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Most recipes call for onions when marinading steak, but...why?

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Good question. While I'm not sure, I'd be inclined to think onions contain an enzyme that help tenderise the meat. The cooking together may even help activate the enzyme. In a similar role, pineapple is used to tenderise gammon steak. –  Noldorin Oct 10 '10 at 19:06
Onions do not contain such enzymes. –  daniel Oct 10 '10 at 21:20
Marinade on a good steak does nothing but help you ruin it. Good quality steak, high heat and maybe, just maybe salt and pepper is the way to go. Maybe a flank or something but what kind of steak are we talking about ? –  Chris Oct 11 '10 at 0:29

2 Answers 2

up vote 13 down vote accepted

Because onions contain a lot of flavour compounds that we like, and which are synergistic with meats.

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In other words, there's no functional reason for this ingredient, it's purely for flavour. –  Aaronut Oct 10 '10 at 21:57
Yup, it's just taste. Onions don't tenderize meat. –  Satanicpuppy Oct 11 '10 at 13:40

Actually, yes the onions are there to add flavor, but they also contain enzymes that break down the meat fibers making it more tender, this can also be done with pineapple and other fruits like kiwi. But the fruits add a fruity flavor which doesn't taste good to most when eating a steak.

Onions however, add a much more savory flavor. @Chris - Marinading a good steak doesn't ruin it, all it does is add flavors that weren't there before. Now granted one can buy some A3-A5 beef and have an extremely tender steak, but you are paying a lot of money for that meat. Marinading is a flavorful way to make very tender steaks at half the cost (OR LESS!)

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What enzyme is in onions that has a tenderizing effect? i have never seen this claim before. –  SAJ14SAJ Feb 19 '14 at 18:54

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