For meat-eaters, it's not quite summer until the steaks hit the grill. A big, juicy rib-eye, T-bone or flank steak sizzling over the coals is, for many, the reason barbecues exist.
On the downside, eating red meat can increase the risk of heart disease, and eating grilled meat can increase the risk of cancer. Yet again, the best things in life can kill you.
Unless you choose lean meat, eat it sparingly and marinate. Yes, marinate.
It's obvious why eating lean cuts in moderation can reduce the heart-related problems associated with red-meat consumption. The benefits of marinating are somewhat less obvious. It turns out that simply marinating steak can dramatically decrease the formation of heterocyclic amines, or HLAs, that occurs when meat cooks in the extreme heat of a barbecue (see Is it true that grilling meat can cause cancer?).
Of course, you'd probably want to marinate for a lot longer than that -- at least two hours, preferably overnight -- to achieve the other benefits of the process: taste and texture.
Deliciousness of heavy oil and butter aside, it's a shame to ruin the health benefits of a lean, well-chosen cut. In this article, we'll give you five recipes for delicious, healthy steak marinades -- ones that could satisfy the pickiest of steak-loving foodies.
Up first, another barbecue staple that you probably never thought of soaking a steak in…
There's a marinade that may reduce toxic substances by up to 88 percent and is fat free, cholesterol free and loaded with B6, a particularly heart-healthy vitamin [source: Oprah]. Luckily, if you're having a barbecue, you probably have it on hand already.
It's beer, and it's great for whatever type of steak you have in the fridge. This preparation offered by Oprah.com is a simple, tasty, slightly Southwestern mix of ingredients. Combine the following:
1 12-ounce bottle pilsner beer
1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Just sprinkle the steak with salt (not too much!) and fresh pepper, very lightly coat with heart-healthy olive oil, and place in a large plastic bag. Pour in marinade, making sure steak is entirely submerged. Marinate for at least two and up to six hours -- then throw on the grill, cook to at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit for safety, and enjoy!
Up next, prepare your steak with an ingredient that's been used in Chinese medicine for ages…
In this recipe, the marinade is a healthy start, and the post-grilling sauce is an added bonus. Horseradish gives it a sinus-clearing, possibly infection-preventing zing. Heart Healthy Living recommends starting with a flank steak and marinating it in the following mixture:
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 1/2 teaspoons reduced-sodium Worcestershire sauce
Marinate for a good six hours before you cook it up on the grill. In the meantime, get the sauce going. Mix together:
1 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/3 cup fat-free sour cream, mayonnaise or salad dressing
1 green onion, finely chopped
1 to 2 teaspoons (according to taste) prepared horseradish
To get all the available flavor, serve the sauce at room temperature (or close to it).
Dip some steak in the horseradish-y goodness, breathe freely and enjoy!
Next on the list, it's one of the most popular cooking ingredients out there, but not everybody knows you can (and really should) pair it with steak…
Garlic, garlic everywhere -- it's sautéing with onions in a stir-fry, mixing with cream cheese as a dip, and topping pizza for a gourmet craving. It's also an utterly perfect, utterly healthy primary ingredient in a steak marinade.
Garlic is considered by many to be a super-root, with possible health benefits that include lower cholesterol, detoxification, cancer reduction and fungus elimination. It's so widely used it's available in supplement form in any grocery or drug store. If you have garlic on your kitchen counter, you have the makings of a delicious marinade. The Web site BellaOnline recommends this low-carb preparation with a filet:
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1 tablespoon ground coriander seeds
1/4 tablespoon black pepper, ground (fresh is best)
2 1/2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
Use a mortar and pestle to grind the garlic, coriander and pepper into a paste (you can use a food processor if that's easier for you). Whisk in the soy sauce until well-combined. Pour into a plastic bag with the filet, and marinate for a minimum of two hours and preferably overnight.
Remove steak, discard marinade, and grill to your liking. Garlicky!
Up next, it's sort of sweet…
How do you add some sweetness without adding unhealthy sugar? Honey, of course. It's nature's pure, unprocessed sugar supply, and along with balsamic vinegar it contributes just the slightest hint of sweet to a grilled steak.
You've got heart-healthy garlic and olive oil in this one, too, as well as rosemary, an herb reported to benefit digestion and relieve pain [source: Keville].
To create a rosemary-honey-balsamic marinade, MedicineNet recommends whisking together:
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary needles
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper (fresh is best)
Marinate steak in this mixture for up to 24 hours before grilling for a sweet-tangy, low-HLA feast.
And finally, your spice rack provides practically everything you need for this marinade…
Sometimes, a special steak calls for special ingredients. Other times, everything you need is already in your kitchen.
Scientists did a test on this particular recipe and found it to reduce cancer-causing toxins by 88 percent, and it's as simple as it gets [source: Bastyr]. It starts with a bit of oil (the study used soybean), water and white vinegar. Then you turn to the spice rack and add as much as you like of thyme, red pepper, black pepper, allspice, rosemary and chives.
Coat the steak with this mixture, marinate for at least two hours, and throw it on the grill! In addition to reducing HLAs, the rosemary and black pepper may improve digestive health, red pepper may improve cholesterol levels, and chives are a good source of vitamin C, which has a whole slew of health benefits.
And there you go -- no need to give up red meat. With a little preparation, healthy eating can easily include a nice, grilled steak. Just start early, choose low-fat ingredients, and by all means, marinate well. The more flavor the better.
For more information on grilling, steak recipes and related topics, look over the links on the next page.
HowStuffWorks explores whether posting calories on the menu helps consumers make better food choices.
- Brett, Jennifer, ND. "Horseradish: Herbal Remedies." HowStuffWorks.https://health.howstuffworks.com/horseradish-herbal-remedies.htm
- Healthy Steak Recipes and Cooking Tips. Eating Well.http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes_menus/collections/healthy_steak_recipes
- Horseradish Flank Steak. Heart Healthy Living.http://my.hearthealthyonline.com/recipe/beef/horseradish-flank-steak/
- Magee, Elaine, MPH, RD. "The Magic of Marinades." MedicineNet.http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=62947
- Meat Marinades: More Than Meets the Eye. Bastyr Center for Natural Health. October 23, 2008.http://bastyrcenter.org/content/view/1491/
- Shea, Lisa. "Low Carb Site: Coriander and Garlic Marinade." BellaOnline.http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art18415.asp
- The Way to Grill a Healthy Steak. Oprah.http://www.oprah.com/food/The-Way-to-Grill-a-Healthy-Steak