A marinade is like an insurance policy for your grilled steak — not only will a simple marinade add flavor, but it will also help protect the beef against overcooking. Marinades have fallen out of fashion with the rise of brines and rubs, but there is a reason your mom always had a bag of marinating meat in the fridge: They work and they're delicious.
Marinating a steak requires just a few special considerations — like which cuts of steak to marinate for the grill and the right ratio of ingredients for flavor and easy cooking. All your efforts will be rewarded with a tender, juicy cut of beef that will take the guesswork out of grilling steaks.
What Is the Ultimate Steak Marinade?
We all want our grilled steak to be flame-kissed with a rosy, juicy center, so the ultimate steak marinade should aid us in those goals. It also makes good sense to spend money on a great steak and be scrappy when it comes to the marinade ingredients. The ultimate marinade should freeze well and be effective in an hour or overnight. This marinade also works well on a variety of steaks.
The Best Steak for Marinades
While the effects of marinades are often debated, we can all agree that prime steaks like T-bone and strip steak are best salted, peppered, and cooked to temperature. All other steaks benefit from a marinade to help with flavor and tenderness. This marinade is ideal for flank, flat-iron, and tri-tip steak. Smaller steaks like skirt and hanger work well, but make sure you double up on the steaks or reduce the amount of marinade for this recipe.
Key Ingredients for Marinades
- Fat: You could use almost any oil for your marinade, but we love olive oil for its flavor and quality. It has a smoke point that is lower than avocado or peanut oil, but it still prevents sticking and adds flavor.
- Acid: Balsamic or red wine vinegar and even lemon juice are said to help tenderize tough cuts of meat, but more importantly their sharp flavor counters both the salinity of a well-seasoned steak and the rich flavor produced from the grill. Bonus: The natural sugars in vinegar caramelize, making for really great grill marks!
- Salt: What doesn't salt bring to the party? It seasons the steak, aids in moisture retention, and tenderizes. Don't skimp on it here!
- Flavor enhancers: If all marinades are effectively made from the same four components, this is the one place to make yours unique. Mustard is one of our go-to flavor enhancers because it packs a lot of flavor in a little punch and everyone has it in the fridge. Try a few smashed cloves of garlic and let them marinate too. Got some green onions? Throw them in as well.
Grilling and Serving Marinated Steak
How you cook your steak will ultimately be determined by the steak you choose, but most steaks that you'd want to marinate also love to be cooked hot and fast. Most importantly, make sure that your steak is removed from the marinade and patted dry before you get grilling.
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How To Make the Ultimate Marinade for Tender Grilled Steak
What You Need
Measuring cups and spoons
Gallon zip-top bag
Chef's knife and cutting board
Make the marinade. Place the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, mustard, garlic, and salt in gallon zip-top bag. Seal and shake to combine.
Marinate the steak for 1 hour or overnight. Add the steak to the marinade and seal the bag. Place the bag in a baking dish or rimmed baking sheet. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight.
Prepare the steak for grilling. Remove the steak from the marinade and pat dry. Discard the marinade.
Grill the steak over high and medium heat. Heat half of an outdoor grill for high, direct heat. Heat the other half for medium, direct heat. Place the steak over high heat until browned, burnished, and grill marks appear, about 2 minutes per side. Move the steak to medium heat and continue grilling to desired doneness, 3 to 5 minutes more for medium (about 140°F).
Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.