How to Make the Best Steak Marinade

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Once you know how to make steak marinade, you'll be able to turn even the toughest cuts of beef into a moist, tender and flavorful meal.

When it comes to types of steak, not all cuts are created equal. Filet mignon, ribeye and porterhouse steaks are easy to cook up nice and juicy. Other cuts are not so lucky. That’s why it’s important to know how to make a steak marinade. Some steaks benefit from soaking in a marinade before cooking for tender, flavorful results.

Why Marinate Steak?

Leaner cuts of meat from more muscular parts of the cow tend to have more fibrous tissue, making them tougher than other cuts of steak. A marinade helps break down the connective tissue in the muscle fibers to make them more tender. It’s food science at its finest. (Find more ways to make tough meat tender.)

Marinades also function as a flavor enhancer. Because tougher cuts of steak are more muscular, they also lack the fat that’s marbled throughout more tender cuts. Since fat equals flavor, leaner cuts benefit from soaking up marinades that are loaded with spices, herbs and liquids.

The Best Steaks to Marinate

tri-tip steak raw before marinadeLauren Habermehl for Taste of Home

When choosing a steak to buy, keep in mind that cuts closer to the hooves and horns tend to be tougher than those further away. We find that steaks from the leg and shoulder areas are ideal for marinating because these are the muscles that work the hardest on a cow. Flank steak, hanger steak, tri-tip, bottom round and eye of round are all great if you’re looking for the best steak to grill and marinade.

Keep in mind that even sirloins, New York strips and tenderloins can get a boost from a quick marinade. They may not need much help in the tenderness department, but they can still benefit from the additional flavor learning how to make steak marinade provides.

Essential Steak Marinade Ingredients

You can whip up a fast, flavorful homemade marinade using pantry staples. The best marinades balance fat, acid, salt, sugar and aromatics to infuse the meat with intense flavor.

Here are the key ingredients in our perfectly balanced steak marinade recipe:

  • Olive oil: Since most marinade steaks tend to be lean, a fat, like olive oil, helps keep the steak moist and juicy.
  • Lime juice: Citrus functions as an acid that tenderizes the steak and infuses it with a great flavor.
  • White wine vinegar: This secondary acid further helps break down the meat’s connective tissue to make it tender.
  • Salt: Salt is critical to a good marinade. It helps tenderize the meat and enhance its flavor, and also helps the steak absorb the marinade.
  • Honey: Something sweet balances the flavors of a marinade and helps the meat caramelize for a tasty char on the outside.

The Best Steak Marinade

steak marinade ingredientsLauren Habermehl for Taste of Home

This chimichurri recipe is packed with flavors of cilantro, lime, chile flakes and lots of spices. While we chose to make tri-tip steak on the grill, feel free to use any steak you want.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds tri-tip steak (flank steak or skirt steak are also good options)
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup fresh lime juice
  • 2-1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tablespoon red chile flakes
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder

Tools You’ll Need

  • This KitchenAid food chopper is great for small projects like combining ingredients. Its sharp blades whir through fresh herbs to create the perfect consistency. Plus, its compact design doesn’t take up much room.
  • We love the smoky flavor that comes from a charcoal grill. It’s the perfect complement to this fresh, zesty steak marinade. The Weber 22-inch charcoal grill is a great grill to get started with as it comes with an easy gas ignite system that takes the work out of starting charcoal.
  • The easiest way to ensure your steak is cooked to perfection is to invest in a digital meat thermometer. This instant-read ThermaPen will give you all the accuracy you need. Learn more about food-safe cooking temperatures.

Directions

Step 1: Mix the marinade

steak marinade ingredients in food processorLauren Habermehl for Taste of Home

Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Pulse a few times for 20-25 seconds until the garlic and herbs are finely minced, but not completely pureed.

Step 2: Cover the meat

tri-tip steak in mariandeLauren Habermehl for Taste of Home

Place the meat in a deep 9×13 pan and top with sliced onions. Pour the steak marinade over the meat, reserving about 1/4 cup for plating. Then, turn the meat over with tongs a few times to make sure the entire steak is covered and submerged in the marinade. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and transfer to the fridge.

Let it marinate for at least 6 hours (or 24 hours for best results). Flip the meat over once or twice while it soaks to make sure it marinates evenly.

Step 3: Grill

marinated tri-tip steak on the grillLauren Habermehl for Taste of Home

Remove the steak from the pan and discard the marinade. Grill the steak over direct heat on a charcoal or gas grill until the desired doneness is reached. For medium-rare, remove the steak when it reaches an internal temperature of 135-140° F. Remove the steak, cover loosely with foil and let it rest for at least 10 minutes.

How to Cook Steak on the Stovetop

If you don’t own a gas or charcoal grill, never fear! This marinade works great for skillet steak, too.

Heat a heavy cast-iron skillet over high heat. Then, sear the steak for 2-3 minutes until nicely charred. Flip, and sear on the other side. Remove from heat and let the residual heat from the skillet finish cooking the steak to your desired level of doneness.

Use an instant-read thermometer to check the internal temperature of your steak. For medium-rare, remove the steak when it reaches an internal temperature of 135-140°.

Transfer the steak to a carving board, cover with foil and let rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing.

Steak Doneness GuideTaste of Home, Getty Images

How to Store Extra Steak Marinade

If you find yourself with extra marinade, you can store any unused portion in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. You can freeze marinade in an ice cube tray, too. Keep in mind that you should never save or reuse marinade that has been in contact with raw meat. It’s a major food safety hazard.

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Lauren Habermehl
Lauren Habermehl is a recipe developer, food photographer and creator of the blog, Frydae. She is a prolific quoter of FRIENDS, lover of weekend DIY projects and procrastinating fitness enthusiast who enjoys exploring the Milwaukee-area with her husband, daughter and ugly mutt named Tyson Doodles.