Marinating 101: Tips & Tricks to the Best Beef Marinades

It’s a great time to get outside to grill. So, let’s talk about 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 flank steak, skirt steak and kabobs 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!

Looking for more delicious marinade recipes? Check out our simple southwest marinade, Cowboy BBQ Marinade, and Chili-Cilantro Marinade.

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.

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 comes in 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.

How to Freeze: Wanting to plan ahead? Prepare your marinade in advance and tightly seal in a zip-top freezer bag and place in the freezer for up to 3 months.

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 add a rub or any additional seasonings that you want to add to the flavor profile.

Safety: If a marinade is to be used for basting or as a sauce, reserve a portion of it before adding to the beef. Marinade that has been in contact with uncooked meat must be brought to a full rolling boil for at least one minute before it can be used for basting or as a sauce.

So, are you ready to marinate? I have the easiest recipe for a Basic Beef Marinade Base— 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!

Basic Beef Marinade Base

  • 1 part Olive Oil
  • 1 part Citrus Juice
  • 1 part Soy Sauce

Add ingredients along with herbs and spices of choice, if desired in a glass jar with a lid and shake to combine. Pour over meat in a zip-top bag and marinate in the refrigerator 30 minutes to overnight. The unused portion that has not touched the meat may be stored in a refrigerator up to one month.


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):


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

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

(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


What is your favorite marinade combination? Tell us in the comments below!

Add a Comment