How Long to Marinate Steak

Nicole Austin

How long do you marinate steak - and can you marinate steak for too long? Find out with this easy guide to marinating steak.

I think we can all agree that the only debate about steak that anyone should be having is which island to send the people who want it well done.

I’m only kidding...mostly! But really, who doesn’t love a good steak? There's not much better than a deliciously marinated steak on your dinner table.

There enters the frequently asked question - how long to marinate steak? And can you marinate a steak for too long? We've got you covered!

How Long to Marinate Steak Photo

Why Marinate Steak?

Marinating steak is a common practice, one well known for enhancing the flavor, texture and tenderness of your favorite cuts of beef. 

Marinating allows the steak to be infused with the flavors of the marinade, often a delicious blend of herbs, spices, oils, and other seasonings.

In that way, marinating steak adds depth, complexity and a more flavorful taste to the beef verus prepared it without first marinating.

Oftentimes, marinades contain enzymes or acids, such as citrus or vinegar, which can break down tough muscle fibers, tenderizing the meat in the process.

Marinating steak can also help with moisture retention, acting as a barrier than can help prevent all the natural juices from running out during cooking.

Once marinated and cooked, make sure you know how to cut steak (and how to cut flank steak in particular) for the tastiest steak you've ever had.

How Long to Marinate Steak Picture

How Long to Marinate Steak

Knowing how long to marinate steak (much like how to long to marinate chicken) depends on a few factors such as the cut and thickness of the steak.

How you want the finished, prepared steak to taste when it is cooked, along with the specific steak marinade recipe you are using, is also a factor.

To give you a few general guidelines, here are a handful of approximate marinating times for some of the most popular cuts of steak:

How Long to Marinate Ribye or Filet Mignon

Ribeye, filet mignon and other cuts of steak that are likewise naturally more tender generally do not require extensive marinating.

Marinating these steaks for 30 minutes to 2 hours is sufficient to infuse flavor, but marinating for up to 24 hours, can lend to a more pronounced taste.

How Long to Marinate Sirloin or Strip Steak

Thicker steaks such as sirloin or strip steak benefit from longer marinating times. This allows the marinade flavors to infuse into the thicker cut of meat.

Marinating these steaks for two to four hours, or even overnight (eight to 24 hours), will typically help tenderize and enhance the flavor of such cuts.

How Long to Marinate Skirt Steak or Flank Steak

Skirt steak, flank steak and other cuts known for being tougher in general will typically greatly benefit from marinating, helping to tenderize the meat.

Marinating these cuts for at six to eight hours, or overnight, is recommended to maximize tenderness. Marinate for 24 hours for even more flavor.

How Long to Marinate Steak Image

Is 30 Minutes Long Enough to Marinate Steak?

Any time spent marinating will add flavor to steak. If you’re in a rush after a long day and forgot to put your meat in the marinade sooner, don’t stress!

You can still marinate your steak and refrigerate it for whatever amount of time you’ve got and see a difference in the flavor pretty quickly.

As noted above, prime marinade time depends on the cut and quality of your steak, so whenever possible follow our timing guidlines above for best results.

Can You Marinate a Steak for Too Long?

If longer marinating times are generally better, can you marinate a steak for too long? Unfortunately, it is possible to marinate steak or any meat for too long.

You want to be especially careful when considering how long to marinate salmon and other fish varieties - steak isn't quite as delicate as fish.

Marinades contain acidic ingredients that will break down the fibers in the meat and can cause it to become mushy over long periods of time.

If you are in doubt about your particular cut of meat, a good rule of thumb to follow is to never marinate anything for longer than 12 hours.

Pop it in the fridge with marinade first thing in the morning and it will be ready when you get home to cook dinner after a busy day of work and school.

File 1 - Chipotle Flank Steak with Avocado Salsa

Should I Put My Steak in the Fridge While Marinating?

So, should you put your steak in the fridge while it is marinating? The short answer to this question is super simple - yes!

Always marinate meat in the refrigerator. Allowing meat to sit at room temperature can promote bacteria growth, which can cause food borne illness.

Do You Wash Marinade off Steak Before Cooking?

To prevent flare-ups on the grill, we recommend wiping off excess marinade before cooking, removing most of the marinade, but leaving some for flavor.

To do this safely and effectively, shake off the meat into the bowl when removing it and pat dry with paper towels if needed.

Do not rinse off or wash off any meat prior to cooking, whether it has been marinated or not. (And, no. We do not rinse our chicken before cooking either.)

Rinsing will dilute the flavor, but moreover, you do not want to risk bacteria splashing onto your counter or work surface along with the fluids from your meat.

Chipotle Flank Steak with Avocado Salsa Picture

How To Make Homemade Marinade

In our experience, the perfect marinade will contain most or all of these basic components:

  • Oil - Olive oil makes for a great marinade.
  • Sauce - Sauces you already have on hand such as Worcester or soy. Hot sauce is another popular option for people who prefer some spice in their life!
  • Acid - Lemon juice adds the acidity that tenderizes the meat and it adds a bright, peppy flavor. You can also use vinegar or yogurt for the same effect.
  • Seasoning -  Add salt, pepper, seasonings, spices and herbs to customize and make your marinade your own to suit your palate.

Marinated steak is a great way to mix things up if you’re starting to feel like you’re having the same ol’ same dinners every week.

Our Mediterranean marinade recipe is great on anything from fish and chicken to, yes, steak. (Of course we love our simple steak marinade, too.)

If you’re in the mood for a more traditional marinade or to pair with some Asian dishes, try our soy sauce marinade.

Or, if you’re craving your favorite Tex Mex food, our fajita marinade recipe is perfect for not only fajitas but also burritos, tacos and even burrito bowls.

Planning a dinner party and need some inspiration?

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Nicole is a self-published author of fiction novels, and a lover of food and spending time in the kitchen with her six children. She lives in coastal Maine where she loves exploring new recipes especially those that can save time, money and wow a crowd.

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