One thing that never fails to make Chris happy is steak. He also has a strong preference for sweeter lagers like dunkel and Vienna lager. So a few days ago I went ahead and prepped a magical solution for a flat iron steak to bathe in and on his midweek day off we hung out in the backyard, grilled, played corn hole and ate this juicy and flavorful beer marinated steak sandwich.
Quick digression. I have to share something with you about corn hole. If you frequent craft breweries you must have noticed that corn hole games are an almost mandatory fixture. The fact does not escape the attention of toddlers/young kids either.
Over the last few years we’ve visited well over a hundred breweries and on most of the visits our son was with us. In result we’ve been playing many of a brewery game – from board games to giant Jenga. But you know you have been taking your child to too many breweries when after you open a brand new bean bag toss game at home he exclaims “Now our yard is going to be like a real brewery!”.
We were totally lost for words:) and he was so cute saying it.
Why use beer in marinades – flavoring vs tenderizing
Beer is used in marinades mostly to flavor the surface of the meat. As to tenderizing the meat, contrary to what many of us assume ( I know I did until a few years ago) it does not do much of that.
The reason is that beer does not penetrate deeper into the meat than the surface, since meat is almost 75% water already. Neither do wine, lemon juice and vinegar for that matter. Actually the high acidity in wine and vinegar can often make the surface of meat even tougher or too mushy (depending on the meat).
The meat denaturation (unwinding of coiled up protein molecules) agent that really penetrates deep is salt. And we all know that a marinade containing salt is in essence a flavored brine, so getting into a whole different aspect of tenderizing meat here. (There was no salt added to my marinade, we salted the steak while and after grilling it.)
More reasons to use beer in marinades
What beer and other liquids in marinades do well besides flavoring is prevent the surface of the meat from excessive drying while on the grill, resulting in a moister meat = juicier beer marinated steak.
So keeping in mind that you are after flavoring the surface, when choosing a brew for your beer marinated steak, be sure you go with either
- a flavorful ale such as a stout, porter, brown with low alpha acids/bitterness (unless you are looking for that hoppy, bitter zing)
- a flavorful lager such as Schwarz bier, Doppelbock, Dunkel or Vienna style lager (I used Weldwerks Brewing Co Puesta del Sol Vienna style lager)
Another reason to use beer in marinades for meat that will end up on the grill is that it can prevent the formation of potentially carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). These chemical substances are naturally found in charcoal and crude oil and also in cigarette smoke((http://www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/factsheets/polycyclicaromatichydrocarbons.htm)).
Not too long ago, researches found that beer marinades can stop the formation of the harmful substances on the surfaces of meat cooked over high temperatures such as with grilling ((http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf404966w)). Yes! I tell you – there is much more to beer than flavor and sheer enjoyment. Beer has powers that can take you places you have never been before – from providing health benefits to elevating your food and cooking to new heights:) Tried and true!
I was planning on writing about Vienna lagers here, but will probably dedicate a whole post to them and give them the attention they deserve. Chris and I are both huge fans and there is just such a cool story about this lager style (including why Mexico is the major brewer of it). We’ll put together a nice snack tray with food that pairs well with a Vienna lager and review the style in a future post.
Want to know what else besides Vienna lager I used to create this flavorful beer marinated steak sandwich? Below is the ingredients list – all complementary to the characteristic beer style flavors. Not what I would call a full blown recipe, but hey, sometimes lists do the job just fine!
- 1. 5 lbs piece flat iron steak
- 1 12 oz Vienna lager (substitute with stout, porter, brown, Dunkel, Schwarz bier)
- ciabatta bread (if you can find baguette shaped) or any bread you want
- 1 bunch green onions (cleaned)
- 1 tsp honey powder
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil + more to coat the green onions
- fresh thyme (optional)
- pinch of salt (to flavor steak and onions while grilling or after grilled)
- In a glass or plastic container large enough to contain the steak add all the spices, olive oil and beer and mix well.
- Submerge the steak in the marinade and let sit in the fridge for at least an hour, but not much longer than 3 hours.
- Grill using your preferred grilling method and to desired temperature (we recommend medium, internal temp of 145°F ).
- Let rest for 5 min before carving.
- Cut bread in half length wise and then in pieces for individual sandwiches.
- With a small brush coat onions and bread with olive oil and place them on the grill until the onions are nicely charred and tender and the bread gets a good char.
- Slice steak, assemble sandwiches and open a beer.