There’s nothing better than a juicy, tender, and flavorful piece of beef. How do smart chefs and home cooks create the best tasting steak? It starts with a good piece of flavorful grass-fed beef. From there you can greatly improve the flavor by marinading grass-fed beef.
Let’s dig into the food science behind marinades and how they can amplify the flavor and transform the texture of the beef. We’ve also included some simple marinade recipes.
What is a marinade?
The dictionary definition of a marinade is a sauce usually comprised of oil, vinegar, spices, and herbs, in which a protein is soaked before cooking in order to flavor and soften it. Let’s look at how it works.
How do marinades work?
Meat is made up of Collagen proteins. These proteins are responsible for the toughness in a piece of meat. The cooking process itself turns connective tissues into gelatin to varying degrees. Depending on the cut and type of meat, it may need a little assistance to bring it to the range of tenderness. Certain plant and fungi enzymes and acids can break down muscle and connective proteins in meats—that’s where marinades come in.
Most marinades include either an acidic or enzymatic ingredient that works to break down these tissues into tender morsels, and this breakdown also allows for the marinade’s moisture and flavors to enter the meat and stay there.
- Acidic marinades: These marinades often include lemon juice or vinegar and denature proteins through disruption of hydrogen bonds in the collagen fibrils.
- Enzymatic marinades: Enzymes increase the rate at which cellular reactions occur, and certain kinds of enzymes “attack” the protein networks of meat. Some enzymatic ingredients include ginger and pineapple juice.
This really means: Grass-fed beef + acid or enzymes = broken down protein fibers = tender grass-fed beef.
Interestingly, other sources report that dairy products are actually the best tenderizers. Fine Cooking suggests that buttermilk and yogurt, which are slightly acidic, will help cooks achieve truly tender cuts thanks to calcium content. Try marinading your grass-fed beef with buttermilk and yogurt.
How long should you marinate beef?
Marinading grass-fed beef should should fall between one and 12 hours. However, don’t over-marinate your meat. Too much marinating time can make your meat tough or mushy. It’s best to follow your specific recipe instructions when marinading grass-fed beef.
Our Favorite Beef Marinade Recipes
Okay, enough technical talk. Let’s focus on marinades you can make now …
- Pomegranate & Safflower Marinade
Marinate steak in chopped rosemary and thyme, black pepper, pomegranate juice, and safflower oil. The result is a sweet-and-savory showstopper. Get the recipe.
- Balsamic & Mustard Marinade
Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner. combines two big-impact ingredients for a tangy, tenderizing marinade you’ll want to use weekly. Get the recipe.
- Tangy Lime Marinade
This is another classic marinade from Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner. They use lime juice, vegetable oil, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, and minced garlic to give beef cuts a Mexican-inspired twist. Get the recipe.
Ready to get started? Check out our 100% grass fed and finished beef products.