Can You Marinate Steak in Ranch Dressing?

Written By Acacia Crossley


Steak paired with a few roasted vegetables can be a delicious and desirable dish in its own right. However, it can be easy to rely on the same flavours to season your steak, that way, you avoid wasting a good cut of meat on a taste you don’t like.

But instead, for variety, why not try using a flavour you already know, love, and probably already have in your pantry – ranch dressing?

Ranch dressing is made up using a base of buttermilk and sour cream, both acidic in their own ways. This acid is perfect for helping steak tenderize before it is cooked and adding some extra flavour to the steak. You just need to mix it with a little oil.

How To Marinate Steak In Ranch Dressing

As mentioned, buttermilk and sour cream make up most ranch dressings, resulting in a slightly sour yoghurt taste.

The use of bright herbs such as dill, parsley, and thyme brings just enough tang to the dressing while complementing the bitter flavour of the buttermilk and sour cream combination.

Most ranch dressings will also use garlic, onion, and a little black pepper to elevate the dressing even more. Instead of these additions making the ranch dressing too complex, it helps make it better suited for various dishes.

Ranch dressing will provide a harmonious flavour to most steaks when used as a marinade. However, the dressing lacks some vital ingredients that a steak marinade needs.

You will need to use a neutral oil in your ranch dressing marinade to stop the acidity of the ranch dressing from making the steak taste too acidic.

The oil will also help to lock in some of the steak’s moisture, so that it doesn’t dry out when cooked.

Measure your oil on a ¼:1 ratio with your ranch dressing when making your marinade.

You can use some of this oil to rub on the steak before covering it in the marinade but make sure you thoroughly combine any leftover oil with the ranch dressing to prevent the two from separating.

Because the predominant flavour of ranch dressing is a sourness with hints of its additional ingredients, your steak will benefit from more herbs and flavours mixed into the marinade.

Parsley, thyme, and a little dill paired with some onion, garlic, and black pepper are already popular flavourings for a steak marinade and will complement the existing flavours of the ranch dressing further.

Our Ultimate Ranch Marinade for Steak

Combine 1 cup of ranch dressing with ¼ cup of olive oil, a good pinch of salt and black pepper, a crushed garlic clove and the leaves of 2 thyme sprigs.

Can You Use Ranch Dressing When Grilling Steak?

When choosing to grill a steak, some people like to bypass using a marinade and add a glaze or sauce to the steak as it is cooking. However, using ranch in the same way as BBQ sauce or teriyaki sauce on a grilled steak is not a great choice.

Because the base ingredients of ranch dressing are dairy (buttermilk and sour cream), the grill’s heat will make the dressing split and break apart. Your steak will be left covered in burnt chunks of cream and covered in a sour oil that will completely ruin the texture of your steak.

That is not to say that you must miss out on a ranch dressing-flavoured steak when you want to fire up the grill.

There are powdered packeted versions of ranch dressing that capture the core flavours of ranch dressing in a dry form. You can use this powder as a rub for your grilled steak.

Of course, you can always just cook the steak as it is and serve the ranch dressing as a regular condiment along with the steak. However, the steak itself will not taste the same.

Grilling Steak

Why Does A Steak Marinade Need Acidity?

Not all cuts of meat need to be marinated, as the muscle can be already soft enough not to need help tenderizing. This is especially true of cuts of meat that have a high fat-to-muscle ratio and a lack of grizzle or cartilage. 

Although steak does tend to have a good amount of fat marbled in between the muscles of the cut, it is still a good idea to marinate it to ensure that the meat can get as tender as possible. 

When we talk about acidity, we don’t mean adding harmful chemicals to your marinade, but rather ingredients that have a naturally high acid to alkaline level.

Vinegars, pickle, or citrus juices and buttermilk are popular in many steak marinades, which is why ranch dressing works so well as a steak marinade. 

The acid breaks down the proteins in the meat as it marinates, which makes the meat so much more tender. It also helps the flavour of the steak to spread through the whole cut rather than just being stored in the muscle. 

Using an acidic marinade can also make it easier for any harder connective tissue to soften up as well, which limits the results of an unevenly cooked steak. 

Make sure not to leave a piece of steak in your ranch dressing marinade for too long.

Ranch dressing is not as acidic as a vinegar, but it will make the steak overly tender if allowed to marinate for more than 24 hours. An overly tender steak will turn mushy once cooked, which would be a complete waste of meat. 

Marinating Steak in Ranch Dressing FAQs

Do you still have questions about marinating steak in ranch dressing? Then check these out:

Does Salad Dressing Tenderize Steak?

Yes, salad dressings will often tenderize steak because they contain an acidic element. It is this essential acid that will break down the connective tissue and fat content in the steak.

Can You Marinate Steak in Buttermilk?

Yes! Buttermilk is a great way to tenderize steak. It is also easy to add flavourings to the buttermilk to enhance the steak. Add a sprig of rosemary, a bay leaf or a crushed garlic clove.

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