At first blush, the idea of marinating a steak in butter might sound perfectly ridiculous. Butter has to be kept warm to stay in liquid form, and steak has to be kept cold to remain food-safe, an innate conflict if ever there was one. In reality, the difficulty only exists if you think of a marinade as something meats soak in for a long time. Steaks gain just as much flavor from quick marinades as from long ones, and when viewed in that light, a butter marinade is quite practical.
• Heatproof measuring cup or microwaveable bowl • Seasonings to taste • Acidic liquid such as Worcestershire sauce, wine or vinegar • Whisk • Barbecue brush • Butter
Portion your butter into a heatproof measuring cup or microwaveable bowl. Each ¼ cup of butter will coat 1 to 2 steaks, depending on their size, and it's best to allow a little extra to ensure good coverage.
Microwave the butter on full power until it's melted, usually 20 to 40 seconds depending how much you're using. Keep an eye on the microwave and stop heating the butter if it begins to boil and foam up.
Add seasonings such as minced or dried garlic, onion powder, freshly-ground black pepper, celery salt and crushed or ground chilies, as desired.
Pour in an acidic liquid such as Worcestershire sauce, citrus juice, wine or wine vinegar, using one part liquid to three or more parts of butter. This helps cut the butter's richness and brightens the steak's flavor. Soy sauce or other savory liquid flavorings can also be added here.
Whisk the ingredients together until thoroughly blended. The marinade can be brushed onto your steaks immediately at this stage, or made up in advance and reheated at mealtime.
Rest the steaks for at least 5 minutes after applying the butter marinade, then grill, broil or pan-sear them.
• Almost all marinades include some form of oil because fat is a highly efficient conductor of flavors. Butter does this just as well, and has the virtue of adding a richness of its own to the finished steak. That's why steakhouses often add a pat of butter to steaks before they're served.
• Food scientists have demonstrated in controlled experiments that conventional marinades barely penetrate into meat, even after days of marinating. Most of the marinade's flavor is retained in the microscopic crevices at your steak's surface, and a quick marinade brushed on just before cooking achieves this as well as a conventional marinade.
• Aside from its role as a flavor conductor and a flavoring agent in its own right, butter browns readily in the heat of your pan or grill and helps the steak develop a perfectly savory, well-browned crust.
• Making up the marinade ahead of time provides opportunity for its flavors to fully infuse the butter. Advance preparation is optional, but does slightly improve the end result.