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Comprehensive Guide to the Best Steak Marinades

sliced steak in marinade on white plate
The best steak marinades don’t need to be chefs’ secrets anymore. Keep reading to find the perfect marinade for tonight’s steak dinner.

If there’s one well-loved food that never gets old, steak is surely on top of the list.

No matter where you are in the world, steak is prepared in various ways, and the taste never disappoints. Whether served on a special occasion or for just a weeknight family dinner, steak is typically the special dish we like to prepare for our loved ones.

That said, it’s difficult to get steak made at home to taste nearly as good as when you order it at a restaurant. Why is that? The answer: really good marinade.

Marinating beef is a simple way to improve both the texture and taste of steak so that you can make it the way you like it.

It takes only a mixture of pretty simple ingredients to enhance your steak, add moisture, and tenderize meat. The right marinade will help you make the best steak you’ve ever had in the comfort of your own home.

We share essential information about marinating steak, as well as our favorite steak marinades. Keep reading for more.

What Cut of Steak Should I Use?

The number one secret to finding great quality steak? Improve your knowledge about the different cuts of steak.

The steak’s quality is often based on two significant factors: the quality of the meat, and its cut. Choosing the right cut of steak can either make or break your meal, so you need to choose carefully.

It’s best to know about the characteristics of different cuts of meat so that you can prepare the steak of your dreams.

Three of the most recommended steak cuts to marinade are skirt steak, filet mignon, and ribeye. Here are the reasons why:

  • Skirt Steak. This steak cut is perfect when marinated and best cooked using high heat, making it the perfect meat to sear or grill.
  • Filet Mignon. This steak cut is the most tender cut of beef. Although it is not that flavorful due to the absence of any bones, it can still be marinated and served with delectable sauces and spices to add more flavor.
  • Ribeye. This boneless steak cut is a favorite with steak lovers because of its marbling, which results in very tender and juicy meat. It is best cooked through grilling or broiling.

How Does Marinating Steak Work?

Before we dig deeper into making the best steak marinade, let’s first define what marinating is.

Marinating is when meats are soaked in a seasoning liquid–the marinade–before it is cooked.

It is often necessary to use a good marinade because it can successfully provide the right balance of oil, acid, and seasoning to your meat.

The advantages of marinating steak are endless, but the top three together add up to equal the perfect steak.

  • Taste. Using simple ingredients that are probably already sitting in your pantry, you can get as creative as you want by mixing up your preferred steak flavors. There is no right or wrong way to do this, because you have the choice to add and achieve any kind of flavor: sweet, spice, or everything nice!
  • Texture. Marinating helps produce softer, juicier, and tastier meat, especially when it comes to leaner and tougher cuts of steak.
  • Moisture. Marinating steak can effectively help them achieve extra moisture and tenderness once cooked. Although it is similar to brining, marinating works a lot more magic through seasoning, fats, acids, spices, and/or sugars to enhance the flavor of the marinade, and thus the steak.

What Are the Most Popular Ingredients in a Basic Steak Marinade?

One vital step in producing the best steak marinade is preparing its basic ingredients. We use the word “basic” because we know, for sure, you have most or even all of these already in your pantry.

The best-tasting steak does not need to be expensive; you only need to be resourceful and make the best of what you have. We have provided a list of these simple ingredients with a brief explanation of why they’re essential.

Oils

Oil is vital in perfecting a steak marinade. It works to keep in moisture and to transfer fat-soluble flavors into the meat.

Moreover, it aids in eliminating intense or acidic flavors. The most commonly used oils for marinating steaks are:

  • Olive
  • Canola
  • Avocado
  • Toasted Sesame
  • Peanut

In case these are not available, you can always substitute yogurt, mayonnaise, or buttermilk.

Herbs and Spices

No matter what food you prepare, adding herbs and spices to your recipe can make a huge difference, and, of course, this is doubly true for steak.

You can use fresh or dry herbs and spices of various varieties to make your marinade the tastiest ever.

Herbs

  • Thyme
  • Chives
  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • Lovage
  • Tarragon
  • Marjoram
  • Mint

Spices:

  • Smoked Paprika
  • Chile Pepper
  • Dried Thyme
  • Black Pepper
  • Garlic Powder
  • Onion Powder

Salts

In every recipe, salt plays a significant role, but especially in marinating.

Salt helps water-soluble flavors penetrate the meat. It also tenderizes the steak. Thus, salt helps in making tough steak cuts easier to eat and chew.

Common examples of salty ingredients to include in your steak marinade are:

  • Sea Salt
  • Miso
  • Pickle Juice
  • Soy Sauce
  • Fish Sauce

Acids

Acidic ingredients in a marinade help in weakening the exterior meat proteins to boost their maximum flavors.

Acids include a large number of ingredients, including:

  • Pickle Juice
  • Citrus Juice
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Hot Sauce
  • Buttermilk

Sugars

Sugar is the component that makes the steak marinade’s flavor complete. The sweetness it adds intensifies the complexity of the marinade you wish to achieve.

The most common types of sweeteners used for steak marinades are the following:

  • Honey
  • Ketchup
  • Barbecue Sauce
  • Agave
  • Soft drinks (surprise!)

Looking for more ideas for seasoning steak?

Check out our article on the best steak seasonings.

partial picture of close up of steak on plate
Peppercorns are an excellent addition to steak marinade, adding spiciness to the meat.

Our Favorite Steak Marinades

The best steak marinades follow easy steps and include high-quality ingredients that make up great flavors.

Using some of the basic ingredients above, you can trust your skills to create your own steak marinade, even adding more ingredients if you wish to be creative.

However, if you are not confident enough to mix and match ingredients, we share the five best steak marinade recipes we’ve found.

Master Marinade Recipe

This recipe is termed “Master Marinade” because it includes all the components of a perfectly balanced steak marinade.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 4-5 pcs bay leaves
  • 5-7 pcs dried chiles
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme (chopped)
  • 2 tbsp sugar (granulated)
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Directions:

  • Prepare the ingredients.
  • Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl.
  • Stir them using a whisk. Cover the bowl with foil or plastic wrap.
  • Marinate steak in the refrigerator for at least an hour and up to 24 hours before cooking.
  • Cook the marinated steak as desired.

Smoky & Sweet Marinade

This Latin-inspired special steak marinade recipe is perfect for those who prefer bold and intense flavors. Citrus juices and chili powder make this marinade a show-stopper.

Ingredients:

  • ½ bunch scallions, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • 3 tbsp fresh lime juice (2 limes)
  • 2 tbsp orange juice
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp ancho chile powder
  • 1 tbsp ground chipotle chile
  • ½ tbsp chopped fresh oregano

Directions:

  • Prepare the ingredients.
  • Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl.
  • Stir them using a whisk. Cover the bowl with foil or plastic wrap
  • Marinate steak in the refrigerator for an hour and up to 24 hours before cooking.
  • Cook the marinated steak as desired.

Garlic Steak Marinade

This garlic steak marinade allows you to experience a truly delectable and flavorful dish.

With ingredients that are usually pantry staples in this marinade recipe, you can create a juicy, tender, and moist steak that your family will surely adore.

Ingredients:

  • 4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 4 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 3 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp garlic powder or onion powder

Directions:

  • Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl.
  • Add the mixture to the steak.
  • Place the marinated steak inside a Ziploc bag or any closed container.
  • Marinate steak for at least 2 hours, up to 24 hours, in the refrigerator.
  • Cook the steak as desired.

Lemon & Oregano Steak Marinade

If you are a fan of lemon juice, great news!

This is one of the most perfect yet easy-to-make steak marinade recipes that includes lemon juice and oregano for a flavor-packed steak that will surprise but delight the palate.

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh oregano (chopped) or 1 tbsp dried oregano leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp freshly grated lemon peel
  • 4 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp pepper

Directions:

  • Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.
  • Place the steak and the mixture together in a closed-container and marinate for at least 15 minutes up to 2 hours inside the fridge.
  • Once done, discard the marinade and remove the steak from the bag.
  • Cook the finished marinade steak as desired.

The Best Steak Marinade

We’ve saved the best for last!

This steak marinade recipe is the type that real steak lovers generally prefer. It’s a universal favorite due to its simple ingredients and directions.

Use this marinade on grilled steak just once, and your family will be begging you to make it every time.

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 pinch salt and pepper

Directions:

  • Combine the olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, garlic, and soy sauce in a large bowl.
  • Season the marinade with salt and pepper. Cover the bowl with foil or plastic wrap
  • Marinate steak in the refrigerator for at least two hours, and up to 24 hours, before cooking.
  • Cook the marinated steak as desired.
steak and side on white dish
Experiment with different marinades until you find the one you and your family like best.

How Should I Cook a Marinated Steak?

When cooking a marinated steak, you need to remember one vital piece of information: cook using a dry, high heat method that allows air circulation.

What does that mean? It means you should cook marinated steak through grilling or oven-roasting for the best results. Both these methods pave the way for the marinade to drip away on its own while cooking evenly due to air circulation.

If you wonder whether you can cook a marinated steak on your stovetop in a skillet, though–yes, you can.

However, expect less color and caramelization in your steak, because once you place marinated meat in a skillet, the marinade that has penetrated the meat flesh will resurface and become trapped in the pan. This results in the marinade creating steam in the pan, which prevents the necessary searing of the meat from taking place.

Tips to Make a Steak Marinade

  1. To ensure you have enough steak marinade, remember that you need to allow 1/2 cup of marinade for every two pounds of beef. If you have extra marinade, you can store it inside the fridge–as long as it has not been used with, or has touched, any raw meat.
  2. You can prepare steak marinade in advance by placing it inside a Ziploc bag or closed-air container. You can store this mixture inside the fridge for up to 3 months.
  3. Marinated steak should be placed inside the refrigerator. If you leave your marinated steak on your kitchen counter or anywhere outside the fridge, it will encourage bacterial growth. Don’t let it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should you marinate steak?

Marinating steaks is not necessarily a requirement. However, if you wish to achieve a moist, juicy, tender, flavorful steak, you should consider making a steak marinade.

When it comes to choosing the best steak marinade recipe, it is essential to know what kind of flavors you most want and the ingredients that you wish to include. This way, you can identify which steak marinade will be a hit with your family.

How long should steaks marinate?

If you chose a steak cut such as filet mignon that is already quite tender, then allow at least 15 minutes to 2 hours’ total marinating time to enhance the meat’s flavor.

However, if you’re working with a less tender cut of meat, the steak should be marinated for at least 6 hours, but no more than 24 hours.

What is the best way to season a steak?

The best way to season a steak is to coat both sides with your favorite steak seasonings or herbs and spices.

Remember that a steak is basically putting on a shirt of flavor, which is made basically of salt, pepper, acids, and herbs and spices. The ingredients (especially salt or salty ingredients) should not pile up on a particular side; it should coat the meat evenly all around instead.

How can I make my steak juicy and tender?

There is really one secret ingredient to ensure a juicy and tender steak: salt.

You can sprinkle salt on your steaks an hour before cooking them to achieve an amazing transformation in moistness and texture.

The two salts we recommend for this process are coarse sea salt or kosher salt. These two break down proteins from the meat to make the steaks much more tender and juicy.

How do you season and tenderize steak?

Aside from using salt, you can season and tenderize your steak by making a simple marinade.

The basic ingredients for steak marinade include salt, acids, herbs and spices, sugar, and oil. Mixing these ingredients into a delicious marinade ensures a flavorful and tender steak.

A tip: it’s essential to make sure the entire cut of meat is being tenderized (in other words, submerge the entire cut of meat). This will help in successfully both tenderizing the steak as well as adding flavor to it.

Should I put olive oil on the steak before grilling?

Yes, actually. For better steaks, brush them lightly with olive oil and salt and pepper before cooking. This step will help the seasonings adhere better to the meat.

You can also add chili powder, garlic powder, or paprika if you want to achieve more flavor.

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Kitchen Professor author

Rhonda grew up with parents who gardened, hunted, fished, canned, and preserved food. Her mother was a professional cook and Rhonda credits her teaching everything from how to make homemade biscuits and gravy to what kind of meals to serve for different occasions. In the kitchen, Rhonda uses a mix of old-fashioned country cooking and up-to-date fads in the kitchen, often experimenting with replacing higher-calorie or fat ingredients with healthier options that still retain the delicious flavors of the originals.

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