Should You Use Thyme or Rosemary for Steak? Which is Better?

Using the right seasonings for your steak is key! While rosemary and thyme are the most common picks for cooking a steak, one may still wonder which one to use.

I’ve tested both thyme and rosemary on all types of steak, from tomahawks to New York strip steak and prime rib. To be honest, I did this so that I would know what tasted best, but now I have decided to share my tasty findings!


Should You Use Tyme or Rosemary for Your Steak?

From all my testing, I have found that rosemary is the better choice for steak. This is because it has a sharper and more intense flavor than thyme and holds its own powerful taste against the robust sweetness of the beef.

Fresh rosemary may also be easier to use than thyme. As rosemary grows in fat clusters, it is easier to separate the leaves from the bunch to use while cooking.

On the other hand, thyme leaves are so small you may have a hard time stripping them from the stems.

My Favorite Steak Recipe to Use Thyme and Rosemary

New York Strip on Pit Boss Pellet Grill

Traeger Sirloin Steak

Smoked Flank Steak

Smoked Prime Rib

Smoked Ribeye

What Is the Flavor Difference Between Thyme and Rosemary?

Fresh thyme has a subtle woodsy flavor, whereas rosemary is more intense with hints of licorice. I prefer adding rosemary to a marinade or seasoning rub.

On the other hand, thyme is a great addition to sauces and compound butter. However, you will need to use a huge amount of it to taste the difference. 


Everything You Need to Know About Rosemary

It is easy to mistake rosemary for a bunch of pine needles. The long, sharp-looking leaves resemble some varieties of pine. This resemblance can be explained by the fact that rosemary comes from an evergreen shrub. The aroma of rosemary is anise-like and reminiscent of black licorice.

It may also have floral notes. Its nutty flavor profile pairs well with beef. Its flavor is more subtle than licorice but slightly more intense than thyme’s.

It is used in various cuisines, from Indian to Middle Eastern to Scandinavian and Irish dishes.

What Rosemary Does to Steak

Marinating the steak in rosemary lowers the risk of foodborne illnesses by preventing the formation of toxins.

Studies have shown that adding it to ground beef or other meat before grilling, frying, broiling, or barbequing significantly reduces heterocyclic enzymes. 


Everything You Need to Know About Thyme

Thyme is a savory herb with a woodsy flavor similar to rosemary.  However, you are likely to notice a subtle difference. Thyme belongs to the mint family and is a bit sweeter, which allows it to pair well with many other herbs. 

Thyme’s flavor is prevalent in Middle Eastern and Southern European cuisine, and numerous Italian and Greek recipes call for it. Although thyme complements the rich flavor of beef by adding a kick of spice, its milder flavor profile makes it especially good with seafood. 

Can You Use Thyme Instead of Rosemary?

Although rosemary has a slight edge over thyme when it comes to flavoring a steak, you need not limit yourself to it. Thyme can be used as a substitute for rosemary, though its flavor may be much milder.

That said, thyme may go well with steak when you use it in a sauce. You can use whichever herb you think is appropriate, so feel free to experiment. No herb will ruin your steak. 


Mixing the Two?

With its pine scent and thyme, rosemary can enhance numerous dishes- singly or in combination. The two marry well and are used in many blends together as they can extend their magical qualities.

Thus, if you can’t decide which one to use to give the meat a more complex flavor, go ahead and add both to your marinade or spice rub. 

Getting Thyme or Rosemary Prepared

The preparation techniques for these herbs are similar, although rosemary leaves are significantly larger. Strip the leaves from the stems as best as possible with kitchen tools or your fingers to prepare thyme.

Then, chop the leaves roughly before adding them to your spice rub or marinade. For rosemary, strip the long leaves from the stems. After this, you can slice or mince them before using them in your recipe. 

Benefits of Fresh Herbs for Steak

Although the cooking process should eradicate any bacteria, using fresh herbs will make the steak safer to eat as rosemary and thyme both have natural antibacterial properties. 

Selecting Fresh Herbs for Steak

When shopping for rosemary or thyme, always select branches with bright green leaves. The leaves should always be pungent yet refreshing, with no hint of mold or dirt on the branches. 

Any brown or brittle leaves mean that the herbs have outlived their best qualities. You may try tasting one to ensure its flavor bursts in your mouth. 


Thyme and rosemary have unique flavor profiles and different uses for flavoring and tenderizing steaks.

However, rosemary is the recommended herb for steak as it is easier to use and may go a long way in flavor. 

That said, understanding the flavors of the herbs and following the steps mentioned above will allow you to choose the herb best suited for your steak every time you decide to cook up a feast.  

Smoke On!


Hi, I’m Charlie, I have been meat-smoking and grilling for the past 15 years. I have an array of different smokers, thermometers, and have a love for finding the right wood and charcoal combo My favourite recipes are my EXTRA CRISPY smoked pork belly, juicy pulled pork, smoked brisket, duck poppers, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill).

I loves sharing his tips with beginners, helping them navigate the world of smoking. I find it’s not just about cooking; it’s a quest for that perfect smoky flavor.

You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling recipes with you!

You can read more about me on our About Us page.

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