Steaks grilling on open flame

Bourbon Marinade Steak: Tips for the Perfect Char

Bourbon isn’t just for sipping or mixing into a classic Manhattan cocktail on the weekends. This amber liquor can also be a secret ingredient in your kitchen: you can use a touch of bourbon to add a rich, oaky, and vanilla-like flavor to homemade meatballs, or if you want to bake some fruit cakes for the neighbors, soaking dry fruits in bourbon can also give it a unique kick.

But if you’re planning a weekend cookout, why not try your hand at making a bourbon steak marinade? It’s incredibly simple, and the result is a juicier, more flavorful meat with a beautifully charred exterior.

Here’s what you’ll need: bourbon, Worcestershire sauce, minced shallot and garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Just combine everything in a zip-top bag, add your steak, and let it marinate in the fridge for 4 to 24 hours. When you’re ready to grill, your beef will be infused with the complex flavors of the bourbon marinade and more or less guaranteed to be a hit!

The magic of a bourbon marinade

steak marinating in a bag

Bourbon has some sugar in it because it’s distilled from sweet corn. This sugar, when layered on top of your steak, can aid in caramelization, helping your steak develop a beautifully charred crust. But that’s not all -– bourbon, which is often aged in charred oak barrels, also imparts a hint of smokiness that perfectly complements the rich, beefy flavor of the steak.

Don’t worry, though –- your steak won’t burn as if you’re taking a sip of bourbon straight from the bottle. The high heat of the grill will burn off much of the alcohol, leaving behind only the sweetness and smokiness that the whiskey is known for.

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Once you’ve tried the basic bourbon marinade recipe and fallen in love with it (and you will), feel free to get creative! Add a splash of soy sauce or a spoonful of brown sugar or honey for an extra punch of umami and sweetness –- and an even more caramelized crust from all the extra sugar. Or, maybe toss in some smashed garlic cloves or fresh thyme leaves for an aromatic twist. No matter how you flavor it, even a basic bourbon marinade is guaranteed to take your grilled steaks to new heights of deliciousness. So fire up that grill, we got some cooking to do!

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