Can You Marinate Ground Beef? – Don’t Make This Common Mistake!

According to Statista, every American consumes 65 pounds of beef every year, with ground beef being one of the staples. Ground beef is delicious, affordable, easy to cook, and versatile. It can be eaten as is or added to other recipes like meat pies, meat, and vegetable stews, or even turned into burger patties. But have you ever thought about marinating ground beef to enhance its flavor and aroma?

In this article, we will see if you can marinate ground beef, what marinate you can use and how to store marinated ground beef properly.

Can you marinate ground beef? You can marinate ground beef for up to 24 hours to make it more flavorful and tender (marinate breaks down long, tough beef fibers). The marinade will make ground beef spicier, more delicate and aromatic, and easier to cook. However, marinating ground beef for too long can make it mushy and watery.

Do You Really Need to Marinate Ground Beef?

It is not uncommon to marinate tough steak cuts like flank, skirt, sirloin, but what about tender ground beef? Does it need to be marinated? No matter the type of meat, marinating meat is a great way to add flavor and make its texture more delicate and tender. However, if you marinate the meat for too long, it will become mushy and watery. Let’s look at the pros and cons of marinating ground beef:

Advantages of Marinating Ground Beef:

  • Juicier and more delicate texture (marinating preserves moisture)
  • Less time to cook
  • More complex flavor and aroma profile thanks to the spices (ground meat becomes spicier and saltier with fresh, earthy notes)
  • Keep ground beef fresh for longer (meat exposed to air oxidizes very quickly when exposed for a long period of time, so marinating prevents this from happening)

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Disadvantages of Marinating Ground Beef:

  • Hides the real flavor of the beef
  • When marinated for too long (over 24 hours), ground beef becomes mushy, soggy, and too watery

As you can see, marinating ground beef has more pros than cons. When marinated properly, ground beef becomes tender and juicy. You can add all your favorite herbs and spices to enhance the flavor of ground beef, making it more earthy, spicy, and salty.

How Long to Marinate Ground Beef?

Beef is usually marinated for 6-24 hours, which is enough to make the tough steak cuts like flank, skirt, and sirloin juicy and tender. However, ground beef does not need to be marinated that long since it is not as tough as other beef parts. We recommend marinating ground beef for at least an hour but not longer than 24 hours to prevent it from becoming mushy. 

Marinating time will also depend on the recipe – if you just want to pan-fry ground beef or turn it into a burger patty, you need to marinate it for a few hours or even overnight to enhance its flavor, but if you use ground beef in a recipe with sauce, just one hour of marinating will be enough.

The length of marinating ground beef also depends on the marinade itself. Acid or alcohol-based marinades for ground beef should not be used for longer than 4 hours as they change the flavor and texture of the ground beef. However, if you just use your favorite herbs and spices, it is fine to marinate ground beef for up to 24 hours. 

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If you want to properly marinate ground beef for a dish, start by mixing 1/4 cup of salt with 1/4 cup of pepper and a tablespoon of oregano or thyme. Place the seasoning mix on the ground beef and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before cooking. After 30 minutes, add olive oil, chopped garlic, red wine vinegar, and a vegetable like sliced bell peppers or onions. Let the mixture sit in the refrigerator overnight so that all of the ingredients can fully combine into one flavorful piece of meat.

One mistake people make when marinating meat is that they don’t leave enough time for the meat to absorb all of the liquid. If you marinate ground beef just for 10 minutes, it will only absorb about half of the liquid before it needs to be cooked. This means your meat will be greasy and tough, so it is better to marinate ground beef for at least an hour, preferably overnight.

Can you marinate ground beef overnight? You can marinate ground beef overnight as long as you do not use salt, acid, or alcohol in your marinade (they change the texture and the taste of ground beef if used for over 4 hours). If you season ground beef with herbs and spices, it is fine to marinate it overnight. 

Storing Marinated Ground Beef

How long is marinated ground beef good for? According to the USDA, marinated ground beef is good in the fridge for up to 48 hours, while raw ground beef can be stored in the fridge for only 24 hours. If kept in the fridge for longer, ground beef becomes watery and loses its flavor due to the growing bacteria.

If you need to keep ground beef for longer, place it in the freezer, where it can be stored for up to 4 months, according to the USDA. However, fresh ground beef tastes better, so we recommend cooking ground beef on the same day when you buy it. Ground beef is very tender and moist, so it will lose its delicate texture and acquire an unpleasant smell if kept in the fridge for more than 48 hours.

Best Marinades for Ground Beef

Ground beef goes well with many marinades, including soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, red wine vinegar, vegetable oil + herbs, spices, or Dijon mustard. However, it is important not to overpower the real flavor of ground beef. Or you can just use salt, black pepper with a few other herbs and spices! The best option is to use a marinade that is flavorful and has a tangy taste.

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Check out our favorite mouth-watering ground beef marinade with a smoky, sweet, spicy, and tangy flavor:

Ingredients (for 1 pound of ground beef)

  • ¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • ½ tsp liquid smoke
  • 3 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • ½ tsp salt

To add flavor and tenderness, you will want to place your ground beef in a ziplock bag with the marinade and let it sit for 4 hours. You can also do this in a bowl if you don’t have access to a ziplock bag. After about 3 hours, you’ll want to stir ground beef, so the marinade gets in ground beef evenly.

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After your ground beef has been marinated enough, it’s time for cooking! Brush your pan with vegetable oil and heat it well before placing ground beef into the pan. Cook until thoroughly browned before turning off the heat. The key here is not to cook ground beef too long because overcooked meat will be tough and dry.


If you’re not careful, you may end up with ground beef that’s dry and tough rather than juicy and succulent. So, the next time you’re thinking about marinating ground beef, keep the tips from our article in mind. If you buy fresh ground beef and marinate it enough, it will be juicy, tender, and flavorful. Good luck!

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