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I know it won't spoil; the spoil by date is next week. I'm cooking it in 48 hours (Friday Evening).

It'll rest in the lowest part of my fridge as well.

My marinade consists of vinegar and salt.

Thus the questions:

  • Is it possible to over marinade (New York Strip) steaks?
  • Is it possible for vinegar to chemically break down the steak too long?
  • What is the optimal amount of time for vinegar to breakdown the steak?
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I know it doesn't apply here, but marinating too long in soy sauce can make the meat tough as it starts to become preserved in the salt... –  Sam Holder Sep 2 '11 at 12:57
Marinating a good steak for more than a microsecond is over-marinating. <g> –  Pete Becker Dec 27 '14 at 14:20

2 Answers 2

up vote 11 down vote accepted

Yes, the problem will be the vinegar.
Vinegar is acidic and you'll end up with mushy meat. 48 hours is almost certainly too long. For a vinegar base, I try not to push it over 8 hours and that's only if really necessary. A few hours is typically fine.

Right now, you've got to consider how to save the meat. I'd freeze the meat right now. Freeze the meat with the marinade (which seems like such a waste for 40'ish hours, but better that than mushy steak). When ready to cook, take it out and let the marinade do its business as it thaws. I'd thaw it in ziplock under running water (quicker than the fridge) and let it marinade a short time and go on the grill. If you let it sit in any unfrozen stage too long, you'll get mushy steak with a vinegar marinade.

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Ah. Thank you! Saved my delicious protein. –  chrisjlee Sep 1 '11 at 3:01

You can go on line and read 1000 different opinions about marinating meat. Most read like this: "One of the simplest ways to flavor meat is to marinate it. That is, treat it like a sponge. All you have to do is pour sauce on the food, let it soak for a while and then cook it."

Personally, based upon over 30 years of experience in the kitchen, as well as in the BBQ pits, I don't believe that is true. In fact, even after hours of soaking, most marinades don't penetrate meats like beef, pork or lamb much more than 1/8". A side effect of marinade on meat is a wet surface, which impedes the ability to crisp or obtain a nice char. In short, 'soaking' marinades adversely affect the taste and texture of many meats.

On the other hand, meats such as chicken, turkey, and some pork cuts usually absorb a little more marinade (though not as much as we would like) and fish will literally absorb it like a sponge.

If the marinade contains a lot of salt or acid, they will affect the meat in a different way. Salt is important, as a flavor enhancer, and has good penetrating properties, as well as a conduit for pulling in other flavor components (like brine).

Acids can serve as a kind of marinade; fruit juices (i.e. lemon, apple, pineapple, orange and white grape juice), vinegars, and even sugar-free soft drinks can break down protein, which is a process known as 'denaturing'. However, too much acid, or even a small amount of acid over too long a time can make the surface of the meat mushy, which inhibits crispness or charring.

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