Marinating is one of the easiest, fastest ways to improve the flavor of your dish. The ingredients can penetrate the meat, and any acids can break down the fibers and make it tender.
Can you marinate chicken and beef together? It is safe to marinate different kinds of meat at the same time. While you may be concerned about salmonella or other bacteria, as long as you refrigerate the meat and cook it thoroughly, you can prevent spoiling and food poisoning.
However, depending on the recipe and the cuts of meat you are using, it may be best to marinate beef and chicken separately to achieve the best results. Here is a simple guide.
What is the Safest Way to Marinate Chicken and Beef?
Never leave raw meat in room temperature for longer than two hours. Bacteria can multiply faster than you think; in temperatures of 40°F or higher, microorganisms double in number every 20 minutes.
Make sure that the marinade does not come in contact with other food products. Use a tightly sealed plastic container or plastic bag, and place it in the bottom shelf.
Don’t use metal containers, especially if you are using acidic ingredients like lemon or vinegar. If you are using plastic bags, discard after use.
How Long Can You Marinate Chicken and Beef?
Chicken can be marinated for 2 to 24 hours, depending on the cut. A whole chicken may need more time to soak up the spices and flavorings, but thinly sliced chicken thigh fillets will be ready in half a day.
Denser, thicker meat like beef, which have thicker and denser protein fibers, can be marinated for 24 hours. In fact, most recipes recommend marinating steaks overnight.
If you want to prepare the meats several days ahead, you can try freezing it. Place the marinated meat in plastic bags or containers, and label with the date you prepared it. Immediately place in the freezer. Thaw in the refrigerator the night before you want to cook it.
Freezing slows down bacteria growth and the break down of protein fibers, so your meat won’t get spoiled or mushy even if it’s been marinating for several days. However, cook the meat within a week.
When is it Better to Marinate Chicken and Beef Separately?
The difference in marinade times is one reason why it is sometimes best to marinate beef and chicken separately. Even if the beef and chicken are cut in roughly the same sizes, since they have different kinds of protein fibers, they need different marinating times to become tender and moist.
This is not an issue if you already using naturally tender cuts of beef like tenderloin, or paper-thin beef slices. But if you are working with a tougher or thicker kind of meat, you may want to marinade it ahead of the chicken.
Professional cooks also like to marinate the beef and chicken in separate containers, simply because the two meats have different cooking times. Most recipes call for adding the beef first, especially in a stew or a soup, to allow the meat to tenderize and release the flavor into the broth. Chicken is typically added later on, since it cooks more quickly and can become dry if overboiled.
In this case, it is simply more convenient to place the chicken and beef in different containers so it’s easier to add the meat at the appropriate time in the cooking process.
What Recipes Require Marinating Beef and Chicken Together?
This step is often used in stir fries or noodle dishes that use different kinds of meat. Typically, the meat is cut into very thin, small slices and then marinated about 20 to 30 minutes before cooking. The meat is then drained from the marinade, and then quickly cooked at a high heat.
Since the beef and chicken is cut into small pieces and cooked immediately, there is no risk of overmarination. In that case, the beef and chicken can be marinated together for convenience.
Can You Reuse the Marinade for Basting?
Even if you placed the marinade in the refrigerator, it can still contain some bacteria—as well as blood and other impurities that you don’t want in your food.
If you are cooking the food at high temperature—baking in the oven, or boiling it in a stew or soup—the heat will kill the bacteria. In that case, it is “safe” to use the marinade in the dish.
However, if you are grilling the meat in low heat, or making a sauce that will only be briefly simmered, the heat is not enough to kill the bacteria. It is better to throw away the marinade, and mix a separate basting liquid or sauce for your finished dish.
What’s the Best Way to Marinate Chicken?
This versatile meat can benefit from any kind of marinade! Since chicken is bland on its own, use spices or a salt brine that can infuse flavor from the inside out. Lemon and other acids can also remove any gamey taste, and the trace citrus flavor can balance out stronger spices in your marinade.
When you are marinating a while chicken, be sure to insert spices inside the chicken skin and cavity. If you are using chicken fillets or other choice cuts, make sure the marinate coats both sides evenly—you may want to turn it halfway through the marinade time, just to make sure.
What’s the Best Way to Marinate Beef?
Beef can also benefit from marinades to make it fork-tender. For example, the enzymes in red wine, beer or pineapple juice break the sinewy fibers and shorten cooking time. The strong flavor of beef also holds up well with very strong spices. That’s why it’s a popular ingredient for curries and stews!
However, if you are using a fresh, premium steak cut you don’t want to overpower the natural sweetness of the meat. Sometimes, all it needs is a wine marinade, and a dash of salt and pepper.
The more dishes you cook, the more you’ll become familiar with the best kinds of marinade for beef and chicken.