Marinades, rubs and pastes add enticing flavour layers to your beef. If you’re new to marinating, getting started is a cinch as the basics are likely waiting patiently in your pantry.
What is a marinade?
A marinade is a mixture of ingredients used to add layers of extra flavour to your beef. While some acidic or enzymatic marinades can tenderise meat, the main role of a marinade is to enrich flavour. To achieve tender meat, you need to select the right cut for your cooking method and cook it well – the Meat Cuts app will help. Available at Apple App Store and Google Play for free.
Different types of marinades
- Wet marinades use combinations of liquid and dry ingredients to create flavour infusions.
- Dry marinades (also known as dry rubs) are made up of dried herbs and spices. The moisture in beef absorbs essential oils from the dry ingredients, giving the meat a lovely subtle flavour.
- Pastes are made up from herbs, spices and a little liquid. Oil, finely pounded ginger and garlic are often added to bind the ingredients.
How to store marinades
- Discard any liquid, dry rub or paste that has come into contact with raw beef.
- Keep any unused dry rub mix in an airtight container.
- Refrigerate unused liquid marinades in a sealed container for 1–2 days.
- Pastes covered with plastic wrap can keep in the fridge for 1–2 days.
How much marinade?
- Use half a cup of marinade to flavour 500 g beef.
- Avoid sugary ingredients – sugar will burn before the beef is cooked.
- Go easy on salty ingredients like soy sauce – they cause the beef to leach juices, making the meat dry.
How long to marinate?
- Place beef into the prepared marinade and let it soak up the flavours.
- Always cover and refrigerate your marinating beef unless you plan on cooking it within 20 minutes of preparation.
- Marinate whole pieces of beef like roasts and steaks for 12–24 hours.
- Meat cubes for kebabs need 2–3 hours marinating time.
How to cook marinated beef
- Remove beef from marinade and lightly pat the meat with absorbent paper to ensure it browns well.
- Cook beef using your planned cooking method.
- Don’t pour marinade over the meat during cooking as it stews the beef and causes flare-ups.
- To keep beef moist, brush with a little marinade as it cooks, except during the last minutes of cooking time.
Never pour raw, leftover marinade over cooked meat
Always bring your marinade mixture to boiling point and boil for a few minutes to kill any harmful bacteria. Serve separately alongside the cooked meat.
Popular wet marinades
Marinades are quick and easy, especially if you stick to simple flavour combinations. Experiment with these fridge and pantry fusions:
- Fresh, robust herbs like thyme and rosemary with olive oil
- A mix of tomato and Worcestershire sauces
- Soy sauce, a little honey and orange juice
- Tomato sauce, a little red wine vinegar and Dijon mustard
- Olive oil, a little lemon juice and dried oregano and/or rosemary
- Soy sauce, oyster sauce and sesame oil
Spicy tomato marinade
Grate half a large onion, cook with 1 tbsp oil and 1 tbsp crushed garlic. Add 1 tsp dry mustard, 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce, ¼ cup tomato paste and ½ cup water. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Combine 3 cloves of crushed garlic, ½ cup tomato paste, 2 tsp dried oregano, ¼ cup oil and ¼ cup red wine. Mix well.
Combine soy sauce with a little honey and orange juice. Mix well.
Red wine vinegar and mustard marinade
Combine tomato sauce, a little red wine vinegar and Dijon mustard. Mix well.
Lemon and olive oil marinade
Mix a little olive oil, lemon juice and dried oregano and/or rosemary.
Combine soy sauce, oyster sauce and sesame oil. Mix well.
Spicy vindaloo marinade
Combine 1 tsp each ground cardamom and ground cinnamon, 2 tsp each of ground cumin, turmeric and hot mustard, ¼ tsp chilli flakes and ¼ cup white vinegar. Mix well.
Dry marinades (dry rubs)
How to use a dry rub
- Use 2–3 tbsp of dry rub per 500 g of meat.
- Rub into the beef about 20 minutes before cooking.
- Use enough pressure to ensure the marinade sticks evenly to the meat.
- Remove excess rub with a dry brush.
- Coat lightly with oil before the beef hits the heat.
- Squeeze a little lemon juice over the meat as it cooks – this stops the spices and herbs from burning.
The art of combining herbs and spices
From pantry to supermarket, you’ll find inspiration for dry rubs everywhere. For best results, keep the combos simple.
- Use your favourite seasoning or experiment with a ready-made spice and herb mix.
- Try lemon and garlic, Moroccan spice, Tuscan herbs or even steak seasoning mixes.
- Ground peppercorns, seeds (coriander, cumin and fennel), dried herbs (rosemary or oregano) and garlic powder easily combine to make delicious rubs.
Brush or spray the beef lightly with oil and rub with one of these tasty combos before you cook.
2 tsp sweet paprika, 2 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp salt flakes, 1 tsp ground cinnamon or cumin and a pinch dried parsley.
2 tsp crushed dried green and white peppercorns, 2 tsp crushed coriander seeds, 2 tbsp dried tarragon leaves, 2 tbsp crushed yellow mustard seeds, 1 tbsp black peppercorns and a good pinch of salt.
Spicy chilli rub
2 tbsp crushed coriander seeds, 2 tbsp black peppercorns, 1 tsp crushed chilli flakes and a pinch of sugar and salt.
How to use pastes
Gently rub the paste onto the meat before barbecuing or roasting, taking care not to overload.
Nice and spicy
Combine 2 tsp ground cumin, ¼ tsp chilli flakes, ¼ cup chopped coriander and ¼ cup white vinegar.
Mustard and herbs
Rub the roast with a mix of salt, pepper and a little seeded or Dijon mustard and dried mixed herbs before roasting.
Peppercorns and garlic
Combine a small can of green peppercorns (drained and lightly crushed), 2 cloves crushed garlic, 60 g slightly crushed dried black peppercorns and 2 tbsp oil. Add a little ground cumin, ground coriander or dried oregano for variation.