When To Add Marjoram To Ground Beef For The Most Flavor

Compared to the "Scarborough Fair" quartet of herbs – parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme – marjoram is not as familiar to most people and is not commonly used in recipes outside of Italy and the Middle East. But this herb, often described as a milder cousin of oregano, can bring a delightful sweet, citrusy, and almost floral aroma to your dishes. Just like oregano, marjoram pairs beautifully with hearty dishes like beef, thanks to its bold flavor that complements the strong taste of red meat.

But here's the catch: Marjoram isn't a magical herb that you can sprinkle into your dish at any time for an instant flavor and aroma boost. To get the most out of it, Spices, Inc. recommends adding it toward the end of your cooking process. If you're working with ground beef, like when making meatballs, wait until you have only about 10 to 15 minutes left before your dish is ready, and then toss in the marjoram.

The key reason behind this approach is to safeguard the essential oils within the herb, which are responsible for its delicious taste and aroma. However, according to a 2015 study published in Industrial Crops and Products, they are incredibly sensitive to heat. The longer marjoram is exposed to high temperatures, the more it loses its aroma and flavor. By adding marjoram towards the end of your cooking process, you can preserve most of its enchanting flavor and aroma before they vanish completely.

Beef dishes that can benefit from a sprinkle of marjoram

Want to try your hand at working with marjoram? There are plenty of beef dishes that you can give a nice herbaceous upgrade to with a sprinkle of the herb! If you're new to using marjoram, start with something simple like meatballs. Marjoram's slightly peppery flavor pairs nicely with the rich taste of this all-beef meatball recipe, which includes Italian seasoning – a mix of herbs containing marjoram. 

If you're curious about marjoram's unique taste and aroma, add it to just one meatball for a taste test. Alternatively, you can replace oregano with marjoram in a classic Italian meatball recipe. Oregano and marjoram can be used interchangeably, but make sure to adjust for the differences in their flavor and aroma profiles. Another way to enjoy marjoram is by adding it to ground beef stews. 

In Hungarian pörkölt (beef stew), marjoram — and a touch of tarragon — can complement the stew's rich and tangy flavors beautifully. Adding marjoram, especially a few minutes before serving, brings a subtle complexity to the stew's peppery taste. If you're feeling adventurous and want to explore flavors beyond Europe, consider making Cuban picadillo, a Cuban beef stew. While the traditional recipe uses oregano, you can easily swap it for marjoram with just a few minor adjustments!