The Best Steak Marinade
Everybody loves steak. Even the ones that claim they don’t like steak, like steak. They just won’t admit it.
Steak is, and will forever be, a fan favorite for many reasons. It’s primal, healthy, simple, and versatile, to say the least. And these characteristics are the reason some people will instantly think of a good steak whenever they have something to celebrate.
That said, cooking a steak, however, can be done in many ways.
As much as most people will focus on the beefiness of the steak itself and just throw on a light coat of their favourite rub, there are a wide range of flavors to explore if you’re willing to try to marinate your cuts.
What’s great about marinades is that they act as a tenderizer. This means that you can use them not only to add flavor, but to also soften up tougher steaks and turn them into delicacies. That said, it is important to know, though, that some beef cuts are more prone to be marinated than others.
What makes for a good marinade?
Before we dive into the perfect steak marinade recipe, it is essential to understand the fundamentals of what makes a good marinade exceptional. This will help you either make one from scratch more easily, or pimp a store-bought one to your liking.
In short, a good marinade should be designed to ignite your taste buds. All of them.
The first component to consider in your marinade is the amount of fat that will be in it, because fat acts as a flavor conductor and makes it easier to coat meat evenly. Hence, you don’t need to add that much liquid fat to make your meat very tasty; just give your marinade some time to sit and your flavors some time to develop to obtain a great result.
Next, you’ll need an acid to brighten up the whole thing. You will want your ratio to be 3 parts oil/fat:1 part acid.
And then, last but not least, you’ll need to finish off your marinade with aromas and flavors. This can be done by either infusing it with fresh or dried herbs.
All in all, the key to a good marinade lies in the ratios that you will play with. In the end, your marinade should leave a great impression on your taste buds.
On that note, it is worth noting that flavor travels in different ways and sections in your mouth. Indeed, the tip of your tongue is more sensitive to the sweetness of things and the front half to the saltiness and savouriness. The second half of your tongue is where you’ll be reactive to sour flavors and the back end will be where you’ll be more prone to taste any bitterness. Even though this may sound technical, it’s very important to understand and to start paying attention to it all as you eat. Developing an accurate palate will help you obtain much better results over time and will prove to be a difference maker in your BBQ game.
A balanced marinade should then taste a bit sweet, a bit savoury, a bit sour, and a bit bitter. Playing with these flavor profiles with different ratios and inputs will take some practice, but it’s a fun process.
Now, here’s my recipe for the best steak marinade:
The Best Steak Marinade
This recipe never fails me. It’s simple to whip together, it’s made out of things we all have at home, and it simply enhances the natural flavor of the beef. A great winning combination!
By the way, I really recommend that you try it with NY Strips, Hanger, and Flat Iron steaks; it’s what it goes with best.
- ½ cup avocado oil
- ⅓ cup fresh lemon juice
- ¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
- 1 ½ tablespoons brown sugar or honey
- 1 ½ tablespoons garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon fresh garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 2 tablespoons dried basil
- 1 ½ tablespoons dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ tablespoon red pepper flakes
- Chopped shallots, to your liking (optional)
- Mix all of the ingredients together and let the mixture sit for at least 30 minutes.
- Pour the mixture over the steaks and let them marinate in the refrigerator for 8 to 12 hours.
- Serve and enjoy!
What makes a good steak marinade?
Now, I did tell you my recipe, but there are more things that you should know about steak marinades, like the fact that all proteins react differently to marinades, be it for their muscular density, fat content, porousness or flavor intensity.
That said, crafting a marinade for beef will then be much different than for chicken, for instance. Indeed, a good steak marinade needs a higher acidic ratio as the protein structure of a steak does not break down as easily as the one of a chicken. On the flip side, you can’t solely rely on acid to tenderize the meat as it could compromise the flavor of the steaks. A good base for a steak marinade will then be usually composed of an acid and a salty liquid.
A point of reference for that would be the classic combination of red wine and kosher salt. The problem with red wine, however, is that it’s hard to obtain consistent results as red wines don’t all taste the same and the alcohol profile may overshadow the beef flavor that you are looking for. Hence, this is why the foundation for my perfect steak marinade is a combination of Kikkoman Soy Sauce, lemon juice, and Worcestershire Sauce.
Once you’ve chosen your base components, you’ll need to add some sweetness to it. Not only for the taste itself, but also for the caramelization you want to achieve once your steak is on the grill. If you like your steaks to have nice charred edges, working with brown sugar or corn syrup is a good addition as these sugars are not too flavorful and burn at a higher temperature. It’s therefore easier to sear them without burning the sugar.
In my opinion, steak marinades stand out from other kinds of marinades as steak marinades have a different intent then the ones for other proteins. Indeed, while most marinades are designed to become the main flavor profile, I feel like steak marinades are there to solely complement the piece of meat. Beef is what you pay for, so beef is what you shall get and this is why I put a lot of thought into the herbs and spices that I use for my steak marinades.
Personally, I like my herbs and black pepper to be grossly chopped and fresh for a bold flavor. The oversized approach to my aromas will also help them survive the searing process. If you use dried herbs or anything that’s chopped too thin, it will simply burn as you sear.
So, now that you understand the key components to a good steak marinade, without further ado, I will leave it up to you to give it a try and let me know what you think. Obviously, this is my own spin on it. It may not match your style, but the good news is that now you know what to look for in a marinade, and how to identify what it lacks and what you need to pull back on, so you should be able to create a marinade that suits your taste buds perfectly.
Have a great BBQ!