Cooking a delicious steak is no easy task. You have to find the best cut, choose a recipe that fits your needs, and worry about cooking the steak for the right amount of time. On top of all of that, you also need to consider whether or not you want to marinate your steak, and if you do, for how long.
To learn more about marinating steak, we talked with a handful of professional chefs and butchers about their recommended marinating times, as well as which cuts of steak work best with marinades and which cuts may not need it at all. Read on, and for more, don’t miss The Best and Worst Cuts of Meat To Buy, According to Butchers.
Marinating times for different cuts of steak
According to the chefs and butchers we spoke with, different cuts of steak require different marinating times. Not only that, but some cuts of steak don’t do well with a marinade of any kind.
Skirt or flank steak: 2-4 hours
One of the most popular cuts of steak to marinade is a skirt steak. “Marinades are great for cuts of beef that are tough, such as flank or skirt steak, as the salt and acid help break down the beef to make it more palatable,” says Chef Noah Poses from The Fulton NYC.
Chef Jordan Buendia, the executive chef of Rococo Steak in St. Petersburg, Florida, says skirt steak is his favorite type of beef to marinate because “it’s a versatile, flat cut with incredible flavor and tenderness that can withstand a good marinade.”
When it comes to the marinating time, “The thinner the steak, the less amount of time it needs to be marinated,” says Tony Sudak, the Butcher at Walden Local Meat Co. “Steaks such as skirt, flank petite, and blade should only be marinated for a few hours (2-4 as a rule of thumb).”
Top sirloin or sirloin tip: overnight
According to Sudak, the cuts of beef located in the hind leg area are some of the toughest sections on the animal. Because these cuts are a bit tougher, they usually require a longer marinating time. “Thicker steak cuts such as top sirloin, sirloin tip, chuck eye, or Denver steak all would benefit from a longer marinade, usually overnight if you can,” says Sudak.
Cuts of steak that don’t need marinating
Ribeye, tenderloin, and New York strip: don’t marinate
While the tougher cuts of steak like skirt, flank, and top sirloin do really well with marinades, there are more tender cuts of beef that don’t need a marinade at all.
“Cuts like ribeye, New York strip, and tenderloin are arguably the most tender (and most expensive cuts) from the animal, so these cuts deserve to be highlighted and for their flavor to not be muted by a marinade,” says Sudak. “Could you marinate these steaks? Certainly, you could. But for the money, let the steak speak for itself with some salt and pepper, and you will not be disappointed.”