what wines would you rec for marinading steak? i picked a bottle of pinot noir up this time ’cause it was ten bucks and we’re poor, but I’d be interested to know what to look for going forward. also I’m making salad tomorrow and I promise to send you a post about it



Well, it depends on the type of flavor you want. I’d personally use a cheap cabernet or merlot. And you don’t need anything more expensive than $5. You just want the tannins and the acid.

Personally, what I would do is as follows (and I do have several posts regarding making the perfect steak, just search #steak)

Let the steak come to room temp (very important step). Combine minced garlic, Worcestershire sauce, wine, chili paste or powder, salt and pepper, balsamic vinegar or a steak sauce of your choice (I like A-1. Yes, you heard me), a dash of brown sugar in a bowl. Put the steak into a ziploc bag and add enough of the marinade to coat the steak. Squeeze out the air and seal. Massage the steak a bit inside the bag and then let sit on the counter for 30 minutes to an hour. Remove the steak from the liquid and dry thoroughly with paper towels or cheese cloth. Salt the outside well. Make sure the pan is hot. slap that steak into that pan and leave it alone for a certain period of time (determined by the thickness of the meat and the doneness you want to achieve). Flip only once.

Ten bucks is cheap wine here, I live at the ass-end of the world 😛 I’ve got your steak tag open in a tab and I’m defs intending to follow your process, I just thought I’d ask about this aspect as I found myself standing in the wine section going “?????”

Ah! Well! I can help with that! Or at least to give you a kind of method.

Pinot tends to be dusty and fruity. Usually dark fruit and earth. They can be “jammy” which is as it sounds, and have a distinct taste of soil. I do love the complexity of pinot, but for steak it is too difficult. You’d have to know precisely which pinot to choose by having drunk it, and if you are on a budget and don’t know wine very well, it’s simply not feasible.

Merlot tends to be more vegetative, more like tomato or red berries. It can also have greener notes like bell pepper. It can be higher in acid. While merlot can be sweet and fruity, it isn’t usually a flavor that contrasts with steak.

Cabernet tends to be peppery or spicy as well as acidic. It tends to have far more vegetative notes. To me it pairs perfectly with red meat as a marinade.

So, when you want to know which wine to choose to use as a marinade, read the back of the bottle. It will give you some tasting notes. Look for things like pepper, white pepper, tobacco, lemon, tomato, green vegetables, bell pepper, spice (not fruit spice or cinnamon) clove, earth, dust, red fruit.

I would avoid anything that says “fruit forward” “jammy” or references to sweetness. You can choose a cheap blended red, but, be careful of blends that include zinfandel, pinot, or any dessert varietal, because those are somewhat sweet.

More steak information

I’ve just had a conversation about steak that reminded me of a method I often use when dealing with a less than ideal cut: If you purchase cheaper quality red meat in bulk and want to cut back on preparation time (if you are tired when coming home from work, but still want a decent meal), this is also a good tip –

Buy a box of freezer safe ziplock bags and a roll of parchment paper.

Make up a large batch of marinade. The marinade should contain salt, an acid of some sort, a source of flavoring like herbs or whatnot. Additional additives are sugars and chili. But a basic marinade is merely going to be acid and/or salt, with seasonings. As I’ve said, I tend to use various combinations of the following:

Red wine
Soy sauce
Worcestershire sauce
Chili oil
Tandoori spices
Korean red chili powder
A-1 here or there
Brown sugar

But that is just my chosen marinade roster.

Make a large batch. Take each steak and put it into one ziplock bag with enough marinade to cover every surface and give it a nice surrounding bath-cushion. Massage it a bit in the bag to get the liquid into the tougher bits. Squeeze out any air. Wrap this sealed bag in parchment and insert it into a second bag, making sure that there is as little air as possible inside. Freeze.

When you plan to have steaks for dinner on a given day, remove them from the freezer sometime in the morning, and put them into a dish. Let them thaw out and come to room temp in the marinade.

It will take several hours to turn from a block of ice to a block of meat-ice sitting in fluid. Another couple for the meat to thaw completely. Then an hour or so to reach room temp. Meanwhile, any potential bacterial growth on the meat will be controlled by the salts and acids within the marinade. Obviously, this changes if you are living in an incredibly warm place and have no air conditioning. If this is the case, let them thaw out in an insulated container like an igloo cooler or lunch bag. You can put them in the fridge to thaw, but it takes longer and means you have to increase your prep time on the day of, because you have to allow the meat to come to room temp before cooking. Be smart. If meat sits at room temp for long periods of time it is eventually bad, but 8-10 hours slowly thawing in a saline solution will likely be completely safe and it will most definitely be safe once you’ve put the thing in a 400 degree pan.

Don’t forget to remove from the marinade, pat dry, salt, and sear the devils on high heat. A few minutes per side at least.

And in approximately 8 minutes, you will have a delicious steak that will taste like hours of work, when in fact it was minutes. Microwave steamed vegetable side dishes are an excellent addition (I have no grudges against frozen or flash frozen produce). Pop in a baked potato while you’re at it and in 20 minutes you have a wholesome meal worthy of a restaurant.

Just a thought.

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