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How Long to Marinate Steak

How Long to Marinate Steak

The terms tender, flavorful, moist, and juicy come to Most people’s minds when they hear the word steak. After all, steak is a classic dish that many people love.

Cooking steak, however, can be a challenge for some individuals.

However, marinades are a delicious tool that can help you perfectly cook your steaks.

The trick is knowing how long to marinate steak.

However, before we get to how long to marinate steak, let’s discuss the essential elements of a marinade.

What Are the 4 Main Ingredients of a Marinade?

There are 4 basic parts of a marinade: oil, salt or sugar, acids, and flavoring.


Oil plays a vital role in the marinade. Oil emulsifies the marinade into a thick sauce-like substance that adheres to the meat. 

Additionally, depending on the oil used to marinate the steak can impart a beautiful flavor to the steak.

Oil also helps the steak cook more evenly once its hits the kamado grill.

Half of the marinade should consist of oil. Therefore, you should add 1/4-1/2 cup of oil for every pound of meat you are grilling.

So, if you grill 2 pounds of Ranch steaks, you will need 1/2 cup of oil.

If you do not like strongly flavored oils like olive oil or sesame oil, use oils such as canola, vegetable, or grapeseed oil.

You can even combine different kinds of oils into your marinade.

Sweet and Salty Flavors

Sweet and salty flavors help balance out the marinade. The salt tenderizes the steak and helps preserve its moisture content. 

While you can use kosher or another coarse grain salt, salt is not the only option when it comes to steak marinades.

You can add salty ingredients such as soy sauce or fish sauce to give your marinade a rich, salty flavor.

Sugar does not play as much of an essential role in the marinade as salt does.

However, it does help round out the flavor of the marinade.

You can add a pinch of brown sugar, granulated sugar, honey, maple syrup, or coconut sugar.

However, do not add too much sugar to your marinade, as it can cause your steak to burn.

Omit the sugar if one of your flavoring or acids has a sweet flavor.


Acid tenderizes steaks such as chuck or round steaks with tough connective muscle fibers.

However, don’t go crazy with the acid, as too much acid can start to cook the meat giving it a tough, chalky, overly chewy texture.

Therefore, you should use less acid than oil.

Add 1 part acid and 2 parts oil to your marinade. For example, add 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar to 1/2 cup of oil to create a marinade for your steak. 

Remember, you can always add more acid to a marinade, but you cannot remove it from the marinade. 

Balsamic vinegar is not the only type of acid you can use.

Pineapple juice, orange juice, buttermilk, rice vinegar, lime juice, yogurt, apple cider vinegar, and lemon juice are all excellent additions to marinades.


As the name implies, flavorings add flavor to the steak’s exterior. There ate many types of flavorings.

The flavoring you use depends on which flavor you want your steak to have.

For example, lemon zest, garlic, onions, shallots, thyme, or rosemary pair well with steak.

However, you can also jazz your steak up by adding Worcestershire sauce, chili paste, miso, or dried chilies.

Tips for Marinating Steak

Taste your marinade before you add the steak. This will allow you to adjust the seasoning.

Once the marinade touches the raw steak, you cannot taste it. Remember, the steak is raw, and tasting the marinade could lead to food poisoning.

Additionally, if you use a portion of the marinade as a sauce for the steak, reserve it before you add the steak. 

Otherwise, you will have to cook the marinade until it comes to a rolling boil for a minute and has a temperature of 165°F, which will neutralize any bacteria. 

Prick the meat with a fork before you place it into the marinade. The steak will absorb the marinade easier.

Every inch of the steak should be coated with the marinade.

Add the marinade and the steak to the ziplock bag and massage the marinade into the steak.

Marinate your steak in the fridge. Letting your steaks sit a room temperature can expose them to bacteria.

Therefore, they must be marinated in the refrigerator.

After you remove your steak from the marinade, pat it dry with paper towels.

If you leave the marinade on beef, it will steam instead of sear, which means the beautiful brown crust will not develop.

How Long to Marinate Steak

The trick to marinating steak is not to marinate it too long.

Therefore, if you are using a tender cut of steak like filet mignon, only marinate your steak for 15 minutes.

You can also leave the steaks in the marinade for up to 2 hours.

However, if you use a tougher steak cut like round steak, you can marinate it for up to 6 hours.

The USDA suggests that steak can be marinated in the fridge for 5 days. However, do not marinate the steak for more than 24 hours.

If you leave the steak in the marinade for more 24 hours, the muscle fibers will start to break down, giving the steak a mushy texture.

How Do I Know if Marinated Steak Is Bad?

Your senses will let you know if marinated steak is rotten. The oil in the marinade can give the steak a greasy surface.

However, the meat will still be firm yet soft when touched. Rotten steak will develop a slimy texture.

Even though the marinade has a strong aroma, the steak will develop a foul, rancid smell.

If your steak has an unpleasant scent, it is spoiled and must be tossed in the trash.

Final Thoughts

Marinating steak is a great way to tenderize it. However, marinating steak too long will cause it to develop a mushy texture.

Remember to marinate tender steaks for up to 2 hours and marinate tough steaks for 6 hours, and you will have a tender steak.

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