How Do I Choose the Best Barbecue Beef Marinade?

Lee Johnson

Choose the best barbecue beef marinade by looking over the herbs and spices used as part of the marinade, thinking about the type of marinade you or your guests will prefer, and using fresh ingredients where possible. Determining what is the “best” when it comes to food is subjective and therefore difficult to achieve, but chefs can generally judge what their guests will prefer. Better marinades generally include fresh ingredients like onions and garlic, a blend of spices, and some fresh herbs. Marinades also commonly include an acidic substance like vinegar, but some cooks prefer a dairy-based barbecue beef marinade.

Fresh spring onions might be part of the best barbecue beef marinade.
Fresh spring onions might be part of the best barbecue beef marinade.

Fresh ingredients are an important part of a good marinade. Vegetables such as onion and garlic taste much stronger when they are fresh, and adding them into a marinade is likely to infuse more flavors into the meat. Generally, any barbecue beef marinade which includes fresh ingredients will be better than one which doesn’t. Many beef marinades include spring onions or shallots, and several use crushed garlic as a primary flavor.

Greek yogurt can act as the base for a barbecue beef marinade.
Greek yogurt can act as the base for a barbecue beef marinade.

Different marinades may produce beef dishes suited to a particular style of cooking. For example, a teriyaki barbecue beef marinade will produce a beef dish in an Asian style, which may or may not be suited to the chef’s guests. The cook should only choose a particular cuisine’s style of marinade if he or she is confident that all or most guests will like the style of food. Chefs should ensure the marinade includes key flavors for the particular style of cooking. Asian dishes commonly include ginger, soy sauce, and rice wine, for example.

Chefs should look at the specific blend of spices when choosing a barbecue beef marinade. Many different spices can be included in a marinade, and the flavors associated with each one should be scrutinized prior to choosing a marinade. Certain mixtures of spices may not be suited to the guests’ palates, and chefs should ideally taste any spice mixes before applying to the meat. A simple barbecue beef marinade may only include black pepper as a spice, but some recipes may make use of other herbs and spices.

A dairy-based barbecue beef marinade may be a better option than an acidic one. Some marinades use Greek yogurt as a base, with ingredients such as spring onions, garlic, and mixed herbs stirred in. This may be a viable option if the tenderness of the meat is of prime concern. Pricking the meat with a fork prior to marinating helps the flavor seep in.

When cooking for a crowd, it's wise to choose a simple marinade for barbecue beef that will appeal to most palates.
When cooking for a crowd, it's wise to choose a simple marinade for barbecue beef that will appeal to most palates.

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Discussion Comments


@donasmrs-- Buttermilk also tenderizes meat. You can use that instead of yogurt in your marinades if you want.

Dairy is actually not the only thing that makes meat softer. So does ginger and some citrus fruits like pineapple. These are not a part of marinades just for their flavor. The acid in yogurt, buttermilk and citrus fruits help break down protein and that's how it makes meat softer.

So if you have meat that's not tender, incorporate at least one of these ingredients in the marinade. But don't forget to give it enough time because even the most tenderizing ingredient cannot do its job in a very short amount of time.

I like to keep my barbecue marinade simple too. I love lime and black pepper. I think they suit beef more than anything, so I usually make a marinade with lime juice, lime zest and crushed black pepper.


@donasmrs-- Yea, most Asian beef marinades do include soy sauce. Have you ever tried "light" soy sauce? That has a much milder flavor, so you might tolerate it better in your marinade.

Otherwise, just skip the soy sauce and make up for it by using rice wine, sesame oil, grated onion and fruits.

My favorite Korean barbecue beef is made with this kind of marinade. It's made with those ingredients along with garlic, spices like ginger and apples. You can also use sugar or honey instead of fruit to make it a little sweet. If you don't have rice wine, you can replace it with white wine. The wine and the fruit together will give a really nice sweet and sour flavor to the steak.


I usually marinate my barbecue beef in olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and black pepper. It's a very basic recipe but I think it works well as long as the meat is tender.

I've been wanting to try some different kinds of marinades. I want to try one with yogurt because this is not the first time that I've been told it makes beef softer and more tender. What else, other than yogurt, can tenderize barbecue meat while marinating at the same time?

I want to try some Asian marinades too but those marinades seem to always call for soy sauce. Unfortunately, I'm not a big fan of soy sauce so I've been avoiding them.

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