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

Using the right seasonings for your steak is key!

With rosemary and thyme being the most common picks while cooking up a steak, one may still ponder over which one to use.

I’ve tested both thyme and rosemary on all type of steak from tomahawks to New York strip steak and prime rib. To be honest it was so that I knew 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, they are easier to separate from the bunch to be used while cooking.

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

What the Flavor Different Between Thyme and Rosemary?

It is worth noting that fresh thyme has a subtle woodsy flavor, but rosemary is more intense with hints of licorice. 

Rosemary is preferable if you are adding a fresh herb to a marinade or seasoning rub.

On the other hand, thyme will make a great addition to sauces and compound butters.

However,  you will need to use a huge amount of it should you want to taste the difference. 


Everything You Need to Know About Rosemary

It is easy to mistake rosemary for a bunch of pine needles.

This is because the long, sharp-looking leaves do bear a resemblance to some varieties of pine.  

This resemblance can be explained by the fact that rosemary comes from a type of evergreen shrub.

The aroma of rosemary can be said to be anise-like and smells like black licorice.

It may also have floral notes, with a nutty flavor profile that pairs well with beef.

Its flavor is more subtle than licorice but slightly more intense than that of thyme.

It is used in a variety of cuisines, from Indian to Middle Eastern to Scandivanian and Irish dishes.

What Rosemary Does to Steak

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

Studies have shown that adding it to ground beef or other types of muscle 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 that’s similar to rosemary.  

However, you are likely to notice a subtle difference as 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 not only prevalent in Middle Eastern and Southern European cuisine, but numerous Italian and Greek recipes call for thyme. 

Although thyme complements the rich flavor of beef by adding a kick of spice, it works especially well with seafood due to its milder flavor profile. 

Can You Use Thyme Instead of Rosemary?

Although rosemary has a slight edge over thyme when it comes to flavoring a steak, there is no need to 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 as no herb will ruin your steak. 


Mixing the Two?

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

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 you can 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 to begin with, using fresh herbs will make the steak safer to eat as rosemary and thyme both have natural antibacterial properties. 

Selecting Fresh Herbs for Steak

You should always select branches with bright green leaves when shopping for rosemary or thyme.

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 that its flavor bursts in your mouth. 


Thyme and rosemary both have their unique flavor profiles and different uses when it comes to flavoring and tenderizing steaks.

However, rosemary is the recommended herb for steak as it is easier to use and may go a much longer way in terms of 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!


Author: Charlie Reeves
Hi, I’m Charlie, I am head taste tester at Simply Meat Smoking! I love it grilling, smoking, and getting out in the yard with the kids! The family also love to test all my recipes (especially my EXTRA CRISPY pulled pork, smoky pork loin, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill)

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 adventures with you!

You can read more on our About Us page.

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