What Is a Steak Marinade?

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  • Written By: Angela Farrer
  • Edited By: S. Pike
  • Last Modified Date: 10 October 2019
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A steak marinade is a type of treatment used to tenderize and add rich flavor to the meat prior to grilling or pan-searing. Marinades can come as sauces or as dry rubs, and the methods of preparing steak with each of them are somewhat different. Marinating steak works the best with specific cuts of meat. A good variety of choices for steak marinade flavors can be found in grocery store aisles and in recipe books.

Tougher cuts of meat are often best suited for a steak marinade; these include skirt and flank steak as well as varieties of sirloin and round roast. These types of steak also tend to contain lower amounts of fat, letting the marinade soak into the meat more thoroughly. Experienced grill masters usually advise against marinating higher quality meat such as rib-eye because doing so can actually toughen the steak texture too much.


Wet marinades for steak frequently come in flavors such as teriyaki, lemon-herb, barbecue brisket, and bourbon-mustard. Before soaking a thick cut of steak in one of these marinades, some cooks recommend slicing the meat into thinner sections to allow the wet marinade to soak through the steak evenly. A marinating steak that is left too thick can sometimes result in a sour taste on the outer edge of the meat and too little flavor toward its middle. The best results of a using a wet marinade generally come from letting the cuts of steak soak overnight in a covered container kept in the refrigerator.

Cooks who prefer to use wet marinades for basting should set part of the marinade aside so that it does not come in contact with the raw meat. After removing a steak from a wet marinade, the leftover marinade itself should not be reused as a sauce without first thoroughly boiling it for at least 15 to 20 minutes. Due to the presence of bacteria from the raw meat in the steak marinade, many cooks choose to dispose of the used marinade rather than reuse it.

Using a dry steak marinade is another option for flavoring the meat. Dry marinade recipes typically consist of spices and seasonings such as ground peppercorn, garlic salt, paprika, oregano, cumin, chili powder, and sometimes brown sugar for added flavor balance. Experienced cooks recommend first allowing the thawed steak to reach room temperature before applying the dry marinade; this generally leads to more evenly cooked meat. The steak is then usually coated with a small amount of cooking oil that allows the dry steak marinade to flavor the meat without the added salts pulling moisture from the steak.


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