed.
5. Discard leftover marinade: After meat has marinated, discard the marinade because of its contact with raw meat. Do not reuse it as a sauce or dressing.
By following these tips, you can ensure that your marinated beef stays fresh, safe, and flavorful for as long as possible.
How To Safely Marinate Beef For Optimal Flavor And Texture
Marinating beef is a great way to add flavor and tenderize tougher cuts of meat. However, it’s important to follow some safety guidelines to prevent foodborne illness.
Firstly, always marinate beef in the refrigerator. Leaving meat to marinate at room temperature can encourage the growth of harmful bacteria, which can cause food poisoning. Additionally, never reuse marinade that has come into contact with raw meat.
When marinating beef, use a food-safe plastic bag, non-reactive glass, or stainless steel container. Plastic boxes that salad comes in are a great option for marinating as they are sturdier than plastic bags and can be easily disposed of when the job is done.
To ensure even exposure to the marinade, turn or stir the beef occasionally while marinating. Additionally, when draining the marinade from the beef, be sure to pat all sides dry with paper towels to prevent steaming and encourage browning.
If you plan on using the marinade for basting or as a sauce, reserve a portion of it before adding it to the beef. Marinade that has been in contact with raw meat must be brought to a full rolling boil for at least one minute before it can be used for basting or as a sauce.
In terms of how much and how long to marinate beef, allow approximately 1/2 cup of marinade for each one to two pounds of beef. Extra marinade can be stored in the refrigerator for grilling later in the week, but only if it hasn’t touched raw meat.
If you already have a tender cut of beef, only 15 minutes to 2 hours of marinating time are required to add flavor. But if tenderizing is also a goal, meat should soak in the liquid for at least 6 hours but no more than 24 hours. Any longer and the muscle fibers break down too much and the texture becomes mushy.