This Surprising Ingredient Can Take Your Cheap Steak Up A Notch

If you're a meat lover, there's just nothing like a tender, perfectly medium rare, perfectly rested steak. And while we'd all love to have the funds to consistently purchase only the finest dry-aged ribeyes and filet mignons, those pricey cuts of steak usually only make an appearance in our kitchens on truly special occasions.

For everyday steak dinners, skirt steak — and its relative, hanger steak (via Crowd Cow) — is a more affordable and still-delicious cut of beef that typically runs for about $8 per pound (via Wilson Beef Farms). Boasting a bold, beefy flavor, skirt steak can nevertheless run a little tough, which is why it's important to marinate it with ingredients that will help tenderize the meat (via Allrecipes). Acids such as balsamic and red wine vinegars as well as lemon and lime juice are commonly used in steak marinades to achieve just such an effect (via The Kitchn). But if you're looking to change up your steak routine, there's one other pantry staple you likely have on hand that you'd be surprised to learn works well as a marinade for cheap steak.

Coke is surprisingly effective at tenderizing meat

When you're working with a cheaper cut of steak, you'll want to give that beef a little extra love to make sure it turns out both tasty and tender. That's where marinades come in. Packed with flavorful ingredients that imbue your meat with deliciousness as well as help to tenderize it, they're a must when it comes to cooking cheaper steak (via The Kitchn).

If you're looking for new ideas for marinating, look no further than the beverage section of your pantry — and grab a can of Coca-Cola. According to Allrecipes, Coke's acidity helps break down tough meat, making it a wonderful marinade for flavorful-but-chewy cuts. Epicurious points out that cola is almost as acidic as lemon juice, giving it the ability to break down proteins without making the meat too mushy. In fact, Coke is used as a tenderizer — and, of course, a flavor-booster — in plenty of meat dishes, from pork carnitas to braised beef brisket.

When exposed to heat during the cooking process, cola's high sugar content also ensures a burnished, caramelized crust — exactly what you want from a steak. To use it as a marinade, just pour it over your steak, let it marinate overnight in the refrigerator, pat it dry when ready to cook, and season it with salt before searing on a hot grill or skillet (via Allrecipes). You'll have a steakhouse-style meal at a fraction of the price.