RECIPE: Perk up grilled beef with a coffee marinade

Credit: Kellie Hynes

Credit: Kellie Hynes

Did you know that you can use black coffee in a marinade? Yes, coffee, the elixir of life, can also add new life to grill recipes.

I was curious to know which food — meat, poultry or vegetables — gets the biggest perk from coffee.

I started my marinade with 8 ounces of not-hot coffee. You can brew a cup just for the marinade, or collect the dregs from your morning pot until you have enough. Skip the creamer; the coffee you reserve should be black.

Because coffee is so acidic, I added half of my usual amount of vinegar to the marinade. Balance the vinegar with brown sugar and cinnamon for hints of earthy sweetness that aren’t too sugary. Throw in your favorite aromatics, like garlic and fresh or dried herbs. There’s no added salt in this marinade; the Worcestershire and soy sauces contain plenty of savory sodium. Since we are grilling, we need an oil with a high smoke point. Save your good olive oil for an accompanying salad, and use canola or vegetable oil here.

For my experiment, I marinated a flank steak, chicken breasts and portobello mushrooms for two hours. After grilling, the flank steak was the clear winner. In spite of the relatively short marinating time, the flank steak was infused with deep and excitingly unexpected flavors.

The chicken absorbed less of the marinade, so it tasted like, well, grilled chicken breasts. If you want the umami notes of the coffee marinade, you’ll need to add an extra hour to your marinating time. Surprisingly, I, an avid-vegetable eater, did not love the marinated portobello mushrooms. The coffee competed with the meaty mushrooms, creating a clash of flavors that was all wrong. I tried again with grilled marinated asparagus, with no improvement. To enjoy your coffee at dinner time, raise a mug to beef.

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