Making Marinades Safe

Food safety for basting, sopping up, or serving a marinade

Pouring a soy-garlic marinade over Korean beef before grilling

 David Murray and Jules Selmes / Getty Images

After you marinate meat, you may want to use the marinade to baste the meat as it cooks or as a sauce on the finished dish. However, once a marinade or sauce has come into contact with raw meat it is no longer safe to consume. But this doesn't mean that you have to throw it out when you are done marinating. Learn the safe way to use marinade rather than tossing it.

When Is It Safe to Use a Marinade?

Marinating meat before cooking can add flavor and moisture to a dish. Raw meat and fish have germs on their surfaces that will contaminate a marinade after use. Even if your marinade has acid or alcohol, these ingredients are not strong enough to kill the germs. Enough contamination remains that you can get sick from a foodborne illness if you use the marinade for basting or as a sauce.

The most effective way to kill the germs and make the marinade safe to eat is to boil it. This is an approved suggestion according to the USDA's food safety guidelines.​​​

How to Boil a Marinade

Pour any marinade or sauce that has been in contact with raw meat into a saucepan and bring it to a boil. This needs to be a complete, rolling boil to ensure that all of the bacteria is killed. Foodborne bacteria die at 165 F (75 C), so this is your target temperature. Once the marinade has reached a boil, remove from the heat and allow to cool.

The marinade doesn't need to cool completely after boiling if you want to use it for basting, as bastes can be applied hot with a brush, spoon, or heatproof baster. The marinade is also safe to use as a sauce to slather on top of the finished meat or as a dipping sauce.

Taste the Boiled Marinade

Not all marinades tolerate boiling well, so taste your boiled marinade before you use it again to make sure that the flavor has not been altered. Most marinades will be unaffected by the heat, but some may develop an unappealing flavor. You might want to adjust the acidity, for example. Also, sugars burn at 265 F (130 C), so if the marinade contains sugars, avoid a rolling boil for more than a few minutes to prevent burning.

Marinades that are boiled for safety can be used as a sauce all on their own or additional ingredients can be added as desired. Depending on how thick or thin you want your sauce, you may need to add additional liquid to the marinade since boiling will also reduce and thicken the liquid. When adding liquids, don't just water it down. Add more liquids already used in the marinade to preserve the flavors.

The Safest Choice

While you may not feel right about tossing the marinade, that is the safest choice if you're unwilling to boil it properly. It is better to make up a larger volume of the marinade and set aside some you will use for basting or to make a sauce. Once you're done marinating the meat, discard the used marinade and use the remaining, untainted mixture for basting or sauce.