Can You Marinate Ground Beef? All You Need to Know

“Can you marinade ground beef?” This question has often been asked to cut down error percentages in the kitchen at home and yes, you can marinate ground beef.

But it’s far from being necessary except for certain circumstances.The rationale (reason) behind beef marination are essentially three:

  • For the breakdown of long muscle fibers (tenderizing the beef).
  • To brine ( to make it juicier).
  • For addition of flavor.

1. For the breakdown of long muscle fibers (tenderizing the beef)

Some of the active ingredients in the marinade are acidic as they help for the breakdown of the large muscle fibers in the meat.

For this reason, lots of marinades contain vinegar or fruit juice. Only a few marinades depend on enzymes to do this. Enzymes are mostly found in papayas seeds — they help in breaking down these tissues too.

However, the fact that the beef is grounded, is the needlessness for further breaking down of long muscle fibers. The reason has already been accomplished by mechanical means.

2. To brine (to make it juicier)

Acidic content is dealt with, the rest of the marinade content is basically for adding flavor to the beef. However, if the goal is not tenderizing the meat, then you can employ the use of the same spices to help with a dry rub.

This means you can add spices to your ground beef before cooking ensues. It becomes apparent that this second reason is easily achieved without necessarily taking the route of marinating your ground beef.

3. For addition of flavor

Various oils and brines are used in marinades. The reason for this is the retention of the beef’s moisture during the cooking process.

More to say, the fact that this is even the most difficult to achieve with ground beef is a valid reason why you would rather marinate a whole cut of beef as opposed to marinating an already ground beef.

Besides, since you are dealing with ground beef here, you can add spices and herbs to infuse the flavor in the ground beef. So this reason is gone too.

Can You Marinate Ground Beef?
Image: Envato Elements

Now, if all the reasons why all sane marinations are done can be achieved far more easily with ground beef without necessarily having to marinate it, the initial question stares back at you: “Can you marinate ground beef?” Yes, you can. but it is not necessary.

As mentioned earlier, there are a few cases where you could, however, marinate ground beef; one of which is the case of using it for burgers. In this case, all that needs to be done is to put the ground beef in a container, gently use your hand to blend the marinade into it.

You’d cover the patties and allow them to marinate in the fridge for not less than an hour. Grilling should be done at high heat and should last for 3-4 minutes per side.

Most people are not very clear with the right fridge marination duration, so this births the question:

How long can you marinate ground beef in the fridge?

The duration to be considered safe for marinating ground beef in the fridge is not very much dependent on the beef as much as it is on the type of marinade adopted for the marination process.

To be precise, a safer marination duration is more dependent on the chemical content of the adopted marinade. Any marinade whose chemical composition includes salt, alcohol, or acid should NOT be used to marinate for long.

This is because, chemically, it will denature or “cook” the food in it. If you must use marinades that include the aforementioned chemical composition, then your marination duration must not exceed four hours.

Whereas, marinades without salt, alcohol, or acid can be used for marination overnight, or even for long hours and days, for as long as 2-3 days — as the situation necessitates.

However, following the guidelines of the United States Department of Agriculture, marinated beef can be left in the fridge for up to five days. But then, this is advice from the standpoint of safety and precautionary measures.

Marinating steak on a board
Image: Envato Elements

While it is healthy to leave marinated beef in the fridge for five days from a safety standpoint, it is not quite the same in the culinary world as leaving your marinated beef in the fridge for too long can result in an undesirable flavor or texture.

You should do well to garner information about the recipe regarding its maximum recommended timing.

Can ground beef be marinated overnight?

There is no reason why you shouldn’t marinade beef, however, it is imperative to take cognizance of the type of marinade you are using.

If the marinade has acidic content like vinegar, lime, or lemon juice, then know it’s a terrible idea to use it to marinate as the outer part of the beef is going to get “cooked up” by a chemical reaction, after which your beef becomes unpleasantly tough upon cooking.

Your immune system can take up a certain kind of bacteria with much ease, and without a problem. But there are different kinds of bacteria present in the beef, depending on how well you handled it. The beef also will have its type of bacteria.

But if you anything near being “immunocompromise”, then I leave you with a fat NO. Do not marinade ground beef overnight.

While there are varying proteinous food products that can be safe to marinate, one might want to ask specifically if there are other products that can result in food poisoning, spoilage, or any side effect when marinated. This brings us to a question; “Is beef Ok to marinate beef?”

Of course, you can marinate your beef. There is no sound rule in the culinary world that kicks against this. There are even some types of beef that are highly recommended for marination. It all depends on the result you are aiming at.

Although there are exceptions to this. One of which is marinating a ribeye. In this case, you would only end up ruining its texture.

Beef can be marinated. But understand that marinades rarely penetrate beyond the beef surface. This translates to the fact that the outer part of the beef becomes very tender (milea) and the inside of the beef goes untouched. If you desire a high penetrating power, then do well to cut the beef into smaller sizes.