To Dry Rub Or Marinade A Steak — That Is The Question

When you're planning on cooking steak for dinner, you may feel it necessary to do a little prep work before you throw it in a pan or on the grill. Typically, you'll want to do a little pre-seasoning, either in the form of a marinade or dry rub. Is one of these methods preferred over the other, though? Well, that may depend on what kind of steak you have. If you're cooking a tougher, cheaper cut of beef, then marinating it is probably a good call since an acidic ingredient like lemon juice, vinegar, or wine can help to tenderize the meat.

If your steak doesn't need any softening up, though, then a dry rub may do the trick — and be even easier to make than a marinade. Dry rubs are less messy, for one thing, as there are no liquids to measure and mix. For another, the steak will be much quicker to pat dry before it gets its seasoning and goes into the pan, since it won't be all wet with soy sauce or covered in bits of garlic. You may not know it, but a steak won't be able to sear until every last bit of residual marinade evaporates.Another advantage of a dry rub is that there's no need to wait for it to "soak in" before cooking — simply sprinkle it on, and your steak is all set.

Your steak may not need either one

If you have a really nice piece of meat, though, you may want to consider a slightly more radical course of action: Skip both the marinade and the dry rub entirely, and simply sprinkle the steak with salt instead. That way, you can really savor the flavor of your New York strip or ribeye without any superfluous seasonings standing in the way.

If you're cooking a leaner piece of meat, such as filet mignon, there's yet another approach you can take that can add just a delicate hint of flavor along with some much-needed fat: Use a compound butter. You can either add the flavored butter to the pan just as the steak finishes cooking, or simply let it melt over the hot steak on your plate. A maître d'hôtel butter uses lemon and parsley, imparting the notes of a citrusy marinade with far less mess and trouble. If you'd like something with even more zip, you can stir in some crushed garlic and a pinch of crushed red pepper to turn this French classic into the Pioneer Woman's favorite steak butter.