Making a marinade for beef – one that tenderizes and adds rich flavor – means finding new combinations of the typical ingredient trio: an acidic liquid, an oil, and herbs & spices. For beef, plan on 1/4 cup of marinade per pound and a 3 to 1 ratio of fat to acid.
Here is a review of the key components:
To tenderize, select a wine, fruit juice, vinegar, or some combination of them as your acid. Anything goes that matches well with your selected fat and spices.
Oils & Fats
When deciding which olive oil to use, consider how strong a flavor you want. A stronger olive oil can take over the taste of the seasonings. Try avocado or coconut oil or any type of milk — consider dairy, coconut, or oat.
Aromatics & Seasonings
Aromatics, such as garlic, onions, and shallots, deepen the flavor of a marinade. Add a spicy kick with fresh or dried chili peppers. Both aromatics and chili peppers should be minced to maximize the amount of their surface that touches the marinade and infuses flavor. From fresh or dried thyme and lemon zest to smoked paprika and saffron, the herbs and spices you select change the taste and the look of the dish.
Adding salt, especially a high-quality one elevates the other flavors in the marinade. Sea salt has even more flavor due to its mineral content. Soy sauce or tamari is another way to “salt” your marinade.
A touch of sweetness
Adding sugar caramelizes and boosts browning for your beef, but don’t overdo it or your meat will burn. Think about different sweet substances, such as agave or coconut nectar, or maple syrup. We recommend up to two tablespoons of sugar per 1/2 cup of oil in your marinade.