Sugar Steak with Bourbon

By • March 11, 2011 88 Comments

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Author Notes: 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."

For the real sugar steak, Katy's version can be found here: http://food52.com/blog/1792-sugar-steak-with-bourbon
Amanda Hesser

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
  1. Layer together the flank steak, sugar, bourbon, and red pepper flakes in a bowl. Rub the sugar and red pepper flakes into the steak. Put the steak in a 1-gallon plastic bag, add the remaining sugar mixture, seal the bag, and let it rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes and up to 3 hours.
  2. Heat the broiler (or grill) and lay the steak on a baking sheet (one that you're ok with warping under the broiler). Generously season the steak all over with salt. Place the steak under the broiler -- it should be 4 to 6 inches from the flame -- and broil for 3 minutes on each side for medium rare. Transfer the steak to a cutting board and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes, then cut into 1/4-inch slices. Serve with mashed potatoes and sauteed bitter greens.

Tags: barbecue, bourbon, Easy, quick, steak

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Comments (88) Questions (9)

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2 days ago Kevin French

Made this recipe as directed, and despite being a HUGE bourbon fan, the bourbon was way overpowering for the meat. We did not care for this at all. I did not broil, but opted to grill it over an open flame.

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5 months ago jennifer

This recipe looked and sounded lovely, but no one in my family really cared for it. Followed the directions regarding ingredients and marinating. Chose not to cook it under the broiler and was a little afraid grilling it for fear of fire, so opted to follow the suggestions of another commenter to heat a cast iron skillet on the grill until it was, er, rip-snorting hot. Texture and doneness was perfect, but we didn't enjoy the flavor - and it wasn't because we don't like bourbon. I have several recipes that call for it which we routinely make. There was just something about the caramelized sugar/bourbon flavor that was too cloying - sort of 'pruney' sweet.

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6 months ago Alex

sorry but this was absolutely disgusting. Broiled it and it was unediable. The bourbon was way overpowering and just made the flank disgusting.

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11 months ago ATG117

I orignially tried broiling this, but the meat wasn't getting color so I brought it to the grill to finish it off. Are the photos of meat that was broiled?

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11 months ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

It's been a while but I'm pretty sure we broiled it. I have a strong broiler so that might have helped. But either way, I think grilling is preferable so it sounds like you made a great call.

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12 months ago Nancy

Can this marinate over night?

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11 months ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

Yes, I think that would be fine.

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about 1 year ago Jason Wiley

This looks so good! I can't wait to try this on my Weber gas grill. It would probably also go well with mix chopped carrots and corn. Thanks for the recipe by the way.

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about 1 year ago Rodger

Suggestions on a good wine to go with this? Nothing too too expensive?

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about 1 year ago patty

if using a gas grill do you put meat directly on grill over indirect or direct heat?

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about 1 year ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

Yes, you can put it directly on the grill over direct heat.

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about 1 year ago Marc Gordon

what's the remaining sugar? I only saw sugar mentioned once.

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about 1 year ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

The remaining sugar is whatever doesn't stick to the steak after rubbing it. There's always a bit that drops off.

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about 1 year ago lisa

we put a cast iron pan on the grill, heat it up for 10-15 min until it is smoking hot. We put nothing in the pan but salt, drop the steak in cook for a total of 5 min (1 inch steak) turn every min and perfect med rare every time. (nytimes recipe)

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over 1 year ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Amanda, can the resting in the fridge occur in a small, covered glass box rather than a plastic bag? (You know what I think about using plastic bags for purposes like this . . . ) Thank you. ;o)

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over 1 year ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

Yes, of course -- that would work just fine!

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about 2 years ago Michael Cook

HENDSCH, a 3 year old???? Really? Wake Up.

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over 1 year ago veneta vassileva

what's wrong with giving your child nice tasty things, mr. Cook?

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about 2 years ago Gret

It burns off, & just the sugary taste is left.

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about 2 years ago hendsch

Guys, this sounds fabulous and I really want to make it. But is it ok for a three-year old? Is all of the alcohol evaporating during the broil?

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about 2 years ago eric rehwaldt

Ruth, if your fire alarm is as sensitive as mine then you have to keep it shut. Also, a broiler doesn't need air like a charcoal grill does. If you get a grill, the Weber is the only way to fly. It has three legs because you point the leading leg into the wind, open the bottom vent, and open the top vent. Want to cool it down, cut off the oxygen by adjusting adjusting the top vent first. Broiling is an art form. We bought a $38 George Foreman grill and have cooked everything from tasty Paninis to steaks galore, pancakes, and anything else you can think of.

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about 2 years ago Ruth Stromberg

Don't have a grill, if I put it in the oven on broil do I leave the door cracked open?

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about 2 years ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

Yes, I would.

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about 2 years ago eric rehwaldt

Great..totally understandable about having to use propane. Given an equal choice I will always use charcoal for the smoke factor. Probably give me some freaky cancer...but man does it make a fat Porterhouse sizzle. I am giving myself a new grill for my birthday as my Weber has served me since 1986. It's out in the western WA. rain and is used 5 nights out of 7. My wife was quite surprised at my choice of a charcoal/propane grill. I really like the propane hot plate for doing the odd jobs that are hard to do with charcoal. At the end of the day...it's all good.

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about 2 years ago eric rehwaldt

Another recipe is half cup of brown sugar, half cup of low sodium soy sauce (Kikoman rules all other), quarter cup of Apple cider vinegar, eighth cup of olive oil, and one freshly squeased lemon. Marinate OVER NIGHT. Kosher or sea salt just before cooking along with freshly cracked black pepper. Charcoal grilled if possible...with fruit tree chips. Tent with foil and wait 10-15 minutes before cutting it into 1/4 inch slices. Always cut against the grain which is very easy to determine. Best meal in the cow eaters world. Serve with Sakura sauce. Mayo, ketchup, lemon juice, soy sauce, and a dash of Tabasco. With fresh greens salad, and grilled corn...man oh man, life don't get any better. And drink a nice malty beer.

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about 2 years ago Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

Eric, thanks for your comments, and I love the sound of Sakura sauce!

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over 1 year ago Cherie

Thanks for the Kikoman tip, I want to substitute the Bourbon with something non-alcoholic for my kids and this recipe has been sitting in my Pinterest board too long :)

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about 2 years ago eric rehwaldt

Always cut your flank steak AGAINST the grain. Unless you like your meat horribly tough. I grew up eating flank steak (6 siblings...back then it was a cheap cut) Best cut of bovine if you have a charcoal grill. Propane might be great for Hank Hill but it sucks. And the ONLY way to start charcoal is with a chimney. No gas taste, cheap, and eco friendly. Yes, I consider myself a world reknowed flank steak expert.

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about 2 years ago Gret

Sometimes where you live, "regulates" that you cannot use charcoal. So bring on the propane.

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about 2 years ago Emily_JK

Whoa. This was good and couldn't be easier (even for an ex-vegetarian!). Don't skimp on the quality of the booze...the flavor does shine through, which can be a good or a bad thing depending on whether the bottle is top or bottom shelf.