Should You Start Your Marinade ASAP?

Rachel Tepper Paley

Photo credit: Samantha Linsell/StockFood

More is more when it comes to marinating your meat, at least according to Mike Affronti, the second-generation owner of Los Paisanos Meat Market in New York City.

"There are people who don’t like barbecue sauce, and there are people who like no sauce whatsoever,” Affronti explained. “Then you get guys like myself, who are going to marinate everything.”

We already knowthat the longer you marinate a steak, the more it picks up the delicious ingredients in the marinade. Affronti has soaked fine cuts of beef for “up to 24 hours, so the flavor of what you’re marinating with seeps into the whole steak.”

In this instance, the process also tenderizes the meat, but that’s not always the case with marinades: Highly acidic marinades can toughen food if it’s left to sit for too long, and enzymes in ingredients like raw pineapple, figs, papaya, honeydew melon, ginger, and kiwi can turn meat mushy.

Although he qualifies that, ”I’m not a chef, I just know what works with our meat,” Affronti said that’s not a problem with his marinades, for which he happens to avoid the ingredients listed above. At his shop, Affronti sells tri-tip steaks made more tender and flavorful thanks to a secret house-made barbecue sauce that son Anthony, who works behind the counter, told us contained vinegar, garlic, salt, pepper, and a “ketchup-y, tomato-like base.” Sometimes the meat marinates for up to two days, the elder Affronti said, because it simply isn’t possible to over-marinate it.

The Affrontis also swear by a sauce of pulverized cilantro, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper, which they use to tenderize skirt and hanger steaks for several hours.

If you’re in New York, you can visit Los Paisanos to pick up a bottle of their homemade BBQ sauce, but feel free to try this barbecue recipe if you don’t live nearby. And if you’ve got a hankering for a cilantro marinade, try this vinegary green herb salsa.

Of course, you can always marinate your steak in beer, this soy-sauce-and-lemon number, or your own concoction. The choices are endless, and thank goodness a holiday is around the corner where you can try ‘em all.