The meat you’re supposed to cook in a couple of days is frozen. You’ve got time to thaw it, maybe, but you don’t necessarily have time to thaw it and marinate it like you normally would. So the question you start to ask yourself is whether you can marinate the meat that’s still frozen.
The good news is, yes, you can marinate the frozen meat. No, it’s not an ideal situation. However, if it was an ideal situation, you probably wouldn’t be wondering if you could marinate frozen meat in the first place.
Whatever your situation, frozen meat can be marinated. The problem, as with dealing with any food product that’s frozen, is time.
So, let’s get into the finer details of how to go about marinating frozen meat, some possible benefits from marinating frozen meat, along with some other considerations you need to take into account before venturing down this culinary highway.
So, How Do You Marinate Frozen Meat?
Well, it may sound like a more straightforward process than it is. Not that it’s an incredibly difficult process. After all, the meat’s frozen. You know how you want to marinate it. You just have to marinate it frozen this time as opposed to the meat being thawed. Nothing else to it, right?
Not so fast.
We can all agree that thawed meat is typically the best meat to marinate. If it can’t be completely thawed, the goal should be to let the meat thaw as much as possible before starting the marinating process.
Depending on how much time you have and the cut of meat, you may choose to defrost the meat for a small amount of time before introducing the marinade. Or you can introduce the marinade right away and let it do its thing as the meat thaws.
The main thing to remember is that, because the meat is either completely or partially frozen, the marinade will take longer to penetrate any meat that’s frozen. That being said, as the meat thaws, the marinade will have the opportunity to get to the meat like it normally would.
However, because the meat will thaw at a specific rate, not all of the meat will be exposed to the same amount of marinade over the same amount of time. In other words, your meat may be unevenly marinated at the time of cooking.
Bottom line: the more the meat is allowed to thaw, the better the marinade can penetrate the meat evenly.
Anyway, here is the basic way to marinate frozen meat:
- Remove the frozen meat from the freezer and place it in the fridge. Again, allow the meat to thaw as much as possible when possible.
- Prep your marinade.
- Combine your meat and marinade in either a dish or plastic bag.
- Cover the dish or close the bag and place everything back in the fridge. Marinate based on the recommendation of the recipe you’re using or on your own experience. However, the longer you can allow the meat to thaw while marinating, the better. Twenty-four hours should work.
- After that, remove the meat from the marinade and cook.
If those steps sounded pretty similar to what you would normally do when the meat is completely thawed, you’re right. Again, the biggest difference when marinating frozen meat is the time it takes and doing your best to make sure the marinade penetrates the meat evenly. Other than that, it’s the same process.
Are There Any Benefits to Marinating Frozen Meat?
Yes, believe it or not, there are some benefits to marinating frozen meat. Those include:
- Flavor Boost. One of the great things about marinades is the flavor infusion they provide. By marinating frozen meat, the thawing process and the marinating process, although they can take longer, can combine to really ramp up the flavor index of your food.
- More Time to Tenderize. Some marinades are used to tenderize meat when the meat’s not frozen, like balsamic vinegar. By marinating frozen meat, you’ll be using a product that has more time to help break down the connective tissue.
- Convenience. Some may think marinating frozen meat isn’t convenient. However, if you’re short on time but still need to thaw the meat, marinating it while it thaws can actually save you some time.
Other Commonly Asked Questions
Can You Cook Frozen Meat?
Sure, but why would you want to? In addition, cooking frozen meat can lead to issues with temperature regulation, uneven cooking, and undercooked food that poses food safety problems.
Can You Marinate Frozen Meat in the Freezer?
We don’t recommend marinating meat in the freezer, whether it’s frozen or in the process of freezing. Freezing causes ice crystals. So, besides freezing the marinade, which will prevent any penetration of the frozen meat, it can also damage the meat, making it difficult to evenly coat the meat internally once thawing begins.
Plus, the marinade may become overly concentrated in parts of the meat during freezing, ruining flavor distribution.
What Do You Do With Used Marinade?
If you consider throwing out a used marinade to be wasteful, you can repurpose it for something like a sauce, or use it again as a marinade later. Strain any meat portions out of it and boil the marinade before using it again. This will kill any pathogens left by the meat.
What Frozen Meats are Better Than Others to Marinate?
The type of meat doesn’t matter as much as the fat content of the meat when it comes to marinating frozen cuts. So, it’s not about frozen chicken, beef, or pork and which is best to marinate.
Instead, it’s better to marinate frozen chicken thighs, beef brisket, or pork shoulders. They all have higher fat content and more connective tissue, making the marination process while frozen more beneficial.
Marinating leaner meat won’t have the same impact because the marinade really won’t be able to penetrate the meat until it starts to thaw. With fatter meat, the marinade can go to work sooner.