Safety Tips For Marinating Meat and Using Marinades

Marinating meat adds flavor to the food and can tenderize it. There are number of benefits:

  • The oil in the marinade tends to increase the juiciness of the meat and stops it drying out. The oil also helps stop the meat sticking to the surface of the grill or barbecue.
  • The acids in a good quality marinade act to break down the long stands of protein in meat, making it more tender when cooked. Many marinade recipes include papaya and other vegetables that have natural tenderizing properties.
  • The marinade imparts flavor to the meat. The use of a liquid and the long soaking time means that the flavors penetrate into the meat.
  • Meats such as beef and pork, particularly the tougher cuts should be marinated for 8 to 10 hours to get the maximum benefits.
  • Poultry should be marinated, depending on the thickness and cut of chicken, from 30 minutes to about 3 hours.
  • Seafood and Fish only require about 30 minutes in a marinade.

But special care is required to avoid contamination when using marinades. This article discusses these issues, and the tips and precautions that should be followed when using marinades.

Always marinade food in the refrigerator as there is a risk of bacterial contamination
Always marinade food in the refrigerator as there is a risk of bacterial contamination | Source
Marinades enhance the flavor of meat but care is required to avoid contamination
Marinades enhance the flavor of meat but care is required to avoid contamination | Source
Fish and seafood only require a short time in very delicate marinades. But keep the liquid cool to avoid contamination
Fish and seafood only require a short time in very delicate marinades. But keep the liquid cool to avoid contamination | Source
Marinading meat, fish and seafood enhances the natural flavors of the food, but take care to avoid the risk of contamination.
Marinading meat, fish and seafood enhances the natural flavors of the food, but take care to avoid the risk of contamination. | Source

Tips for Using Marinades and Avoiding the Risk of Food Contamination via Bacteria and other Pathogens

Don't overload the meat with too much marinade. The marinade liquid should just to cover the meats in a shallow bowl. However, no pieces should protrude from the surface. Dispose of the marinade after use and don't use it more than once.

Marinades are one of the commonest mechanisms for food contamination. It should be obvious that a marinade is like a soup and is a perfect breeding ground for any organisms that occur on the surface of the meat or internally. You would not leave a soup, stew of meat dish out on the bench overnight. Yet this is exactly what many people do with meat in marinades. They leave them out at room temperature for long periods of time. These conditions are just perfect for any disease organisms to multiply and contaminate the food.

Similarly many people take special precautions to prevent cross contamination between raw and cooked meat. This can occur with cooking utensils, chopping boards of bench tops. Yet many people will cook their meat to the recommended minimum temperature to kill germs and then pour some of the marinade over the cooked meat. The marinade should be regarded as contaminated and dangerous and should be disposed of. Boiling the marinade before using it as a sauce can be done but it is still risky and the flavor may not be pleasant. If you want to use some of the marinade to baste the meat or to make a serving sauce, set some aside that is not used to marinade the meat.

Safety Tips For Using Marinades in Ways that Prevent the Risk of Contamination

Always marinade meat in the refrigerator, never on the counter at room temperature. Minimize the amount of time any marinade is out of the fridge to stop it warming up. Never leave meats of any kind out on the bench for long periods of time. If you want to bring meat to room temperature before cooking then warm it in a microwave oven or place it in a plastic bag and run warm water over it. When cooking marinated meat take it straight from the refrigerator to the grill or barbecue when you are ready to cook it.

Any marinade or sauce has come into contact with raw meat should be regarded as contaminated and as unsafe to eat. It can only be rendered safe by boiling for several minutes to ensure any bacteria are killed. This generally ruins the marinade for this use and it is far better to set some aside that does not come into contact with the meat.

Treat all utensils and crockery that has come into contact with the marinating meat as contaminated. This applies to knives, tongs, forks, spoons, jugs and any other similar items.

Be vary careful when you wash foods such as chicken pieces before marinading them. This can spread the contamination from Salmonella and other organisms to the sink, bench tops and utensils. In some ways it may be better not to wash the chicken and to regard each piece as being potentially contaminated when handling the chicken.

© 2013 Dr. John Anderson

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