The Best Tips and Techniques To Marinate Beef And Lamb For Roasts

Everything you need to know about marinating meat so you can have delicious, flavourful roast beef and lamb.



If you have ever bitten into a piece of meat that is tender, flavour packed and melts-in-the-mouth, chances are that a marinate was involved. 

Naturally, optimum flavour comes from selecting the very best quality beef and lamb available to you, such as Australian red meat that enjoys the flavour benefits that result from the region’s natural, unspoiled environment. However, all cuts and kinds of meat can benefit from a marinate to improve their flavour and texture. 

What is a marinate?

The process of soaking meat in a mixture of ingredients in order to positively impact its flavour and impart tenderness is marinating. The best ingredients to use for a marinate are those that can penetrate beyond the meat’s surface. Marinates should be left to soak for a minimum of two hours, and preferably overnight, although this depends on the kind, cut and thickness of the meat. For example, a beef brisket recipe often calls for a 24-hour marinate for best results. 

The different types of marinates

Marinates are usually of two types. Wet liquids or pastes, or a dry blend of herbs and spices, also known as a dry rub. Wet marinates can be as simple as lemon, olive oil and salt, or you could experiment with a variety of flavour combinations to achieve the best results. The usual key elements of a wet marinate should be oil, acids (lemon, citrus juices, vinegars and more) and flavourings (salt, herbs, soy sauce etc.). Have a look at this recipe for Asian Spice Roasted Lamb Rack, where a variety of herbs, spices and sauces have been blended into a paste together to build flavour. Dry rubs are usually used when grilling or smoking meat, the moisture in the meat absorbs essential oils from the dry ingredients, giving the meat a subtle flavour. 

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Why use a marinate?

Marinated meats result in dishes with more flavor — it is that simple!

When allowing beef and lamb that extra time to absorb its surrounding salt, fat, acid, and spices, the flavour is positively impacted. Spicy, smoky, salty or sweet — the right marinade makes it all possible. Marinades also help you achieve better texture, this is particularly important for tougher and chewier cuts of meat. Additionally, leaner cuts benefit from a marinate’s tenderisation. Similar to brining, marinating brings moisture to the meat and results in a better tasting dish. 

Marinating Beef and Lamb

Marinating differs for red meat in a few ways. Compared to tender items such as fish and chicken, marinates for beef and lamb should be done for longer periods. For lean cuts, 2 to 4 hours is enough time. Tougher cuts benefit from longer marinating times, anywhere from 4 to 12 hours and even a whole day, for optimum flavor. 

Other tips to take note of include: 

  • When choosing a dish to use for the marinating process, ensure it is made of a non-reactive material. i.e. materials like aluminium and copper will react with acid in the marinate.
  • Move the meat around to ensure the marinate hits every part. Flip it once or twice in the marinating dish for maximum flavour. 

Marinating for Roasts

While marinating is recommended for almost all methods of cooking beef and lamb, it is particularly beneficial when you choose to roast red meat. The longer cooking times and high temperatures can dry out a good piece of meat — here is where the marinate comes in. When roasting beef or lamb, marinate the meat for a minimum of 4 to 8 hours. Once your meat is roasting away in the oven, reserve the marinating liquid and baste it periodically. Tip: the reserve marinate and pan juices can also come together to make a sauce for your roast meat, such as in this Indian Spiced Yogurt-Roasted Aussie Flat Iron


Eugene Chan Jun Jie, who is Head Chef at Panamericana — the ultimate grill restaurant, uses a basting method to marinate his famed roasts. “I prefer the basting method when it comes to roasting lamb over wood-fire. What we do at Panamericana is to use a basting oil infused with chilli, garlic, rosemary and thyme and applying it periodically while the lamb is roasting”. If you have sampled his delicious food, you would know that his method of marination when paired with top quality Australian red meat, creates winning dishes, every time. 


Chef Eugene’s Basting Oil

300ml Olive Oil

60g Peeled Garlic Cloves

150g Red Chilli

50g Fresh Rosemary leaves

50g Fresh Thyme Leaves

Using a food processor, blend all ingredients together