Reusing chicken marinade

I know this topic has been beaten to death, but I still can’t find an answer that makes sense to me. Specifically, if I am cooking my chicken to a safe temperature of 165 degrees, why can’t I reuse chicken marinade?

I’ve read some advice on how bacteria can multiply to greater levels, and also how it’s not necessarily about the bacteria but the toxins they leave behind. If this is true, it seems to me like marinating chicken for a few days would be dangerous even if it was a fresh, previously-unused marinade.

Not sure what exactly you mean by “reuse” – so a couple of answers.

If you mean “reuse” – as in you’re going to put the used marinade on the cooked chicken – because the marinade is contaminated with whatever was on the chicken before cooking. Just because the chicken is 165 internally does NOT mean that it’s 165 on the surface (and indeed it probably isn’t, especially after being swabbed down with even room-temperature marinade). Think of it as working to paint your house, then deciding to swab it down with the contents of a mud puddle. Putting dirty stuff on something clean makes it dirty. Putting raw marinade on cooked chicken puts raw-marinade contaminants on chicken that was safe to eat but isn’t any longer.

If you mean “reuse” as in putting the marinade on another batch of raw chicken – you now are doubling the microcopic population of the marinade, because you’re starting with marinade that’s carrying bacteria from the first batch of chicken, which has now had a chance to grow and multiply in the marinade (abetted by the sugars, wet and beginning-to-ferment chunks of herbs, garlic, and what-have-you – that is now resistant to the salt, vinegar and other things in the marinade tht might have knocked the population down) and now you’re adding a SECOND batch of whatever it is that’s on the chicken, and you’re going to let it all sit and ferment a little longer, giving all that resistant bacteria an even better opportunity to grow and multiply.

Nasty, nasty stuff, and a surefire way to an upset stomach or worse, whichever way you decide to define it.

Please don’t feed this primordial mess to children, the elderly, or those with a compromised immune system — or anyone else, for that matter…

Remember Sam 's “Magic Kitchen” over at Chowhound? I’m a lot more like him than I am like Sunshine.

Her point about basting or saucing chicken in re-used marinade is well-taken. I don’t think that’s what you’re asking about. But don’t do that.

However, a cold, heavily-sugared, acidic solution will be very hostile to bacterial growth. How do I know this? I’m somewhat embarrassed to say, but here goes… I have a Costco-sized bottle (1/2 gallon?) of Yoshida’s marinade at my beach house that has been drawn upon for at least 8 years probably 12… Yes, it’s been under refrigeration, and no, I don’t re-use marinade. But ketchup, Worcester sauce and BBQ sauces spoil ahead of that stuff. It’s gotten to be a joke that I toss everything BUT that jug of Yoshida’s every few months. It is basically eternal.

I wonder, though, why you would want to re-use the marinade…

Aloha,
Kaleo

I would have thought that it would be hotter on the surface…?

My rule of thumb is I will use the marinade as a baste whilst I am cooking something but only if there is sufficient heat to fully cook the marinade that is basted onto the dish before the cooking is finished.

I can see that if you baste just before you finish cooking the marinade will cool the surface and it won’t be hot enough for long enough to cook through.

Totally agree about not using the same marinade for multiple batches - that sounds like a good way to inoculate clean meat with bugs.

It’s pretty simple to bring the marinade to a boil quickly before slathering it on the meat. Kills whatever is in the marinade and doesn’t cook the surface of the meat.

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But, kaleo, you’re using marinade from a bottle stores in the fridge, and I’ll agree with your comment as to shelf life under those conditions.

“Reusing” suggests that it’s not coming out of a bottle, but being well inoculated with all sorts of life forms before being mopped onto freshly cooked meat.

Hi, Sunshine:

My point was that, after 8-12 years’ worth of openings, pourings, wipings, extended heat frolics, etc., and no spoilage at all, I think that we can conclude that marinade (at least this one) is actually a hostile environment for bacterial growth.

If you know someone who will culture a sample, I’ll make some chicken and save the used marinade.

Aloha,
Kaleo

My chef friend laughed when I asked this exact same question. His response, “You think we’re going to waste all that?”

They boil it, add butter to enrich it, or water to thin it, then use it as a sauce.

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Fear of marinade contamination is so overblown. One time I saw Tyler Florence yell at Melissa Darabian on food network star for using the marinade to make a sauce and was completely appalled by it. It’s fine.

First of all, a marinade is usually packed with salt and acid. Not a good place for bacteria.

Second, as long as it’s getting cooked, the bacteria will die.

I think it’d be pretty gross if you reused the marinade over and over and over but a one time reuse should not be a problem.

But the best use of marinade is actually to cook it down and turn it into a sauce. No matter how much a chicken is marinated, you never get as much flavor as a simple drizzle of sauce gives.

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I have a bit of a different take on things:

Let’s skip the whole question of bacteria.

Assuming, you are asking to reuse the marinade to marinate another batch of chicken, I think the efficacy of the marinade is going to be in question. Most marinades have some form of acid which helps to structurally tenderize the meat by breaking it down. In the case of reusing, much of the, let’s say acetic acid was used to make the marinade, chemical structure is going to have changed making it less effective in your end result- ie. tender, flavorful meat.

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Everything you said is true - you would want to refortify the marinade, especially salt as you will have a significantly salt diluted marinade following the first use. But getting to the root of the issue, you really shouldn’t have so much marinade that you can use it another time. anything past the bare minimum to cling to the meat is essentially wasted anyway.

Yes, Bookwich…I’ve been known to do the same.

Yes, this is what I meant. But no matter how much the populations are doubled, cooking to 165 will kill off anything harmful, right?

Here’s two cases. First one: I marinate a batch of raw chicken. I forget it’s in my fridge. Three days later, I remember and cook it. Second one: I marinate a batch of raw chicken. 8 hours later I cook it. I marinate another batch of raw chicken in the used, leftover marinade. 8 hours later I cook it.

In the first scenario, I didn’t reuse the marinade, but the nasties had three whole days to multiply. Why is that not as worse as the second case?

Reusing marinade is not something I do right now because I’ve read all the warnings. But I know people who will reuse marinade – only once because you lose effectiveness like @Salsailsa mentioned – and when I advise them not to, it doesn’t make sense to me when I’m asked to explain why.

Pakistani marinades are often yogurt based. We will regularly marinade 10 lbs of chicken legs/thighs. There’s still a lot of marinade left over and no one is going to throw all that homemade yogurt away. Also, Pakistanis overcook chicken so maybe that’s why no one ever gets sick. When I cook to 165, no one else will eat it, they believe it’s raw.

And because the marinade is yogurt based, it doesn’t work as a sauce.

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With today’s economics and sourcing; reusing marinade is the equivalent to eating poop to save money.

For home cooks probably, how about restaurants?

Based on your response, you have no experience in a restaurant

I hadn’t considered yogurt marinades. I would personally reuse that if you had so much left.

Hi, Joonjoon:

I’m asking this out of ignorance and curiosity, but has anyone quantified how much salt actually comes out of a marinade and makes it into the food? If, as you say, “anything past the bare minimum to cling to the meat is essentially wasted anyway”, a cook who heavily douses (or immerses) will have less of a dilution problem. Right?

I do a lot of both blanching vegetables and smoking of fish (both brining and dry cure) under high salinity, and it’s rare that the food tastes oversalted. Likewise, I brine whole poultry regularly for roasting, and it’s only my forgetful doubling (or more) the time under cure that has sucked too much salt out of the brine. At the classic salinity of 1C kosher to 1G water, there’s plenty of salt left in the brine after the prescribed period, anywhere from 6 to 12 hours.

Is dilution of marinade a big problem?

Aloha,
Kaleo

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Casting back in my memory. There are a couple of other factors in play.

First, the cooking times for foods tend to be based on reducing bacteria levels not totally eradicating them. To eradicate bacteria 100% then you wouldn’t have something worth eating - in labs they use autoclave that are high pressure and very hot to sterilise.

Foods also tend to heat at different rates so one part of the meat may get a lot hotter than another so the impact on bacteria is not uniform. In a whole chicken the areas next to the bones and deep in the joints cook far slower than the breast meat for example. So getting a uniform 165 degrees is good but not tricky to guarantee…without cremating the food.

Second, the food temperature/cooking time guides are developed for normal levels of contamination in foods. Obviously if you start with a lot more bacteria you are going to need longer cooking or higher temperatures to kill them. Bacteria also tend not to die in at a linear rate - the more there the colony takes longer to die.

When use reuse a marinade you are starting with culture of bacteria that is considerably larger than a fresh marinade. Given bacteria grow exponentially i.e. doubling each generation if you start with a bigger number the number will multiply to a far higher level of contamination the second time around (its far more than doubling). Depending on the reproduction time of the type of bacteria this can be very quick - Salmonella reproduces (double) every 20 to 40 mins in ideal conditions.

And this then goes back to the first point. If the cooking process kills enough bacteria to make safe there is a good chance that something with a far higher bacterial load to start with may not be cooked to a level to reduce the higher level of bacteria to make it totally safe (this is one of the reasons attention is paid to ensuring the meat you buy have very low levels of bacteria etc i.e. a chicken which starts with high levels of salmonella is potentially more dangerous than one with low levels after the same cooking time).

As others have pointed out many marinades have acids/sugars/salts that inhibit bacterial growth but it inhibits it doesn’t stop it totally, and its efficacy as a marinade may drop with reuse. Boiling a marinade would work but chances are you lose there characteristics that makes it good to start with.

Your Pakistani marinade with yoghurt is interesting - I would speculate his may be safer because the yoghurt is a living culture already and the bacteria that make it yoghurt actually out compete or generate a hostile environment that controls competing bacteria (its the same principle as the manufacture of unpasteurised cheese - the cultures a good cheese maker encourages keep out any dangerous ones). Although you would want to be certain its a live cultured yoghurt and not pasteurised.

Thank you. I really appreciate the time you took to write this. Did you have a chance to read my two cases above?

That’s 72 hours vs 16 hours, enough to make up for the exponential growth rate, I think. But I’ve never read a warning that marinating chicken for a long time is as worse as reusing marinade. Is my math wrong here?

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold