Do You Have To Wash Steak Before Marinating

We all know that steak is a premium cut of meat, so it’s essential to perfect the flavor, cooking method, and level of doneness.

Certain tender cuts of steak, such as tenderloin and rump, don’t require marinating at all, while other tougher cuts benefit greatly from being marinated for several hours.

Marinating steak serves as a valuable technique, as it helps to soften and tenderize the tough fibers while also enhancing the flavor, depending on the ingredients used in the marinade.

You may have heard that it’s necessary to wash or wipe down chicken before marinating it, which might lead you to wonder if the same applies to steak.

In this discussion, we will address this question and attempt to explain the rationale behind washing steak (or any other type of meat) or not.

What is a Marinade?

A marinade is a flavorful and tenderizing liquid concoction in which various cuts of meat are soaked for several hours or even overnight. A well-balanced marinade typically consists of salt, flavoring agents, oil, and acid.

For example, you can create a mixture of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, rosemary, and salt. In this combination, the vinegar acts as a tenderizer for the meat, while the other ingredients contribute to the taste and moisture content.

Should You Wash Steak Before Marinating It?

Generally, washing meat before marinating is not considered a good practice. Why?

Washing meat increases the risk of cross-contamination. It doesn’t remove all the bacteria from the surface of the meat. Instead, the splashing of contaminated, bloody water around the sink area can spread bacteria to nearby work surfaces, kitchen utensils, hands, kitchen cabinets, dishes, or other food items in the vicinity.

What Should You Do Instead?

Take a clean, disposable kitchen cloth and soak it in vinegar or lemon juice. Gently wipe the steak on all sides with the soaked cloth. This will remove any debris and excess bacteria, as the acidity in these liquids possesses strong antibacterial properties.

Afterward, discard the cloth and wash your hands. Your steak is now clean and ready for marinating.

Why Should I Marinate My Steak After Wiping It Down?

Some steak recipes simply call for seasoning and cooking the meat without marinating it beforehand. However, other recipes emphasize the importance of preparing a marinade and soaking the meat in it for a few hours prior to cooking.

You might find this process time-consuming and wonder if it’s truly necessary. Here are some reasons to consider marinating your steak:

  1. Tenderness: Marinating is especially beneficial for cheaper cuts of meat, which can be tough. Acid-based marinades or those containing enzymes, such as those found in papaya, help break down tough fibers, resulting in a more tender steak.
  2. Flavor: Some cuts of meat may lack a strong “beefy” taste, so marinating can enhance the flavor by adding an extra layer of umami.

Which Types of Steak Benefit Most from Marinating?

Marinating is particularly advantageous for less expensive cuts of steak, including:

  • Chuck steak
  • Flank steak
  • Skirt steak
  • Hangar steak
  • Sirloin
  • Bottom round
  • Eye of round
  • Top round

Is It Good To Soak Meat In Salt Water?

While soaking meat in a well-balanced brine can enhance its flavor, some people prefer to soak chicken, beef, and pork in salted or plain water for various reasons. However, the USDA states that this practice is a personal preference and does not contribute to food safety.

If you decide to soak your meat as part of a recipe, ensure it stays in the refrigerator until it’s time to cook. This helps prevent cross-contamination when handling and removing the meat from the water.

For those on a sodium-restricted diet, washing or soaking country ham, bacon, or salt pork offers no significant benefits. Very little salt is removed through washing, rinsing, or soaking meat products, and the USDA does not recommend this practice.

It’s worth noting that some studies suggest acidic solutions like vinegar or lemon juice may help reduce bacteria on raw meat, but their effectiveness against food-borne viruses is unclear. Cooking meat to the proper internal temperature remains the most effective way to kill harmful bacteria.

Tips to Prevent Cross-Contamination

Cross-contamination poses a significant risk during food preparation. Here are some helpful tips to handle meat safely and avoid cross-contamination:

Wash Your Hands and Kitchen Equipment

After handling raw meat, thoroughly wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds, as recommended by the CDC. This practice is crucial as harmful germs can survive on your hands, kitchen tools, and countertops.

In addition to washing your hands, clean cutting boards, knives, and other utensils with hot, soapy water.

Keep Raw and Cooked Foods Separate

To further prevent cross-contamination, separate raw meat from other ingredients during storage and preparation. Follow these guidelines:

While grocery shopping and storing meat in the refrigerator, keep raw meat and its juices away from foods that won’t be cooked.

If possible, use different cutting boards for raw and cooked foods (e.g., one for vegetables and fruit, another for meat and poultry).

Never place cooked food on an unwashed plate that previously held raw meat.

Chill or Freeze Leftovers Within 2 Hours

To minimize the risk of food poisoning, refrigerate or freeze leftovers within two hours. Bacteria that cause food poisoning typically multiply faster at temperatures between 40°F and 140°F.

Ensure your refrigerator is set at 40°F or below, and your freezer is at a maximum temperature of 0°F. While home freezers are not powerful enough to kill harmful germs, they can maintain food safety until you cook or reheat the leftovers.

In Conclusion

Washing any kind of meat, including steak, before cooking, marinating, or freezing can lead to cross-contamination, especially when using a running tap in the sink. This can cause bacteria from the meat to spread to other surfaces, such as cooking utensils, potentially making you and your family ill.

To prevent this, simply wipe down the steaks with a cloth soaked in vinegar or lemon juice before marinating or cooking them.

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