Best Steak Marinade Recipe

Transform any underrated cut of steak into a resplendently juicy, buttery tender steak of your dreams with this expertly crafted steak marinade! This 10-minute prep, food-science-based marinade is infused with savory, tangy, sweet, and spicy nuances that will have everyone singing your praises! Follow the post for specialized tips and techniques that will create the best steak marinade!

steak marinade on a cutting board showing how juicy the steak is


 

This is the Best Marinade for Steak!

This steak marinade is a culinary miracle worker!  It creates juicy, tender, steakhouse-quality steak out of any cut of beef without the expensive price tag. This is achieved by combining fat, acid, sugar, salt, and seasonings in perfect proportions (see below).

The marinade not only tenderizes the steak, but it also infuses it with irresistible robust, savory, tangy, herbaceous notes and a hint of sweetness – so save that A1 for later! And the best part is that you only need 10 minutes to mix the ingredients!

HOW THE STEAK MARINADE WORKS:

  • FAT:  The olive oil dissolves fat-soluble flavor compounds from the spices and other flavorings and evenly disperses them throughout the marinade while preventing the acid from breaking down the protein in the meat.
  • ACID: Instead of using just one form of acid to tenderize the meat, this recipe uses orange juice, red wine vinegar, balsamic, and Worcestershire for a complex, well-rounded flavor profile with hints of sweetness, tanginess and umami.
  • SUGAR: Many marinades skip the sugar, but a little brown sugar is essential to balance the rich, tangy, umami notes. It also promotes caramelization, quicker browning, and beautiful grill marks. 
  • SALT: Soy sauce acts as a brine by increasing the meat’s moisture capacity, making it juicier and more flavorful. First, the salt hydrates the muscle tissues through osmosis. Second, it changes the cells’ structure so they can no longer contract during cooking. This reduces the amount of water squeezed out, resulting in a juicier steak. Finally, the brine draws the rich umami soy flavor further into the beef, enhancing its taste.
  • HERBS AND SPICES: This steak marinade recipe stands out above the rest because of the spices in perfect proportions! The unique blend adds complex flavor without overpowering the steak. This recipe is adeptly seasoned with Cajun-forward spices like both regular paprika and smoked paprika, plenty of garlic and onion powders, oregano, thyme and cayenne pepper.
ingredient icon

Steak Marinade Recipe ingredients

(measurements in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post):

  • Olive oil: Use quality extra virgin olive oil for the best flavor.
  • Soy sauce:  This grounds the marinade with a umami flavor. Use reduced sodium soy sauce so you can salt to taste.
  • Balsamic vinegar:  This adds a subtle, complex fruity, sweet tanginess.  Use Balsamic Vinegar of Modena I.G.P. for the best flavor like this one. Grape must always be the first ingredient followed only by vinegar.
  • Red wine vinegar:  This adds the sharper tanginess that really makes the marinade come alive.  Omit the vinegar if using lemon juice instead of orange juice.
  • Worcestershire Sauce: This ingredient was practically made for steak! It adds a depth of complex umami, slightly tangy flavor.
  • Orange juice:  This brightens the flavors with a hint of sweetness that helps cut through the vinegar. Freshly squeezed is best but you can get away with bottled because it’s just a splash.
  • Brown Sugar: Use light brown sugar. Just 1 tablespoon balances the tanginess of the recipe and helps to promote a beautiful charred crust.
  • Seasonings:  The seasonings are primarily found in Cajun seasoning such as garlic powder, onion powder, regular paprika, smoked paprika, dried oregano, dried thyme, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper. The addition of ground mustard awakens the flavors although you may substitute with 1 tablespoon Dijon.
steak marinade recipe with a cooked steak on a plate sliced

homemade steak marinade variations

This steak marinade is a great base for mixing up the flavor profile! Here are a few ideas:

  • Add Chimichurri: Chimichurri is AMAZING with steak! I highly recommend my tangy, fresh Cilantro Jalapeno Chimichurri Sauce used in my grilled pork recipe. It is the perfect complement to the earthy, smoky grilled steak.
  • Swap the Citrus:  Replace the orange juice directly with pineapple juice or replace it with lemon or lime juice and omit the red wine vinegar.
  • Swap the Spices:  Use Tex-Mex seasonings like chili powder and cumin, Asian-inspired seasonings like Chinese 5 Spice and ginger or your favorite seasoning packet.
  • Add More Herbs: Swap the dried herbs for fresh herbs, using 3 times the amount of dried. Consider adding herbs like rosemary, basil, and chives.
  • Make it Spicier: Add more cayenne pepper or substitute with 1 tsp of red pepper flakes or chipotle chili powder.
  • Smoky Chipotle Variation: Add 1 tablespoon adobo sauce (from canned chipotles) and replace the cayenne pepper with 1 teaspoon chipotle powder or 1 tablespoon canned minced chipotle peppers.
  • Mediterranean Variation: Replace the orange juice with lemon juice and omit the red wine vinegar, add 1 tablespoon minced fresh mint (or 1 tsp dried), 1 tablespoon minced fresh dill (or 1 tsp dried), and increase the oregano to 1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano (or 1 tsp dried).
  • Honey Mustard Variation: Replace the 1 tablespoon brown sugar with 2 tablespoons honey, and replace the ground mustard with 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard.
  • Asian-Inspired Variation: Add 1 tablespoon sesame oil, 1 tablespoon grated ginger, and 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds. Swap the dried herbs for 1 teaspoon Chinese 5 Spice.

How to make Marinade for Steak

Let’s take a closer look with step-by-step photos at how to make the best marinade for steak (full recipe in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post):

  • Step 1: Pound the steak to an even thickness.  Place the steak in between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound to an even thickness using the flat side of a meat mallet, rolling pin or side of a can to tenderize the steak.
showing how to make steak marinade recipe by tenderizing with a meat mallet
  • Step 2: Make the marinade.  Whisk the olive oil, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire, red wine vinegar, orange juice, and spices together in a large plastic bag (yay for no dishes!).  Add the steak, press out excess air, and seal.  Massage the marinade into the steak with your hands through the outside of the bag.  Turn the bag over a couple times so it wraps up and the steak is completely enclosed in the marinade.
showing how to make steak marinade by whisking soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire, and spices together in a freezer plastic bag
  • Step 3: Marinate the steak.  Marinate the steak in the refrigerator for a minimum of 4 hours or up to 24 hours for thicker cuts of steak.
showing how to make steak marinade by adding the steak to the marinade and turning to coat
  • Step 4: Grill the steak. Let the steak rest at room temperature before grilling for 60 minutes. Grill over medium-high heat until it reaches the desired temperature.
showing how to make steak marinade by grilling marinated steak

Steak marinade recipe TIPS

  • Use food-safe containers.  I prefer food-safe sealable plastic bags such as freezer Ziploc bags.  They allow the marinade to envelop the steak vs. a dish in which the marinade might not cover all of it.  Sealable bags are also great for easy cleanup – just toss them! You may also use glass containers or a non-reactive material.
  • Don’t reuse the marinade.  Never reuse a marinade even for basting unless you boil it first to destroy any harmful bacteria. If you want to use the marinade for basting, drizzling, or dipping, it is best to reserve a portion before you add the meat.
  • Marinate the steak for as long as possible.  For a thin steak like flank steak, you can marinate it for as little as 4 hours, but for best results, aim for 12 hours. Thicker steaks will benefit from marinating for closer to 24 hours. The longer you marinate the steak, the more flavorful and tender it will become.
  • Bring the steak to room temperature before cooking.  Transfer the marinating steak to the counter 60 minutes before grilling.  Room temperature protein cooks more evenly and quickly which translates into juicier steak because there is less time for moisture to be released while cooking.
  • Clean the grill.  After heating the grill, clean the grill grates with a wire grill brush to remove any residue. This will help create beautiful grill marks and help prevent the steak from sticking.
  • Use a hot grill.  Heat the grill with the lid closed and cranked to the maximum temperature so it can achieve temperature more quickly. Once the grill is hot, adjust the temperature to medium-high.  Don’t add the steak until the grill reaches temperature or you won’t get those beautiful grill marks.
  • Flip only once using tongs. After you add the steak to the grill, don’t touch it for a full 3-4 minutes. You need enough time for the steak to sear and then it will naturally release from the grill. Once you can easily move the steak, then you can flip it over using tongs.
  • Don’t overcook!  Cook steak to the desired temperature using a meat thermometer to eliminate the guesswork and to achieve succulent, juicy steak every time. I highly suggest my favorite digital probe thermometer. The probe stays in the steak while it cooks, monitoring the temperature the entire time.
  • Remove steaks at different times. It’s unlikely that your steaks will be finished at the same time – that is why an instant-read thermometer is so useful!
  • Let the steak rest.  Let the grilled steak rest for 5 minutes before slicing. This gives the juices that have pushed to the outside of the meat time to redistribute throughout and be absorbed. 
best steak marinade on a plate served with asparagus

How to use this Homemade Steak Marinade

This steak marinade is delicious alongside your favorite sides such as baked potatoes and roasted broccoli or in salads, pastas, etc. Here are some fun ideas for serving this steak marinade recipe:

  • Steak Salad: Pick your favorite greens and load them with thinly sliced marinated steak and your favorite veggies such as sweet grilled corn and peppers.  Throw in some buttery croutons for crunch and top with your favorite dressing such as balsamic dressing or blue cheese dressing. 
  • Steak Pasta:  Add chopped steak to any of your favorite creamy pasta such as Fettuccine AlfredoSun-Dried Tomato Fettuccine,  Cacio e Pepe, Creamy Mushroom PastaPepper Jack Mac and Cheese, or Homemade Mac and Cheese.  Alternatively, swap it for the protein in any of your favorite pasta recipes such as Linguine with Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce, Buffalo Mac and Cheese, or Beef Stroganoff.  You can also go low carb and serve the steak with zoodles or spaghetti squash.
  • Steak Risotto: Stir chopped steak into any of your favorite risotto recipes like Mushroom RisottoParmesan Risotto, or Spinach Risotto – yum!
  • Steak Grain Bowls: Add your favorite grains to a bowl and pile them with steak and your favorite veggies. The veggies can be roasted/cooked like roasted broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, or butternut squash, or raw such as fresh tomatoes, thinly sliced radishes, sprouts etc. or pickled like pickled red onions, carrots, etc. or a combo of all three!  You can also top with a fried or soft-boiled egg.
  • Steak Baked Potatoes: Poke holes in washed, dried potatoes. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet, lightly brush with oil and sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake for 1 hour or until the potatoes are tender and the skin is crispy.  Slice open the potatoes, top with chopped steak and cheese then place back in the oven for 5 minutes or until the cheese melts. Top with sour cream, green onions, etc.
  • Steak Eggs: Add chopped steak to scrambled eggs with mozzarella cheese when the eggs are almost set or to this scrumptious frittata recipe.
  • Steak Wraps:  Wrap sliced steak in flour tortillas or flatbread with lettuce, tomatoes, and any other desired veggies/toppings along with something creamy like Greek yogurt.
  • Steak Quesadillas:  Sandwich steak, cheese, black beans, and cilantro in between two flour tortillas and toast in a skillet to golden, cheesy perfection. Serve with pico de gallo, salsasalsa verde, and/or guacamole.

Best Steak Marinade Recipe FAQs

How long should I marinate steak for?

How long you should marinate steak depends on the thickness of the steak and how strong you want the flavor to be. The longer the steak sits in the marinade, the stronger the flavor becomes. For thinner steaks like flank steak, marinate for at least 8-12 hours, but you get by with 4 hours if you’re short on time. For thicker steaks like sirloin, marinate for 12-24 hours. In both cases, don’t marinate longer than recommended because the acid in the marinade can change the texture of the steak by breaking down the protein structure of the meat. This can make the steak taste dry or mealy.

Should you poke holes in steak before marinating?

In contrast to popular belief, you should NOT poke holes in the steak before marinating. This drains out the valuable juices and will result in less juicy steak.

Do you rinse off steak marinade?

No, you should not rinse the marinade off of the steak because this reduces the intensity of the flavor and the effectiveness of the tenderizing process. Additionally, the residual marinade on the surface of the steak helps create a nice caramelized crust when cooked, enhancing the overall taste and texture of the steak.

Does steak need to be marinated?

This marinade transforms any economical cut of steak like flank, skirt, flap, top round, sirloin, and chuck eye steak into unbelievably tender.  It is also great for “higher-end” steaks that are lower grade (Select Grade and not Prime). Lower grades are leaner and have less marbling than higher grades of beef.

marinade for steak shown with grilled steak

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Homemade Steak Marinade

Transform any underrated cut of steak into a resplendently juicy, buttery tender steak of your dreams with this expertly crafted steak marinade! This 10-minute prep, food-science-based marinade is infused with savory, tangy, sweet, and spicy nuances that will have everyone singing your praises! Follow the post for specialized tips and techniques that will create the best steak marinade!
Servings: 2 -3 pounds steak
Total Time: 20 minutes
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes

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Ingredients

Steak

  • 2-3 pounds steak, pounded to an even thickness (see Notes)

Marinade

Instructions

  • Make Marinade: Whisk the marinade ingredients together in a freezer-size bag. Add the steak, press out excess air, and seal. Massage the marinade into the steak with your hands through the outside of the bag.
  • Marinate Steaks: Marinate thinner steaks like flank steak in the refrigerator for 8-12 hours. Marinate thicker steaks like sirloin in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours. Let the steaks rest on the counter for 60 minutes before grilling.
  • Prep the Grill: Preheat the outdoor grill (or indoor grill pan) to medium-high heat, (450 degrees F when the lid is closed). Clean the grill, then generously grease with vegetable oil.
  • Grill Steaks: Remove the steaks from the marinade and let the excess drip off. Grill the steaks to the desired doneness, about 4-6 minutes per side (with the lid closed), until an instant-read thermometer reads 130-135 degrees F for medium-rare or around 145 degrees F for medium. Grilling time will vary depending on the cut and thickness of your steak.
  • Rest and Slice: Remove the steak to a cutting board and rest for 10 minutes before slicing. Slice the steak into thin strips against the grain (perpendicular to the long strands). Serve with freshly cracked salt to taste (it makes the flavors pop!). It's also delicious topped with Herb Butter (in the Notes).

Notes

  • Steak: This marinade transforms any economical cut of steak like flank, skirt, flap, top round, sirloin, and chuck eye steak into unbelievably tender.  It is also great for “higher-end” steaks that are lower grade (Select Grade and not Prime). Lower grades are leaner and have less marbling than higher grades of beef.
  • See the post for tons more tips and tricks! 
The steak is so flavorful it doesn’t need a sauce!   Instead, we like to serve it with a pad of plain butter or Garlic Herb Butter:
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest (optional)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced herbs (pick 2-3 of your favs: parsley, tarragon, thyme oregano, rosemary, basil, etc.)
  • 1/8 tsp EACH salt, pepper
Mash the ingredients together in a medium bowl until blended. Place the mixture onto plastic wrap and shape it into a log as you roll up the plastic wrap. Twist the ends of the wrap to secure and put the butter in the refrigerator until it is firm (for about 1 hour) or until you are ready to use it.
 

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