Because we raise beef and hunt deer, meat is always on the menu, but, until recently, I was yet to discover a simple yet effective (and, preferably, not so strongly flavored that it would mask the flavor of the meat) steak marinade. I tried various combinations of oil, acid (lemon juice, wine, or vinegar), and soy sauce, throwing a sliced onion or a few cloves garlic in from time to time. None of these produced really satisfactory results – marinating meat in wine broke down the connective structure of the muscles, giving it the horrible texture I don’t dare describe, and vinegar, Worcestershire, soy sauce, and lemon juice have all imparted a bit too much flavor for my liking without adding a whole lot of tenderness, unless you left it in the fridge for a couple of days – and this kind of planning does not sit well with my spur-of-the-moment nature.
It wasn’t until my fellow blogger and post-Soviet émigré Anna of Anna’s Recipe Box gave me the following priceless tip that I finally saw the light – sparkling water! Because Anna grew up in Uzbekistan – another nation known for its world-class grilling – I knew right away she was a veritable source, and so she was. I’ve tried this twice already, and the results have surpassed my every expectation – and then some – without a huge time commitment. Steaks thus marinated were unusually tender after only 3 hours. And the best thing about it – no added flavors! Just the beefy goodness to be spiked up with some of my favorite homemade steak toppings.
Now notice that I don’t generally keep around such a bourgeois product as sparkling water, and I couldn’t bring myself to buy some to this purpose, but because I grew up in the Soviet Union where you had to make do (and did) with little, I remembered that my mom used to make bubbly water by combining a pinch of citric acid with a pinch of baking soda in a glass of water, since acid reacting with base produces carbonation (the same thing happens in the recipes that call for a combination of baking soda and yogurt/sour cream/buttermilk/vinegar – the resulting gas is what causes the batter to rise and create the crumb we associate with cakes).
Anyhow, not-so-long story short, I squirted some lemon juice out of a bottle into 3 C of water, dumped in 1 t or so baking soda, and voila! Bubbly water! I poured it over the steak, covered it with saran, and, after 3 hours, cooked it medium-rare in my new grill pan (which I love), topped with Jaden’s Magical Butter Sauce. The kids loved it, and I thought this was the tenderest New York Strip steak I produced to date. Thanks again, Anna, for this straightforward yet life-changing tip.
Note: I like my steaks somewhere between medium-rare and medium, and that happy point is achieved if you grill (or pan-sear) your steak until red juice seeps out on top (on the side that is facing up after you’ve flipped your steak once).
If you share my disdain for A1 and wish to try some new steak toppings, consider my three favorites:
Jaden’s Magical Butter Sauce (I make mine with elderberry jelly and extra vinegar)
Sparkling Steak Marinade
Enough for 2 steaks
- 3 C water
- 1 t baking soda
- a long squirt of bottled lemon juice or the juice of half a lemon
- a (small) dash of soy sauce
Combine all the ingredients and pour over steak. Cover and marinade for a couple of hours or until ready to use.