Marinating times - what is "overnight" anyway?

I find that I am increasingly confused when I find a recipe that specifies something like "marinate 4 - 6 hours or overnight." The only way that I can marinate something overnight is if I put it in the marinade the evening before cooking it (at the latest, at bedtime). Then, unless I am choosing to have my main meal for breakfast, it will continue to marinate until late afternoon the next day, when I prepare dinner: total marination time, approximately 18-20 hours. That's a far cry from the minimum 4-6 hours alternatively specified.

Has anyone encountered a more realistic convention, perhaps recommending that things be put into the marinade in the morning for late afternoon prep? I would like to suggest this to recipe writers, if there is no objection.

I know that this is not of earth-shattering importance, but it concerns me when the marinade I am using is strong, and might overwhelm the flavor of the marinadee (?) if left too long. For most things, the amount of time spent marinating above the minimum might not make much difference, but when I'm using a strong soy sauce or a lot of pepper, I can't help but wish for more specific guidelines.


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