Think Twice Before You Try To Marinade A Frozen Cut Of Meat

Considering meat can last in your freezer for up to a year, it's a good idea to store it this way if you can't use it right away. But when it comes time to cook it, applying a marinade can be much trickier than if you had a fresh cut of meat. Ideally, you would let your beef or pork thaw completely before adding sauces and seasonings. If you're trying to save a little time, however, it is possible to marinate frozen meat — but there are a few things you should keep in mind.

When your food is rock-hard, it won't be able to absorb any of your sauce. This is because the ice crystals in your frozen meat will essentially build a wall around it, preventing any oil in your marinade from getting through. So although you won't necessarily have to defrost your beef completely, you'll at least need to let the outsides thaw a bit so that the crystals can melt and the liquid can make its way in. Keep in mind that the ice crystals will turn into water as your food defrosts, however, which can make your marinade a little more watery than it would be otherwise.

How to marinate frozen meat

If you are short on time and want to try marinating your frozen meat, here's how to do it. Avoid trying to marinate in the freezer at all costs, since as we mentioned, you need to at least partially thaw your food for the liquid to penetrate. If possible, attempt this method on cuts that have a high-fat content (like pork shoulders) because they'll absorb your sauce more easily.

Ideally, your marinade will have a good amount of acidity (like from vinegar or lemon juice), as this can help tenderize your meat as it thaws. Then as early as you can, move your beef to the fridge in an airtight container before adding your liquid — the earlier the better, since the marinade will get through defrosted meat much more quickly. Since one of the pitfalls of this method can be uneven marinating, check on your food occasionally while it's thawing and squeeze the bag to redistribute the sauce. It should take about 12 hours to achieve tender meat, but avoid leaving it in the fridge for more than two days, at which point it can become soggy. Once your food is completely defrosted, you can dump the liquid and cook your dinner.