Balsamic vinegar is considered the primary ingredient in making steak marinades.
It is because of these two reasons: it tenderizes the meat since it helps to break down some protein and fats present in the beef and the second one, balsamic vinegar adds a subtly sweet flavor without adding too many sweeteners.
However, some people absolutely hate any kind of vinegar. For those, there is some alternative to balsamic vinegar.
For an easy steak marinade without balsamic vinegar, you can use fresh fruit juice such as lemon juice, orange juice, or pineapple juice. You can also use other types of vinegar, like apple cider or rice vinegar. Your acid can also come as wine, beer, and even yogurt.
Making a steak marinade is like making a salad dressing, you can personalize it depending on your menu, your mood, or the ingredients available in your pantry.
However, unlike salad dressing, if you want to make the flavors extra strong in your marinade, you need to infuse the meat with ingredients that will last long, even the marinade is already discarded.
Not all the time, the ingredients are always available in your kitchen; therefore, you need to be creative and smart to look for alternatives if one ingredient is not accessible.
How To Make Steak Marinade Without Balsamic Vinegar?
Every steak marinade requires four basic elements, namely: oil, acid, flavoring, and salt.
However, these primary ingredients come in various ratios and amounts, so you need to understand first the basic ratio and timeline on how to marinate steak.
In this way, you can customize your recipe depending on your preference.
Also, in the absence of one or two ingredients, you must know what to do in advance so you can still create a mouthwatering marinade without using the original ingredients.
Let’s dig in on how to make steak marinade.
Start your marinade with oil
Any marinade should have at least ½ cup of oil.
The oil helps in emulsifying the marinade into a thick sauce that covers the meat. It also acts as a flavor-carrier since the oil can trap the flavorings and turn them into bubble packets.
Besides, having a coating of an oil-based sauce on the steak will help to cook it better, and more even flavor.
For a balanced ratio of oil to be used in the marinade, remember to put ½ cup of oil for every pound of meat you are trying to grill.
If you don’t want to taste the oil, you may choose a neutral oil like grapeseed or canola.
On the other hand, if you are open to a stronger flavor, you may try olive oil or sesame oil.
You can mix together different oil or just stick to one. You can add more later if you think it does not coat the meat thoroughly.
Add acid, but in a moderate amount
The addition of acids helps to tenderize tough, connective tissues present in the meat.
However, too much acid will cook and toughen the meat, turning the taste and appearance look weird and chalky. To prevent this from happening, use equal parts of or lesser acid than oil.
Just like with oil, you can always add more acid later, but the problem is if you add too much of it, you cannot take it away. Just to be safe, start with less and then gradually increase as you reach the right acidity of the marinade.
Usually, balsamic vinegar is the basic acid that is used to make steak marinades, but in the absence of it, you can always find some alternatives such as fresh fruit juices from lemon, orange, and pineapple.
You can also use other kinds of vinegar like apple cider vinegar and rice vinegar.
Acids can also come as beer, wine, buttermilk, and yogurt.
Bring in some flavorings
The flavorings are simple and a fun way to do. Just add whatever you think tastes good.
Go to your condiment collection, your spice cupboard, and your herb garden, pick any flavorings and seasonings that can add taste and aroma to your marinade.
Try adding Worcestershire sauce or mustard, chili paste, sliced garlic, or shallots, chopped fresh herbs or herb sprigs, fresh or dried chiles, ground spices, sriracha, sliced ginger, ketchup, and other spices.
Add something sweet and salty
To balance the flavor, you may incorporate something sweet or salty into your marinade. Salt is essential as it helps tenderize the meat and acts as a moisture retainer for meat.
However, it does not mean it must come from actual salt. You can also use salty liquid, such as soy sauce and fish sauce.
Sugar is optional, but not as essential as salt. It also helps to balance out the flavor.
If you have any flavorings that are naturally sweet, you can skip adding the sweetener; otherwise, try adding a pinch of brown sugar, a squirt of honey, or a splash of maple syrup.
Remember that too much sugar can also affect the overall appearance of the steak, making it burnt easily when you toss it in the grill, so go mild with the sweetener. It must not spoil the overall taste of the marinade.
Speaking of taste, this is the perfect timing to taste your marinade and make your comments on what is lacking. You may adjust the salt, sugar, acid, flavoring, and oil if needed.
If you think you have made more than what you needed, you may set aside the rest and use it another time, or you may use it to make sauce or dressing.
How Long To Marinate Steaks?
Once you are done with the marinade, you may pour it over the steak and then toss it to coat overall the meat.
Have as much of the meat covered with the marinade evenly, and the best way to do this is placing the meat in a resealable plastic bag, where you can seal it tightly so that the marinade is coating the meat entirely.
If you are not into plastic bags, you may use glass containers or anything that is wide and shallow, just make sure to flip the meat from time to time. I
f you plan to cook the meat after an hour or two, you may leave it on the counter to marinate or put it in the fridge.
Remember to remove the meat about an hour prior to grilling, so that the flavor will suit properly until it is ready for grilling.
Keep in mind that thin cuts should not be marinated for over 10 or 12 hours.
The shortest time you can get away with is one hour.
If shorter than this, the marinade won’t have the chance to cast its magical flavor on the meat.
How To Grill The Steak?
Once the grill is ready for cooking, you may remove the steak from the marinade and give it a good pat using paper towels.
Make sure that no bulky flavorings are stuck on the meat like slices of jalapenos, as they will just burn immediately on the grill.
The cooking time will depend on the heat of the grill, and the cut of steak you are using. But, in general, all thin cuts are fairly well-done over high heat.
Make sure that they won’t take long, so have your tongs and temperature ready as you need to flip them over high heat and keep on checking the internal temperature until the steak has reached your desired doneness.
Here are some temperature settings: for medium-rare, have it around 120 to 125 F and for medium, increase it to 130 to 135 F.
If you don’t have a thermometer, just slice the steak a bit, and take a peek at the color in the center, if it is already good to your preference.
Once you are done, give your grilled steak at least five to ten minutes to rest. And then slice it the way you like it and serve. For thin cuts, you don’t need to wait as you can serve them right away.
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