There’s nothing quite like a delicious, juicy steak on the grill once the weather starts to warm up. Unfortunately, grilling a beautiful, tender ribeye or filet mignon can be prohibitively expensive for many families, and more affordable cuts of steak become rubbery or tough once grilled. Luckily, there’s an easy solution for all of the home cooks out there with a budget and love of red meat: marinades. Yes, less expensive cuts of beef can still be flavorful and juicy — all they need is a little love.
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So, how do you make flank steak or petite sirloin steak tender? Common marinade ingredients, such as wine, ginger, lemon juice, and kosher salt, actually have double purposes. Not only do they add flavor, but they help to break down the meat and make it wonderfully juicy. Kiwi, pineapple, and papaya are all great sources of proteolytic enzymes (enzymes that break down proteins) and add a sweet note to your smoky grilled meats.
Acidic ingredients have a similar effect on the texture of meat. Acids help to weaken the tough muscle fibers, so lemon, lime, and orange juices not only add some freshness to your red meat, but they help make it an incredible bite. Just be sure your marinade is balanced; adding too much acid can have the opposite effect and toughen the steak.
If you're thinking about grilling but want to stick to a budget, you don't have to skip the steaks — just skip the filet mignon. Cuts like sirloin and flank steak can be just as good with a little help from the right marinade.