Why Your Marinated Steak Became A Mushy Disaster

When cooking a steak, marinating is a must if you want it to be extra tender. Why is that? Well, according to Chicago Steak Company, a good steak marinade needs four key components: salt, acid, oil, and flavoring. These key components play a different role in elevating a steak.

For starters, salt penetrates the meat, drawing out the moisture. The salt then dissolves into that moisture, and the steak absorbs those juices (via American Criollo Beef Association). When other seasonings are also present, those are infused into the meat as well. Next, Chicago Steak Company states that acidic ingredients — such as lemon or lime juice, vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce – "break down the meat" to help tenderize it further. Lastly, herbs and spices help balance the flavor of the marinade, and oil holds the moisture into the meat while diluting the acid, preventing it from becoming overpowering. 

While the time you spend waiting for a steak to marinate can feel like centuries when you're hungry, it's important to give the steak the right amount of time to marinate, but you won't want to wait too long, as things can go awry.

Marinating steak too long breaks down its fibers

Many would assume that the longer a steak marinates, the better it will be. However, it is possible that marinating it for too long can make it worse. According to Prepared Cooks, marinating your meat for hours will allow the steak and your taste buds to reap the benefits, but marinating your steak for days can run the risk of producing overly flavored meat, an unpleasant change of color, and, worst of all, a mushy texture.

The USDA states that the ideal window for marinating meat is at least six hours and up to 24 hours. However, after 48 hours, the meat's texture will become mushy due to its fibers deteriorating from the marinade. Many mistakes like this are made when meal prep involves marinating meat days in advance.

Some tips Prepared Cooks recommends for marinating meat properly include turning your steak if marinating for a few hours to ensure both sides soak up the juices, using high smoke point oils in your marinade to penetrate the flavor even more (like soybean oil, safflower oil, and peanut oil), and not skimping on surprisingly acidic products that could help tenderize the meat further, such as buttermilk and yogurt.