Marinating 101- Tips & Beef Marinade Recipe

With grill season here, it’s time to talk marinades. A marinade is a pre-cooking soak of liquid ingredients along with herbs and spices that not only adds flavor to meats but acts as a tenderizing agent, making less expensive (and tougher) cuts of beef more enjoyable. Marinating beef is an easy and tasty way to make cuts like chuck, round, flank and skirt the star of your backyard cookout and stretch your outdoor entertaining budget. Today, I’m sharing tips on how to marinate for success along with the easiest, most customizable marinade recipe you’ll ever find– never buy another bottle at the store again!

Marinade Tips:

How Much: Allow approximately ½ cup of marinade for each one to two pounds of beef. Extra marinade can be stored in the refrigerator for grilling later in the week, but only as long as it hasn’t touched raw meat.

How Long: If you already have a tender cut of beef, only 15 minutes to 2 hours of marinating time are required to add flavor. But, if tenderizing is also a goal, meat should soak in the liquid for at least 6 hours but no more than 24 hours – any longer and the muscle fibers break down too much and the texture becomes mushy.

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Contain It: Use a food-safe plastic bag, non-reactive glass or a stainless steel container to marinate your meat. I save those plastic boxes that salad come for marinating, they make a sturdier vessel than plastic bags and I can just toss in the trash when the messy job is done. Also, remember to turn or stir the beef occasionally to allow even exposure to the marinade.

Keep It Cold: Always marinate in the refrigerator, that’s not negotiable! Leaving your meat to stand in marinade on the kitchen counter or, worse yet, outdoors will encourage growth of bacteria that can make you sick.

Final Prep: After draining marinade from beef, pat all sides dry with paper towels to prevent steaming and encourage browning. This is also the time to rub in any additional seasonings that you want to add to the flavor profile.

Safety: Always discard used marinade, it is not safe to use again once it has touched raw meat. Some people swear by boiling it off, but I never do that – better safe than sorry. If you want to have extra marinade for basting on the grill or to use as a sauce or dressing when serving, it must be portioned out and reserved before applying to the uncooked meat.

Another safety benefit of marinating steak or any other muscle meat before grilling is that it offers a layer of protection against the potential formation of (Heterocyclic Amines) that are a by-product flame-cooking at a high temperature. There is no need to become overly alarmed about this issue, but it is generally a good health practice to not eat a lot of charred meats. Marinades significantly cut down on the number of HCAs formed during grilling and then, any burned areas can simply be trimmed off with a knife.

So, are you ready to marinate? I have the easiest recipe for a Basic Beef Marinade– it’s delicious in all its simplicity, but can be customized with additional herbs, spices and other flavorful ingredients to offer taste buds a unique experience every time! The secret is in the straightforward ratio of base ingredients that include oil, acidic juice and soy sauce — a third, a third, a third!

There is no rule to what you can and can’t add to this Basic Beef Marinade for a blast of additional flavor – toss in herbs and spices, brown sugar, puréed fruits, finely chopped peppers, a splash of the hard stuff – you get the idea! Here are five combinations to get your culinary creative juices started (the ingredients in parenthesis are already part of the base recipe):

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(Orange Juice + Oil + Soy Sauce) + Brown Sugar + Ginger + Garlic + Sriracha

(Lime Juice + Oil + Soy Sauce) + Cilantro + Garlic + Jalapenos

(Tomato Juice + Oil + Soy Sauce) + Chile Powder + Smoke Flavor

(Pomegranate Juice + Oil + Soy Sauce) + Red Wine + Peppercorns + Rosemary

(Grapefruit Juice + Oil + Soy Sauce) + Honey + Mint

I used the Basic Beef Marinade with not a single additional ingredient when preparing a flank steak the other night, and it was delicious. I slice up the steak (which is often tough by my hand) and it was fabulously tender and tasty. I served my marinated flank stead atop this lovely salad with grilled lemons and persimmons – you can get the recipe at TheFitFork.com.

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I also really, really like this recipe for Farmer’s Market Beef, Brown Rice & Veggie Salad — it’s a hearty, healthy balanced meal.

I’ve made it so many times for summer suppers and it can easily be multiplied for a crowd — perhaps 4th of July party?!

The recipe uses a Round Steak, which an economical cut that definitely benefits from marinating!

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