How Long Can you Marinate Beef for Jerky? (What Experts Say)


This is the ultimate guide answering all your queries on how long you should be marinating beef to prepare jerky.

Let’s dive right in

How Long Can you Marinate Beef for Jerky?

According to USDA, it is safe to marinate beef for up to 48 hours in the fridge. Though it can stay for longer (up to 5 days) in the fridge, the end result may not be good. Most recipes recommend 4 to 24-hour marination for best results.

If you marinate the beef for just a short time, you will not achieve the flavors you want and if you marinate it for too long there is a chance of the marinade breaking the protein structure of the meat and making it mushy.

Always ensure to put the marinated meat in freezer bags or air-tight glass containers.
Using aluminum ones is not recommended as it reacts with the acid which leads to odd colors and flavors.

How long you can marinate is also a function of what kind of recipe you are looking at.

Here is one where beef is marinated using Korean barbecue sauce –

What is The right way to Marinate Jerky?

There is no one right way to marinate jerky. The rich flavor of beef merits complex flavors in a marinade, but you can use any type of marinade or spice rub that you like. Some people prefer to marinate their jerky in a sweet and savory sauce, while others prefer to use a spicier rub.

Many chefs recommend using little citrus while preparing the marinade for beef, just to ensure that it does not overpower the flavor of the meat itself.

For the marinade, recommended options are – red wine, soy sauce, garlic, dry mustard, red wine vinegar, etc.

As far as herbs and spices are concerned, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary, etc, work amazingly well.

Experiment until you find a flavor that you enjoy.

Can I marinate Jerky for Hours?

Yes, you can marinate beef for up to 48 hours while preparing your jerky. It is recommended to marinate the beef for a minimum 4-6 hours.

It is best to follow the marination time recommended by the recipe you are following for the best results.

Also, note your meat needs to be kept in the fridge during this time and NOT at room temperature.

Can you Marinate Jerky for a Week?

Yes, theoretically, if you keep the beef in the freezer, you can marinate it for weeks. But after a few days, the marinade will start breaking the protein structure, thus making the meat mushy.

It may not be possible to keep marinated beef in the fridge for a week as it will get spoiled.

Is There an Issue of Too Short Marination of Beef jerky?

Yes, if you marinate the beef for too short a period of time while preparing jerky, you may not get the intended flavors in the end. Proper marination ensures that the flavors are infused deep inside the meat, and that process takes a minimum 4-6 hours in the case of beef.

What Happens if you Marinate Beef Jerky Too Long?

If you marinate beef for too long, the marinade will act on the protein of the meat and will make it mushy. This can also alter the flavor of the meat. Thus, when you cook the meat after marination, you will not get the intended results in your recipe.

Can you Reuse Jerky Marinade?

No, you should not reuse jerky marinade. Raw chicken can contain dangerous bacteria such as Campylobacter, Salmonella, Clostridium perfringens etc. Thus, reusing you are risking those bacteria to be part of your food.

If you want to use the marinade for cooking the marinated meat, that is, of course, a good idea. But if you plan to store it for later use, be very careful.

Is it Better to Marinate Jerky in the Fridge or Room Temp?

According to USDA, you should always marinate in the fridge. Marinating beef for preparing jerky requires minimum 4-5 hours. This is too long a time for the meat to be kept at room temperature, and harmful bacteria will take over the whole thing.

Final Words

I hope this quick guide answered all your queries regarding marinating beef to prepare beef jerky.

If you have any suggestions, please drop us a line.

Do share this with your friends and family who love beef jerky

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About Barbara Foster

Barbara is a traveler who has traveled to more than 25 countries. She loves the variety of food she gets to experience on her trips and maintains detailed journals of her travels which she plans to publish as a book someday. She loves to bake. Her favorite cuisines are Italian, French, and Mexican.