I thought I had my Midwestern foods down pat. I knew my fried cheese curds and fried bologna sandwiches. But at a recent food event, I was thrown off my game. Katy Keck, a culinary consultant, told me about sugar steak, a dish completely foreign to me. What, you've never heard of it either? Good. Time for us all to get up to speed.
Sugar steak is very much what it sounds like: steak that's blanketed with a sugar rub and grilled. Katy, who got her recipe for it by surveying the chefs at the Spring Lake Yacht Club close to Lake Michigan, said, "Some use sirloin, some use rib-eye, I have even used CAB top round –- most agree whatever is cheapest. Also some use white sugar, some use brown, some use both." She uses dark brown sugar.
Katy has also come up with a fool-proof technique. "I have a Weber-performer and don’t use the lid on this, nor am I stingy with charcoal," she said. "It’s really impressive when you get 3 steaks going at once (total 14 pounds of meat), though I nearly set the porch roof on fire. Rip-snorting is the official temperature for the grill."
By the time I'd received her instructions by email, I'd already bought a flank steak, which was far too thin for her recipe. I also had my mind set on incorporating bourbon -- if I had a steak and brown sugar, how could I not add bourbon? Unsurprisingly, I ended up with a much different recipe than what she'd sent. My steak, which is bathed in sweetened bourbon and fired up with some red pepper flakes, gets less of a crust. But it does have a pleasantly boozy and assertive kick.
For the real sugar steak, Katy's version follows mine.
Sugar Steak with Bourbon
Serves 3 to 4
- 1 flank steak (about 1 1/2 pounds)
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup bourbon
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Kosher salt
By Katy Keck
Serves 8 to 10 with leftovers
- One 3 to 4-inch slab o’ beef (sirloin, rib-eye, top round), trimmed (about 4 pounds)
- Kosher salt
- Spice rub if desired (I love the South African Cape Herb Company’s “Mexican Wave”)
- Honey Bear honey
- 1 pound dark brown sugar
1. Put the meat on a small serving tray (avoid heavy plates because you will be flipping two plates and 4 pounds of meat -– I love the small melamine trays). Rub with salt and spice. Drizzle with honey (1 to 2 tablespoons). Pack about half the brown sugar on the top side of the meat.
2. Place a second tray on top and flip the meat onto the second tray. Repeat the above process, using all the brown sugar. It's not necessary to do the sides as it will fall off anyway.
3. Let sit about 30 minutes or until the sugar starts to liquefy.
4. Flip the tray onto a rip-snorting fire (charcoal or wood preferred) and scrape the stuck sugar onto the (now) top side. Grill until it releases enough to flip, about 7 minutes.
5. Continue flipping every 7 to 8 minutes, until desired doneness, about 25 to 35 minutes for 3 to 4 pound steak.
6. Remove and tent lightly with foil on a tray to catch juices. Rest for 10 minutes. Slice across the grain and drizzle with the jus.
7. Day 2: What you have left overs?? Arugula, maytag, heirloom, sugar steak salad. YUM!!