Why Worcestershire Sauce Makes A Great Steak Marinade

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Among chopping, seasoning, sautéeing, and other essential kitchen skills, is marinating your food a technique you often employ in your kitchen? It should be, according to Cooking Light, which calls this method of soaking ingredients — typically meat, poultry, or seafood, but sometimes tofu or vegetables, too — in a flavorful liquid prior to cooking "indispensable." The outlet notes that marination helps imbue foods with flavor as well as to tenderize them and is a helpful ally when it comes to tougher cuts of meat such as inexpensive steaks.

Many of us love to marinate our steaks before they hit the grill or broiler as a way to not only add tons of taste but also to help them hold on to moisture better when they're exposed to high, direct heat (via Allrecipes). Here at Tasting Table, we've marinated steak in everything from miso paste to mayonnaise to soda. Still, there's one ingredient we reach for again and again when creating flavor-packed marinades, and that's Worcestershire sauce.

Worcestershire sauce is several ingredients in one convenient form

If you've ever whipped up a steak marinade that contains Worcestershire sauce, we are not surprised. This common condiment traces its roots to 1830s England and is said to be inspired by an Indian sauce sampled by a former governor of Bengal (via BBC). Here at Tasting Table, our recipes for Tenderizing Steak Marinade, Grilled Hanger Steak, and Marinated London Broil all contain the dark, salty sauce — and it's because Worcestershire sauce contains not just one, but several ingredients that all enhance the flavor and texture of steak.

Lea & Perrins, which invented Worcestershire sauce and continues to bottle the brand-named stuff, lists white vinegar, molasses, sugar, onions, garlic, anchovies, tamarind extract, and chili pepper extract as its primary ingredients (via Amazon). Therefore, the sauce is like several ingredients in one with its various flavorings bringing different benefits to a piece of steak. Recipe blog One Good Thing notes that the vinegar in Worcestershire sauce tenderizes steak, its sugar and molasses bring both sweetness and sheen, and ingredients such as onion, garlic, tamarind, and anchovy pack a wallop of umami flavor. The sauce is easily incorporated into other common marinade ingredients such as olive oil, soy sauce, mustard, and lemon juice — or you could simply coat your steaks in straight-up Worcestershire sauce, let them marinate for between 30 minutes and 2 hours, and then sear them on a grill or in a skillet, One Good Thing suggests.