How to marinate steak: A beginners guide

Cooked marinated steak
Cooked marinated steak

So, how to marinate steak properly! Well, If you’re looking to take your steak to the next level, then marinating is a technique you won’t want to miss. As any good butcher or chef will tell you, marinating can add layers of flavor and help tenderize even the toughest cuts of steak.

While you can marinate just about any cut of steak, certain cuts are particularly well-suited to this technique. But more about that later in the article. For now, click on this link to find the best steak cut for marinating.

In this beginner’s guide, I’ll cover all the essentials you need to know to marinate steak like a pro. I’ll start by introducing you to the concept of marinades and the key ingredients that make them work. Then, I’ll walk you through the steps for preparing your steak for marination using one of the best steak marinades, and importantly I’ll show you how to apply the marinade to get the best results. Finally, as a chef, I have a few tips and tricks to share with you for cooking and serving your marinated steak. And surely I dedicated a section on covering how to store leftovers properly.

What is steak marinade, and why it’s beneficial?

The benefits of steak marinate
The benefits of steak marinate

So, what is a steak marinade, and how does it work to turn a bland-tasting steak into a mouthwatering beef cut? At its most basic, a marinade is a mixture of ingredients applied to steak before cooking to enhance or add a layer of flavor and change the texture of the meat depending on the ingredients and how long you marinate the steak. But what makes a good marinade?

One of the most important components of a good marinade is acid. Acids like vinegar, citrus juice, or wine can help to break down the muscle fibers in the steak, resulting in a more tender end product. However, you must be careful not to overdo it on the acid, as too much can actually make the meat tough.

In addition to acidic ingredients, a good marinade typically includes oil, which helps to keep the steak moist and prevent it from sticking to the grill or pan. You can use just about any kind of oil you like, from olive oil to sesame oil to canola oil.

And last but not least, flavorings like herbs, spices, and aromatics are what make your marinade unique. I always encourage home cooks to experiment with different combinations of flavors to find their favorite. However, as you’ll notice, most classic steak marinades include ingredients such as garlic, soy sauce, and Worcestershire sauce.

How to marinate steak

How to marinate steak
How to marinate steak

Here’s how to choose a good steak cut, how to prepare it for marinating, and how to marinate it in one of the best steak marinades you can find:

Step 1: Choose the right cut of steak

Choosing the right cut of meat is as important as a steak marinade itself. Keep in mind that not all steaks are juicy or tender or, vice versa, tough and dry. Some cuts are better suited for marinating than others, and there’s no way around it.

In general, tougher cuts of steak are way better candidates for marinating, as the acid in the marinade can help to break down the muscle fibers and make them more tender. Nowadays, many high-end restaurants choose cheaper cuts for marinating, such as flank steak, skirt steak, hanger steak, tri-tip steak, and sirloin tip.

More tender cuts like filet mignon or ribeye, on the other hand, often require simple steak seasoning. They cost a lot, and these cuts have a naturally tender texture and robust flavor that can stand on their own. However, if you choose to marinate a more tender cut, be sure to use a milder marinade so as not to overpower the meat’s natural flavor.

It’s also worth noting that different steak cuts will react differently to marinades. For example, flank steak is a very lean cut of meat, so it will benefit from a marinade that includes a good amount of oil to help keep it moist. On the other hand, skirt steak contains a bit more marbling; therefore, it may not need as much oil in the marinade.

When selecting a cut of steak for marinating, be sure to consider the cooking method you plan to use for cooking marinated steak. For grilling, a thinner cut of steaks like flank steak or skirt steak may be better, as they will cook quickly over high heat. While for roasting or braising, a thicker cut is a far better choice.

Step 2: Clean and trim the steak

Before you start marinating your steak, it’s important to properly clean and trim your chosen beef cut to ensure it soaks all the flavors. At the same time, trimming steak impacts the texture. Here are some steps to follow:

  1. Remove any excess fat: While some marbling is desirable in a steak, excess fat can cause flare-ups on the grill and result in uneven cooking. Take one of your sharpest knives and trim away any excess fat from the edges of the steak.
  2. Remove the silver skin: The silver skin is a thin layer of connective tissue that can be tough and chewy. Using a sharp knife, carefully slice under the silver skin and remove it from the meat. A boning knife works especially well for this task.
  3. Pat the steak dry: Use a paper towel to pat the steak dry on both sides. This will help the marinade adhere to the meat more easily.

While these steps may seem unnecessary, as a chef, I can tell you that taking the time to properly clean and trim your steak before marinating can make a big difference in the end result. Removing excess fat and silver skin will help the meat cook more evenly and make the meat more tender, while patting it dry will allow the marinade to penetrate more deeply.

Step 3: Prepare the ingredients for the steak marinade

This easy steak marinade recipe is a classic go-to for marinating steak. We often use it in restaurants; however, do not be afraid to add or remove ingredients. Here’s what you’ll need for the best steak marinade recipe:

Steak marinade ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder (optional)


  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the olive oil, soy sauce, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, fresh garlic, oregano, black pepper, and salt until well combined.

Step 4: Marinating steak

Now that your steak is prepared for marinating and you have marinade ready, it’s time to let your meat soak up all those delicious flavors. Here are some tips and tricks to help you get the most out of your steak marinade:

  1. Timing is key: For the best results, marinate your steak for at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours for a more intense flavor. Don’t leave it in the marinade for too long, as it can break down the meat fibers and make the steak mushy and soft or too tough, depending on the beef cut.
  2. Make sure your steak is fully covered in the marinade: This will ensure that all parts of the meat are infused with the marinade’s flavors. If using a bag, try to remove as much air as possible before sealing.
  3. Refrigerate your steak while it’s marinating: This will keep it at a safe temperature and prevent any bacteria from growing. You can also gently massage the steak every few hours to help distribute the marinade. I know it seems weird, but at the restaurant, we experimented with steak massaging. As it turns out, massaged steaks had a better overall flavor.
  4. Don’t reuse marinade: Discard the leftover liquid once you’ve removed your steak from the marinade. Of course, you can opt to use it; however, you’ll need to boil it first. Often it’s not worth the time, and it’s better to discard the liquid.
  5. Let your steak rest before grilling: This will help the meat retain its juices and produce a more tender and flavorful steak. Let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes before cooking.

How to cook marinated steak

Grilling marinated steak
Grilling marinated steak

So how do you cook marinated steak and bring out all the delicious flavors and aromas you worked so hard to infuse into the meat? You can use many different cooking methods; however, grilling, pan frying, and broiling are the easiest ones, the least time-consuming, and offers the best outcome.

Please remember that whichever cooking method you choose, it’s crucial not to overcook your steak. Aim for a medium-rare steak; generally, do not cook past a medium level of doneness to avoid overcooking. But of course, it all comes down to personal preference. Overcooking can dry out the meat and spoil all the wonderful flavors and tenderization you achieved through marinating. Use a meat thermometer to ensure you cook it to the right temperature, and let the steak rest for a few minutes before slicing it. This will allow the juices to settle and make for a juicier, more flavorful steak. Here’s a wonderful article explaining how to slice steak. Make sure to check it.


Cooking steak on a grill is undoubtedly one of the purest ways of cooking meat. If you have a grill, this is a great option to give your steak a smoky flavor and a mouthwatering char. Just preheat your grill to a high temperature leaving one side of the grill on low heat. Cook your steak over direct heat for about 2-3 minutes per side, depending on the thickness. If using a thick cut of 1,5 inches or more, finish cooking on the grill’s indirect heat side. Don’t forget to keep an eye on it and avoid overcooking, as this can make it tough and dry.

Pan searing

If grilling seems like a waste of time, cooking steak in a pan is another great method. You can still achieve delicious results by pan-searing your marinated steak. In fact, many restaurants use this method. Simply heat up a bit of oil in a pan or cast iron skillet over high heat and cook your steak for 2-3 minutes per side until it’s nicely browned. However, if cooking a thick steak once it’s caramelized, turn the heat to medium and continue cooking to the desired doneness.


Broiling steak is yet another quick and easy option to cook a piece of meat. It’s great for achieving even cooking and a nice crust on the outside. In fact, many refer to broiling as upside-down grilling, just without a charcoal flavor. Place steak in a hot oven on a baking sheet about 3-5 inches from the broiler. Cook steak for 3-4 minutes on each side before turning.

How to properly store and reheat leftover marinated steak

If you’ve got some marinated steak left over after your meal, don’t worry! You can easily store steak in a fridge or freezer and reheat it later. Here are some friendly tips to help you keep your leftover steak tasting just as delicious as it was fresh:

  • Store it properly: Keep your leftover steak fresh by storing it in an airtight container or wrapping it tightly in plastic wrap. It’ll prevent air from drying out your steak or making it absorb any unwanted odors in the fridge. If you plan to use leftover meat much later, store it in a freezer bag.
  • Pop it in the fridge: Once your steak has cooled down, it’s important to refrigerate it within a few hours of cooking. Cooked steak can last in a fridge for up to 4 days, while leftover steak in a freezer lasts up to 3 months.
  • Reheat it carefully to avoid the steak drying out: Be gentle with it when you’re ready to eat your leftover steak! Avoid using the microwave, as it can make your steak tough and dry. Instead, reheat it on the stove by placing it in a pan over low heat and covering it with a lid. Flip it over every so often until it’s heated through. Alternatively, you can reheat it in the oven by preheating it to 250°F, placing your steak on a baking sheet, and covering it with foil. Heat it up for 10-15 minutes or until it’s warmed through. You can read this article to learn more about reheating steak.


How long should I marinate the steak?

The ideal marinating time for steak can vary depending on the cut and thickness, but generally, 2 hours to 24 hours is a good range to aim for

Should I marinate the steak in that refrigerator or at room temperature?

It’s best to marinate the steak in the refrigerator to avoid any potential food safety risks. Marinating at room temperature can create an environment for harmful bacteria to grow.

How do I know when the steak is fully marinated?

The amount of time it takes for the steak to marinate fully can vary depending on the cut and thickness of the meat and the type of marinade. Generally, 2 to 24 hours is a good range to aim for. However, to know for sure if the steak is fully marinated, you can look for signs such as a change in color and texture or a more pronounced aroma of the marinade.

Can I marinate a frozen steak, or does it need to be thawed first?

It’s generally recommended to thaw the steak completely before marinating, as the marinade may not be able to penetrate the frozen meat effectively. Thawing the steak first also ensures that it cooks more evenly. If you need to thaw the steak quickly, you can use the defrost function on your microwave or place the frozen steak in a plastic bag and submerge it in a bowl of cold water.

Should I rinse off the marinade before cooking the steak?

It’s not necessary to rinse the marinade before cooking the steak, but you should use a paper towel to pat the excess marinade off the surface of the steak. This will prevent the marinade from burning or smoking when you cook the steak and also help ensure that the steak develops a good sear. The remaining marinade will infuse the meat with flavor as it cooks.

Does marinade make steak tender?

Marinades can help to tenderize steak to some degree, depending on the ingredients used. Acids like vinegar or citrus juices can help to break down tough muscle fibers in the meat, while enzymes in ingredients like pineapple, kiwi, or papaya can also help to tenderize the meat. However, it’s important to note that marinating alone may not be enough to tenderize a tough cut of meat fully. It’s also important not to over-marinate the steak, as this can actually make the meat tougher by breaking down the proteins too much. So while a marinade can certainly contribute to a more tender steak, other factors, such as the cut of the meat and the cooking method, also play a role.

Renaldas Kaveckas
Renaldas Kaveckas
Renaldas Kaveckas is an accomplished chef with over a decade of experience in the culinary world, having worked in esteemed, high-end restaurants across Europe. With a talent for combining traditional techniques and innovative flair, Renaldas has refined his signature style under the mentorship of respected European chefs. Recently, Renaldas has expanded his impact beyond the kitchen by sharing his expertise through his online platform. Dedicated to inspiring culinary professionals and food enthusiasts, he offers expert advice, innovative recipes, and insightful commentary on the latest gastronomic trends.
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