Tenderizing Steak Marinade Recipe

To marinate or not to marinate? Before you cook that steak, this is a question you must ask yourself, as marinating isn't something that can be done at the last second. Recipe developer Christina Musgrave is a big proponent of the procedure, particularly when she's working with cuts on the cheaper side, which tend to be tougher without some extra help. This steak marinade of hers helps ensure your steak is ultra-tender and flavorful. 

So what's in this marinade, and what makes it so special? Musgrave says that a combination of vinegar, lemon juice, and soy sauce are all used to break down the proteins in the steak, thus making it more tender and, she assures us, "juicy and delicious" to boot. A hint of cayenne, she says, "adds just a pinch of spice to the marinade." 

And yes, we use this marinade on steak, but it has many other applications. Read on to learn how to make this versatile ingredient.

Gather the ingredients for this tenderizing steak marinade

This marinade includes fresh lemon juice and some garlic. You'll also need a few bottled condiments: soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. Add in some salt, pepper, and cayenne, and you're good to go.

Step 1: Mix the marinade

Combine the ingredients, mixing until thoroughly combined.

Step 2: Add to steak

Pour the marinade over the steak in a zip-top bag or non-metal dish.

Step 3: Marinate and cook

Marinate the steak for 1-8 hours, then cook the steak as desired.

What cuts of steak are best to marinate?

Not all steak is created equal. Some types lend themselves particularly well to a lengthy marinade, while others are best to leave as is.

Marinades such as this one not only impart flavor, but also break down tough muscle fibers thanks to their acidity. Have you ever taken a bite of a steak and found yourself chewing — and chewing, and chewing? Chances are it wasn't a very tender cut to begin with, and it probably wasn't marinated properly to optimize the finished result. 

While not a set-in-stone rule, the average price of the cut at the grocery store will give you some indication of how tender or tough it is, and in turn whether or not a marinade would be appropriate. Less expensive cuts like anything with "round" in the name — such as top round, bottom round, and eye of round — as well as flank and skirt steaks could use some help in the tenderizing department. Cuts that are more costly — like filet mignon or ribeye — are going to be quite tender already, so let their natural texture and flavors shine.

Can I use steak marinade on other proteins?

We happen to think the umami-rich soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce in this marinade work especially well on steak, but feel free to think outside the beef box. This marinade is delicious on chicken and pork. You could even give vegetable kabobs a quick soak in it and brush more on as they grill.

Just keep in mind that not all proteins act the same, so what might be great for one might not be good for another. For instance, the fibers in chicken will break down faster than those found in the steak cuts we've mentioned, so you won't want to exceed a few hours of marinating (even less for a boneless or lean piece like chicken breast). After a little while, the acid in the marinade will break down the chicken too much, leading to an unpleasant, mushy texture. No thank you.

Tenderizing Steak Marinade Recipe
5 from 289 ratings
This easy steak marinade with a hint of cayenne pepper is a good way to add flavor to beef. And that added kick of heat? It'll hook you on this recipe.
Prep Time
Cook Time
sliced steak with marinade bowl
Total time: 5 minutes
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  1. Combine the ingredients, mixing until thoroughly combined.
  2. Pour the marinade over the steak in a zip-top bag or non-metal dish.
  3. Marinate the steak for 1-8 hours, then cook the steak as desired.
Calories per Serving 152
Total Fat 13.6 g
Saturated Fat 1.9 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 0.0 mg
Total Carbohydrates 6.5 g
Dietary Fiber 0.3 g
Total Sugars 3.1 g
Sodium 1,046.4 mg
Protein 1.5 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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