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How to Marinate Steaks (Using Olive Wood Smoked Olive Oil and Espresso Balsamic Vinegar)

For red meat, we love the combination of coffee with a smoked flavor, but feel free to use any of your infused olive oils and vinegars. Your marinade should be at least 1/2 oil. The oil helps emulsify the marinade into a thick sauce that coats the meat. It's also a flavor-carrier. And having a coating of an oil-based sauce on your steak before you grill it will help it cook better and more evenly. You'll need 1/2 cup of marinade per pound of meat you're grilling, and you want that marinade to be at least half oil, so for two pounds of steak, start with 1/2 cup of oil. Acid helps tenderize tough connective tissues—which my favorite steaks have plenty of—but too much acid will actually cook and toughen the meat, turning it weird and chalky. To prevent this from happening, use equal parts or less acid to oil. You can always add more acid later, but you can't take it away. So though you can add up to as much acid as oil, I like to start with less, just to be safe. For two pounds of steak I usually start by whisking together 1/4 cup of acid and 1/2 cup of oil.

Mix in your flavoring elements—flavor for the surface of your steak. So have fun and add whatever you think tastes good. Raid your condiment collection as well as your spice cupboard and herb garden. Try grated or pressed garlic, roughly chopped fresh herbs or herb sprigs such as rosemary.

Marinate for at least one hour, but up to 12 hours. Pour your marinade over your steak and toss to coat. You want to have as much meat surface as possible in contact with the marinade, and the easiest way to do this is in a resealable plastic bag, where you can seal it up tight so the marinade is encircling the meat entirely. If you're not into plastic bags, use a glass or ceramic baking dish or wide shallow bowl and flip the meat every now and then. If you plan to cook the meat within one or two hours, leave it out on the counter to marinate; otherwise put it in the fridge. Just remember to remove the meat about an hour before grilling so it has a chance to come to room temperature.

Thin cuts of steak shouldn't marinate for more than 10 or 12 hours, so this is not so much of an overnight thing—more of a marinade it in the morning, grill it at night game. The shortest amount of time you can get away with is one hour. Any shorter and the marinade won't have a chance to work its magic.

Pat down the meat to dry it off and grill! Your cook time will depend on the heat of your grill and the cut of steak you're using, but generally speaking all thin cuts fare well cooked over high heat. They won't take long, so have your thermometer and tongs at the ready and keep flipping them over high heat and checking the internal temperature until your steak reaches your desired doneness. Aim to pull it off the grill at 120–125°F for medium-rare, or 130–135°F for medium. If you don't have a thermometer, simply slice into the steak a bit to have a peek at the color in the center to know if it's done to your liking.

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