How To Tenderize Meat With Marinade & More

The secret to the best-grilled meat lies in the marinade mix. Rather than slathering sauce on top as you cook or drizzle it while it’s still hot on the plate, a good marinade allows you to bring the soul into your stock and determine its texture before it reaches the fire!

This blog will show you how to tenderize meat with marinade and some extra methods to do so!

Which Marinade Tenderizes The Meat For Grilling?

Technically speaking, any kind of rub with a bit of acid in it should do the trick. Acid from food has the ability to break down structures of meat little by little, causing the meat to become softer than before. You can choose one of these marinades or combine them and experiment with different flavor combos.

So let’s go through all the marinades that CozyChew has for you today:

1. Red Wine:

Red wine is definitely on the top of our list, all because its combination with steak is absolutely legendary! The tartness of wine and herbal aftertaste will elevate your cut of choice and give it a luxurious feel. Here are the ingredients you need for red wine marinade:

  • 250ml of red wine
  • 190ml olive oil
  • 5 cloves of minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons of diced onion
  • 2 – 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon of pepper

Once you have gathered all the ingredients for this marinade, put all of them into a ziplock bag, and seal it off. Refrigerate the bag for 4 to 6 hours at least to get the best result. Be sure to flip the bag every hour or so for the marinade to soak evenly.

2. Teriyaki And Soy Sauce:

This marinade is for those who want to switch things up from the classics. Grab your teriyaki and soy sauce bottle, and you can get a spin on your favorite steak with these wonderful condiments! Here’s what you need for the marinade:

  • 1/3 cup of soy sauce/teriyaki sauce
  • 3 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 4 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • A pinch of fresh pepper

Before you can mix all the condiments and spices together, you should prepare the meat by poking it with a fork. This essentially creates passageways for the flavor to seep into the meat’s structure.

After you have punctured the meat, put it in a ziplock bag and soak it with all the other ingredients. Seal the bag, put it in a safe corner in your fridge for 4-6 hours, and turn it whenever you feel like it’s getting lopsided.

tenderize meat with marinade

You should take out the steak and pat it dry of the marinade when the time is up. 

3. Vinegar:

The vinegar bath is what you want, in cases you don’t want the marinade to ruin the sauce after. Vinegar itself does not have much flavor to it, so of course, it will leave space for other flavors to infiltrate. Nevertheless, it is still acidic enough to cause raw meat to become tearable by a simple fork.

For this, you simply have to soak the piece of meat in vinegar for a few hours. Use a bowl deep enough that the meat can fully submerge in your vinegar. 

A quick note: You should not let vinegar treat meat for more than 10 hours. This will cause all the moisture to be drawn from the meat, making it dryer and chewier than before. In this way, soaking your meat in vinegar is not that different from cooking it. 

4. Lime:

Lime is also another great option for an acidic tenderizer. Unlike vinegar, it can be mixed with other foods for a Tex-Mex vibe marinade, rather than just simply tenderizing the meat. A lime marinade will give your overall meal a summery fresh taste, and it can even make the game feel less heavy on your stomach!

Here’s what you need for the lime marinade:

  • 1/4 cup of freshly pressed juice from a lime
  • 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 teaspoons of minced garlic

As before, you only need to seal the meat and all the other ingredients in a sealable bag and place the whole concoction in the fridge. Turn it ever so often to ensure that the flavor seeps in the meat in an even manner. 

You can soak the meat for 4-6 hours or even leave it overnight, but some say that the lime juice can take effect in just 2 hours. If you want to marinade meat on the go, lime marinades are a smart choice!

5. Bulgogi Mix:

Korean BBQ has been on the rise in popularity. It makes for such a fun dining experience, on top of the absolutely tender and flavorful cut. The tastiness of any Korean BBQ’s meat is indeed all due to this wonderful Bulgogi sauce.

Here’s what you need for a great Bulgogi sauce:

  • 1/4 cup of soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 2 teaspoon of Asian sesame oil
  • 1 bunch of minced scallions
  • 1 tablespoon of minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 3 tablespoons of sesame seeds, toasted
  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil

You only have to repeat the steps from before: Put everything into a closely sealed bag, and let it sit. On the other hand, what makes Bulgogi sauce so special is that 1) you don’t have to pat the meat dry before cooking 2) you only have to let the meat soak for at best 20 minutes. That’s how these KBBQ restaurants are serving their customers so fast!

tenderize meat with marinade

Yet, what if you have even less time to ensure the meat is ready for the grill? Try the non-marinade techniques below!

What Other Methods Tenderize Meat?

1. Salt:

This method is good for pieces of meat that are too thick to absorb the sauce effectively. 

The way that salt tenderizes your meat is that it draws out moisture from the cut and replaces it with itself. Salt then relaxes the muscle of the meat, resulting in the overall structure becoming weaker and easier to tear. Protein cells affected by the salt rub will also hold fat for way longer, letting the meat retain its juiciness despite being dried.

tenderize meat with marinade

Use a generous amount of salt to cover the meat completely. You can choose to let it rest for 40-60 minutes or rub the salt in with your hands for a quicker result. Once time is up, wash the meat carefully and dry it with paper towels.

If you want to have a little flavor in the rub, you can add some minced garlic into the mix and let the salt do the flavoring for you.

2. Meat Tenderizing Powder:

You will need to do a little more than sprinkle some powder on the meat to make it tasty and ready. Just like with the salt, you can rub the powder in slowly or score the meat and puncture it with a fork for the powder to make its way in. Be sure to do this for the piece of meat on both sides!

If you don’t leave ways for the tenderizing powder to go inside the cut, the surface will become mushy while the core will stay tough and chewy.

3. Meat Mallet:

When all fails, you can resort to a meat mallet to finish the job. You simply have to pound the meat on both sides, and the meat will give in. 

When you pound the meat, don’t be surprised that the meat will become flat. It’s probably best that you don’t do so to a piece of meat already on the grill. Scoring it with a knife should be good enough.


So, how to tenderize meat with marinade? – You can choose to tenderize your meat with the help of some of those marinades we’ve mentioned, such as red wine, soy sauce, teriyaki, vinegar, lime, bulgogi mix, etc.

Those are only some of the best methods you can use to tenderize and flavor your meat before it hits the heat. If you have any other good tenderizing techniques, let us know in the comments below!

The world of cuisine is vast and beautiful, so don’t limit yourself to methods you already know!