Yes, You Can Marinate Lamb For Too Long

Marinating is one of the best ways to imbue meat with a delicious flavor that not only clings to the surface but penetrates inside the cut. In many cases, home cooks don't give their meals enough time to marinate, or even skip the step altogether. But few realize that the opposite can be a problem too, particularly for meats like lamb.

So, how exactly does a too-lengthy marination session ruin lamb and other types of meat? The culprits are two common ingredients in marinades — salt and some type of acid. Both work to break down the proteins that form lamb meat, with marinades high in citrus juice (or salt-heavy seasoning mixes) working most intensely. So, it makes sense that when it comes to tender cuts like a leg of lamb, it can easily become over-marinated into an unappealing, mushy texture.

Generally speaking, no cuts of meat should be marinated for more than 24 hours. But according to Bon Appetit, as little as 15 minutes is plenty to make a significant difference in the flavor of lamb. Ultimately, it's simple — most recipes suggest an amount of time for marinating, so adhere to it as closely as possible and don't fall into a "the more the merrier" trap.

Making the most of lamb dishes

Instead of using intense, long-lasting marinades, those cooking lamb at home can add flavor to the meat while pre-cooking through spices, herbs, and aromatics. After it's cooked, amp up the taste with the addition of sauces that can range from minty and refreshing to spicy, curry-based alternatives.

Unfortunately, over-marinating is just one of the common mistakes made when cooking lamb. For one, lamb cuts aren't as interchangeable as some other types of meat, so it's vital to purchase the correct one for a recipe. In addition, since it's critical not to overcook lamb, home cooks should allow it to reach room temperature instead of cooking it straight out of the fridge.

So, the next time delicious lamb chops, a bone-in leg, or any other cut from this tasty animal are on the menu, save some time with a shorter marination. Ultimately, your taste buds will thank you.