I am working on a marinade for my chicken breast and filet mignon for a fondue we are planning on having tonight. I took the meat out of the fridge and noticed they both seemed to change color. The chicken turned white and the meat turned brown. I over-marinated -- it called for 8 hours and I marinated close to 24. I didn't think it would harm them. Both meats were bought that day as well.

Some ingredients I think would affect this would be red onion, olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, and salt.

Is this okay? Am I worrying too much? I really don't want to get sick!

2 Answers 2


At least in the case of marinades containing acids (such as vinegar or lemon juice) or certain enzymes, especially from papayas, kiwis, or most commonly (at least in the US), fresh pineapple juice, a certain amount of denaturing of the proteins will occur at the surface of the marinated meat. This will turn it opaque rather than translucent--chicken will look kind of white. This is perfectly normal, and safe.

Depending on the color of the marinade, and the particular cut being marinated, some of the marinade may also penetrate into the meat, changing its color as well.

These are normal effects, and assuming you have otherwise respected good practices (keeping the meat refrigerated during the marination, not holding the food uncooked longer than would be safe without the marinate, and not cross-contaminating and so on), the product should be safe to eat.

In the case of your meat marinated triple the planned time, the outcome will depend on the nature of the particular marinade. If there was active enzymatic action, it could be very mush to the point of unpleasantness. On the other hand, if the marinade was mostly for flavor, rather than highly acidic, it might just have a more intense flavor from the marinade.

Edit: I should add for clarity, when safe above means when properly cooked...

  • I went ahead and used the chicken and beef for the fondue. It was more tender than what I would've liked but it was still rather delicious. I will keep in mind that over-marinating can have adverse side effects. The reason I kept it longer was because I wanted a much more intense flavor. Again, thank you.
    – Adam Beck
    Commented Jan 21, 2013 at 17:14
  • Acidic marinades will almost always denature the surface proteins of any meat marinated in them, and the technique is used on purpose in the preparation of Ceviche. While it doesn't really cure the meat, it also won't affect the taste or texture enough to warrant throwing the marinated meat out. In fact, in the case of aged/cured (and preferably pasteurized) beef, it could make for an interesting tartar-esque dish, though you'd need to change out the marinade diligently, or sous vide pasteurize the whole shebang. Commented Jan 21, 2013 at 17:55
  • Thank you for your response. The meal turned out okay and nobody got sick! I was curious about your last paragraph where you say **On the other hand**, if the marinade was mostly for flavor though. What other reasons would you marinate something?
    – Adam Beck
    Commented Jan 28, 2013 at 4:46

The acidic nature of your marinade has denatured the surface proteins of the meat. This is the same reaction that happens to fish when you use a citrus juice marinade to make ceviche. The surface of you meat may be a little tougher that intended, but as long as it was properly refrigerated, there should not be a health hazard any greater than with fresh meat in general. Enjoy your fondue!

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