How long can I safely marinated red meat such as a steak or lamb.?

Stephanie G


ChefOno April 20, 2013

From a food safety perspective, the easiest answer to your question would be to observe the "use or freeze by" date on the package if there is one. If not, the USDA's guideline for steaks, roasts, etc. is 3-5 days from the date of purchase. (I can't explain the difference between the USDA and Utah State, usually university guidelines follow the USDA's.)

Marinating can affect both flavor and tenderness. The marinade's ingredients, time, temperature and the cut of meat are all factors. Cynthia is certainly correct that overdoing it can result in undesirable textural changes although not necessarily how one might expect.

I'll let Shirley Corriher explain:

boulangere April 20, 2013
Suzanne's reference regarding food safety and marinading under refrigeration is spot on. Beyond that, understand that the objective of a marinade, which typically includes an acid, is to break down strong proteins. The longer, the greater in short. I suspect that 5 days is a bit too long, even given the toughest cut of meat. 24 hours is probably fine. Beyond that, and you run the risk of mushy meat.
sdebrango April 20, 2013
I found this on Utah State University Dept of Food and Health.
Unless proper food safety techniques are followed, marinating can increase the risk of contamination, which may lead to food borne illness.
Always Marinate in the Refrigerator
Always marinate foods in the refrigerator, not on the kitchen counter. Some older recipes call for marinating at room temperature. DO NOT FOLLOW THIS PRACTICE. Marinating at room temperature causes the meat to enter the “Danger
Zone” (between 40°F and 140°F), where bacteria multiply fastest. When a recipe calls for marinating at room temperature, increase the marinating time in the refrigerator to achieve similar tenderness and taste results. Place marinating meat on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator to prevent any possible leaks onto foods below.
Do not marinate longer than over night. Food has a refrigerated shelf life. Marinating does not extend that shelf life. The shelf life for chicken or turkey is 1 to 2 days. This includes the day of purchase and thawing time. The shelf life for beef, lamb or pork steaks or chops is 2 to 3 days. For roasts it is 3 to 4 days.
Stephanie G. April 20, 2013
Are any food safety experts out there who can respond? I was wanting to marinate skirt steak for 5 days for fajitas. Is this a bad idea?
sdebrango April 19, 2013
I really don't know about the food safety aspects of this, maybe one of our experts will weigh in. For beef in a wet marinade which is acid based, wine, lemon or vinegar I generally let a tougher cut sit in the marinade for no more than 4 hours, but 1 or 2 is sufficient. For a more tender cut of meat 1 hour I think is enough, you could stretch that to a little bit longer. When I make lamb I generally just use a garlic, olive oil and herb marinade and have let it sit refrigerated as long as overnight.
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