The Biggest Mistakes You're Making With Steak Marinades Per Sunny Anderson - Exclusive

While they haven't gotten their own reality show yet, when done correctly, meat marinades are a transformation like no other. Good barbecue meat needs a marinade like a flower needs water — like Julia Child needed French onion soup.

Be warned. Just as a great marinade adds flavor, texture, and tenderness to meat, a poorly executed one can wreak havoc, turning your BBQ into a terribly tough or monstrously mushy culinary experience. If you haven't mastered the art of a marinade metamorphosis yet, you're likely committing one of four mistakes that "BBQ Brawl" host Sunny Anderson recently laid out for Tasting Table in an exclusive interview. "One of the biggest things people do wrong is a whole lot of acidity without the alkalinity," Anderson told us. Ingredients may be your first marinade mistake. You need the alkaline in a marinade — think creams, milk, or oils — to balance out the vinegar or citrus elements (you can, of course, use an ingredient that is both acidic and alkaline at once, like buttermilk or yogurt). 

Second, make sure that you're "wiping off the marinade" before BBQing your meat, the Food Network star told us. Third, too much marinade isn't a good thing, and over-marinating your meat will create wonky textures. Last but not least, remember to take your marinated meat out of the fridge well before cooking it. BBQing cold meat is a recipe for unevenly cooked results, no matter how beautiful a marinade you made.

The taboo ingredient Sunny Anderson doesn't mind adding to a marinade

Beyond these four basic tenets, Sunny Anderson is not one to get high-and-mighty about the dos and don'ts of steak marinading. The "BBQ Brawl" host doesn't mind taking a shortcut or two, even when professional grillers might scoff at it. Take, for example, liquid smoke. "I know for a lot of grillers it's taboo, but in a pinch, it's really good," the Food Network star told Tasting Table. "Some of the people that make grilling their career and their lives, they look at liquid smoke down their noses a bit, but I wouldn't know why there's a stigma because I don't feel the stigma." 

If you have a gas grill but long for smoky flavor profiles, go ahead and add some to your marinade — but don't overdo it. "It's like the sesame oil of grilling," Anderson elaborated. "A little goes a long way ... it can impart that smoky flavor, and make it feel like you did it over charcoal or some wood briquettes or pellets."  Anderson also likes to add a little liquid smoke to her bacon, along with a mix of brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, and red chili flakes, before putting that on a non-stick pan and cooking it up on the grill. "If you're going to put bacon on the grill, don't just put bacon on the grill, do something fun with it," the culinary celeb told us.  

Follow Sunny Anderson, Bobby Flay, and Anne Burrell on Season 4 of "BBQ Brawl," which is airing now on Food Network.