Years ago, my toystore, Sharper Image, had a $200 (now $100-140) simple toy, the Reveo, which combined a cheap-looking plastic vacuum container with a rock tumbler, to marinate steak in just 20 minutes. I researched the vacuum aspect. Turns out, adding vacuum to tumbling was a crafty sales gimmick. Neither magnets, waving duck feathers, vacuum containers, nor chanting "Om", adds much to a marinade's penetration, when using a tumbler's powerful action over that time. The USDA did the study research. Not shabby at all. . Ever see a rock tumbler? Picture a mini clothes dryer (below). My brother polishes minerals. Put minerals, grit and water in a tumbler, and lets the mess tumble in its rubbber drum for weeks. Steaks, much softer than agate and quartz, take only 20-30 minutes. Used small to large tumblers go for ~30-$60; none were on Craigslist that day. I splurged on Ebay for a big, brand new Thumler's AR-12 for $100, as it holds 2-3 good sized steaks, and when it's steak-free, my
brother can polish minerals. Decent new smaller tumblers go for $40-60.
I bought a $12 like new Foodsaver, which creates a vacuum in a container, just like the Reveo. It is wonderful for vacuum packing food in freezer bags-things keep for many months. I now needed to tumble the foodsaver's container, with marinade and a steak inside, to match the pricey Reveo for less.
To not waste space with my experiments, I found what the USDA discovered. Tumbling alone, IS wonderful for efficient marination. Tumbling plus vacuum does NOT not add any benefit. The tumbling and the weight of the steak, repeatedly stretches and retract the meat fibers, allowing the marinade to penetrate. There, you saved $100 by not getting a small Reveo, and you have a big mineral tumbler! If you really, really, must tumble steaks for pennies, double bag your steak/marinade in freezer Baggies, tape it in Tupperwear, and put it in your clothes dryer, along with clothes to soften the impact. Don't blame me if your whites look and taste like teriyaki.
With that background, I came home with a nice steak, and made shallow 1-2 mm deep knife slits in it, to better let the marinade penetrate. I put it in a baggie with enough air to let it flop inside, and tumbled it for 25 minutes. I dried off the steak, sprinkled sea salt, placed it with grapeseed oil in a preheated hot cast iron pan, searing both sides and around its rim. Do that in most kitchens, and smoke alarms shriek! My trick? Pan sauté steaks and fish outside. Why smell up the house?. I cook on the patio with an induction burner. I put a piece of newspaper between the burner and the cast iron, so grease doesn't get on the burner as I cook.
Searing Steak with Slits, with Cast Iron, on Newspaper Covered Induction Burner Don't try that trick with gas or regular elecric burners or it'll flame up! After searing the steak's surfaces, I finish it in a 400 degree (toaster) oven for about 8-10 minutes, (med-rare to med) then let it rest for 10 minutes before serving. Delicious, with a seared crust! Cleanup is fast. While steaks (and guests) rest, I use the pan's tasty bits for a sauce reduction. I then clean remaining oil off with clumped paper towel, add 1/3 inch of warm water, and boil. With tongs, I hold a clumped paper towel with tongs to clean off any stuck bits, then dry the pan. Next, lightly oil, then heat the pan-seasoning it. Wipe off excess oil, and put it away. This goes fast. Supper's ready! Steaks tumbled for a 20-30 minute marinade taste as if marinated for 24 hours.
Note: After this, I went on Amazon.com. Reveo now faces the $65 Marinade Master- another rock tumbler with silly vacuum-now at a more reasonable price.
There you have it. Whether you use your clothes dryer with Tupperware, a $40 used rock tumbler, or a $65 lightweight tumbler with mantra, vacuum or magnets, you can quickly mix your marinade components, tumble, and get great marination, in under 30 minutes!