Your classic marinade … is to use a bottle of Italian salad dressing. And … the common thinking is that the acid — the vinegar in the salad dressing, or lemon juice, or red wine — is somehow tenderizing the meat. And you will read this in a lot of classic cooking manuals, that an acidic marinade will make meat more tender.
“It will, in fact, make the outer layer of the meat a bit mushy, but what it’s really doing is pulling moisture out of the meat and making it drier. And there isn’t really a great way to tenderize a cut that’s going to be cooking very quickly for instance on the grill, but you can make it juicier, and juiciness, when it gets to eating the steak, often is equated with tenderness once it’s in our mouth.
“So we use a salt-based marinade; you can use salt itself, you can use a salty ingredient like soy sauce, and then mix that with the garlic, with all the seasonings you want to use. And what you’re basically doing is, the salt penetrates very quickly into the meat and changes the structure of the muscle proteins, so that when the muscle proteins are cooked, they will hold on to more of their juices.”
Photo credit: Larry Crowe/AP