How to Cook Marinated Steak Tips in a Frying Pan
There are many different types of steak–sirloin, filet mignon, rump (or round) to name but a few–and most of them will be found across the world. There is one type however which seems to be unique to the US East Coast, especially New England: steak tips.
There are disputes over what exactly constitutes steak tips, but what I will refer to as steak tips are pieces cut from the sirloin. Also known as flap meat, these cuts are often packaged in small chunks. Steak tips are renowned for their long and loose grain texture. That is why they are perfect for marinating as they absorb the flavors and will also create a sauce while cooking… although I’ll return to this as the marinade may not be sufficient.
Steak tips are versatile, lending themselves to many different methods of cooking, but I want to offer some advice on how to cook marinated steak tips in a frying pan. Tips about tips!
What You Need
First, choose your weapon… or frying pan. Your personal preference comes into play here, as you may like your steaks seared in a grill pan to achieve that flavorsome smoky taste and get those darkened lines. Or your taste buds may opt for a skillet (or plain frying pan) where the flat surface will cook the steak evenly.
Whichever you choose, the emphasis when cooking steaks is to do so quickly so that the meat retains its juiciness and the marinade does not become burnt.
As for buying steak tips, many butchers will sell them pre-packaged and cut into small bite-sized chunks. My preference is to buy them as larger pieces and cut them to the precise dimensions required for whichever recipe I use. They can be cooked as more conventionally sized steaks but, to my mind, they’re no longer steak tips when cooked whole.
The thing about steaks and marinades is that you can have fun with marinades. You can match them to the season–something light and frothy in the summer, or something more robust in winter–or to regional cuisine. However, there are some staple ingredients that will contribute towards a perfect marinade for tender succulent steak tips.
Worcestershire sauce is a condiment which first emerged in England (hence the name: Worcestershire is an English county) during the 19th century. The basic ingredients of Worcestershire sauce are vinegar, sugar, molasses, garlic, onion, and anchovies with additional seasoning and spices, all of which combine to produce a tangy-sweet sauce not a million miles away from balsamic vinegar. It’s an ideal base for a steak marinade as it inveigles its way into the meat.
Other ingredients that form an excellent base for the marinade are bourbon, coffee, soy sauce, sherry vinegar, maple syrup, or balsamic vinegar. You’ll notice some commonality between these–they all have a strong, robust flavor and when used in a marinade will produce a darkened glaze that has an aesthetic appeal all of its own.
I like to approach making marinades as if I’m making cocktails. A little experimentation can have a successful outcome and don’t be afraid to mix ingredients that don’t, at first sight, seem compatible. What you’re really aiming for is something that will soak through to add its distinct flavor to the meat, but has enough sturdiness to withstand the high temperatures required for the steak.
Different ingredients bring contrasting textures to the marinated sauce–the sugar will absorb the liquid and bubble while cooking to add a “burnt” look to the cooked steak, bourbon will bring a smoky taste and a golden sheen to the sauce while coffee will bring broody darkness to the meat.
Time for Action!
If you’ve bought the meat as full-sized steaks, cut into chunks of whatever dimension you prefer. In my experience, it’s best to cut into pieces no smaller than two inches. Anything less than this and the pieces require less cooking time, which prohibits the marinade from working its magic in the pan.
Place the steak tips in a bowl (or a freezer bag which should then be sealed), pour over the marinade, and set aside in a fridge for at least 30 minutes. Some people like to leave the steak tips to marinate for longer–even for a full day–although I think 30 minutes to an hour or two hours maximum works best.
When you’re ready to cook the steak tips, ensure that the kitchen is well ventilated or that the extractor fan is working because things are going to get heated! Whichever type of pan you use should be heated with oil over a medium to high heat until the pan is shimmering. Add the steak tips to the pan and allow them to fry for between five to eight minutes (again, dependent upon how well-done you like your steak) turning once during the process.
Something to Go with That?
Some steak connoisseurs consider any accompaniments as detracting from the main attraction and want to get started on their steak straight away. My thinking is that having produced a marinade, it’s a shame not to put it to use, so I set the steak aside covered by foil to seal in the flavor and retain the heat. Add halved mushrooms or sliced onions (or both!) to the pan and fry over medium heat for a few minutes.
The glaze or sauce from the marinade and the lingering juices released from the steak bring their own special taste to the vegetables. If the mix looks too arid, add some butter or red wine or oil or vinegar, but not too much of these as mushrooms will release their own juices. After a few minutes, the vegetables should be ready and added to the steak.
Note that I have not provided recommended quantities in the above… deliberately so. The vegetables are an accompaniment and shouldn’t take over the completed dish.
I mentioned earlier that the sauce may not be sufficient, so there is the option of creating an accompanying sauce separately (and simultaneously) in another pan or saucepan. I find that red wine with seasoning and/or spices or chopped garlic reduces nicely in a few minutes and can be poured over the steak.
One final alternative is to return the steak to the pan when the vegetables are just about ready, crank up the heat for about 30 seconds, and then serve those sizzling steak tips.