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Can You Marinate Steak For Too Long? (Yes & How Long Is Idea)

Quick Answer

So, it turns out that you can actually marinate your steak for too long and there is a limit to the quality of your steak with how long you are marinating it for. By marinating your steak for just a few hours, you will be able to significantly improve both the texture and the taste of your meat. However, if you are trying to marinate your steak for days at a time, your effect will be counterproductive and not effective. This will overpower the natural delicious flavor of the steak you are using, and it will tenderize the meat too much making it mushy and sometimes discoloring the meat.

One of the simplest and easiest ways to make your steak more interesting and flavorful is to marinate it before you cook it.

However, you have probably wondered before if you can marinate steak for too long?

Of course, you want to ensure that your steak is marinated for long enough for the flavor to be able to seep into the meat, but how long is too long?

Can You Marinate Steak For Too Long

Some people will advocate for marinating steak for days to make sure the meat is as tender as possible and has lots of flavor, but sometimes this belief can be wrong.

So, if you are wondering how long is too long to marinate a steak for, and what is the perfect amount of time instead, keep reading!

How Long Is It Safe To Marinate Your Steak For?

So now you know that you should not be marinating your steak for too long, how long should you be marinating your steak for, and how long is it safe to marinate a steak for?

To get the best results from marinating steak, you only want to marinate it between 6 and 24 hours, so no longer than a whole day, but any less than 6 hours and the flavor of the marinade may not be impactful enough.

While you may have heard of people marinating their steak for up to 5 days, this is not something which should be advised, and they are either cooking under very specific conditions, or their recipe would be better with less time marinading.

By leaving your meat in a sauce for a few days, you will not be helping the flavor or the texture of the meat past a certain point.

While you may assume the marinade is going to penetrate through the meats surface, this is not actually the case unless you have made specific preparations.

But in most cases the marinade is only going to flavor the layer on the outside of the steak, and will overpower the flavor on the inside.

This is why when you are marinating, you do not want to marinate for too long over the point of 24 hours, otherwise your steak will start to be undesirable.

Is It Bad To Marinate Steak For Too Long?

Yes, it is bad to marinate your steak for too long, and at some point the marinade will start to make the steak worse instead of making it better.

If you are not convinced, there are some specific reasons why you should not be marinading your steak for too long:

  • Some marinades which you will be using to marinate steak will actually have a flavor which is too strong and far too salty. If you are leaving the steak in there for too long it will become over-flavored and not be pleasant to eat.
  • Certain marinades are made to contain bromelain and papain, which are both enzymes used in digestion. Instead of adding flavor to the steak, these enzymes will instead start to break it down and this will affect the texture of the steak making it mushy and mealy.
  • If your steak is being marinaded in a sauce which contains either too much acid or alcohol, this can lead to the steak itself actually losing some of its flavor. This is because the chemicals in the acid or alcohol will actually cook the meat chemically.
  • If your marinade contains citrus juices, you should only be marinading it for 2 hours maximum. This is because the acidity which is in the marinades will lead to the meat losing both its taste and texture as well as its color if it is in the marinade for too long.

How To Make Sure That Your Marinating Will Be Successful In Just A Few Hours?

Of course, while we do not recommend marinating your meat for too long, you do not want to avoid marinating all together as it is a great way to add flavor as well as tenderize the meat which you are using.

And you can achieve this without having to marinate the meat for days at a time.

You will be able to get a cut of both delicious and tender meat which has enough flavor with some simple ingredients as well as salt, and by knowing how much marinade you should be using. 

In this section we will go over some of the best advice to follow to ensure that you get the best results out of marinating your meat without leading to inverse results.


It can take hours for you to make a marinade which will still not get the taste and the texture which you desire from your meat.

This will be because you are not using an appropriate amount of flavors.

So even if you keep marinating the meat for days at a time, if the flavor is not there, it will not go into the meat no matter how long you are marinating it for.

There are some simple ways to ensure that the meat will get enough flavor from the marinade like; toasting your spices, using flavorful ingredients like garlic, using the right amount of herbs, and knowing which flavors will compliment each other.


Just as important as the flavors you are using in your marinade is the amount of salt which you are using. By just using a small amount of salt you will not be helping your marinade at all,

but if you add too much it will make your steak very unappealing. If you add too much salt into your marinade, instead of tenderizing the meat and making it juicy, it will actually drain the moisture from the meat making it worse.

Knowing how much salt to make your marinade flavorful, but not draining, is an important skill to know.

The Ratio Of Marinade To Meat

When it comes to marinading, you also need to know how much marinade is appropriate for you to use.

Some chefs will not use enough marinade and this will mean that there is not enough to cover the surface area of the meat.

And even if they were to leave the steak in this marinade for days, they will still not get good results. 

This is why you always want to try and be more generous than stingy when it comes to using a marinade. The best ratio to go with is about a pound of your meat having half a cup of marinade to cover it.

This will ensure that the meat is properly soaked and that you will get the best results possible.

What To Keep In Mind While You Are Marinating Steak?

There are a few things you should keep in mind when you are marinading to ensure that you will get the best results possible.

Can You Marinate Steak For Too Long (1)

There is a science to marinading and you want to be aware of everything which is going into your recipe.

All of the ingredients which you have included have a role in the marinade, and you want to ensure that everything is going as it should.

To make sure that you are marinading correctly, we have put together some things you should keep in mind when you are marinading something so you will get the best results you can from your steak.

What You Should Do

  • You want to make sure that you are using an acidic ingredient in your marinade as they are what will help the flavor of your marinade get deeper into the steak and will also tenderize the meat as well. Some acidic ingredients which will be helpful are; yogurt, buttermilk, citrus juice, vinegar, wine, and wine.
  • If you are marinating your meat for hours, make sure that you turn the steak over roughly every hour. This will ensure that all of the surfaces are equally covered and marinated.
  • If you want to make sure that your steak is safe marinate it in your refrigerator, doing this at room temperature will make your steak susceptible to being harmed by damaging bacteria and could lead to illness.
  • Make sure the marinade has oils with a high smoke point like safflower, soy, or peanut to make the flavor penetrate.
  • Use some salt so as to not dry out the steak.

What You Should Not Do

  • Do not marinate seafood or fish for any longer than an hour.
  • Do not reuse your marinades as they contain raw bacteria which could spread and contain harmful bacteria.
  • Do not marinate steak in a metal container as this could react to the acids in your marinade.
  • Do not freeze meat in a marinade as the ice crystals will affect the end texture of your meat.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully this guide has given you all the information you need to know when it comes to marinating steak.

Steak can be in the marinade for too long, but if you prepare your marinade properly, it will not need to be in there for too long anyway!

Jess Smith