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Sugar Steak with Bourbon

March 11, 2011

Sugar Steak with Bourbon

- Amanda

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.

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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

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.


Sugar Steak

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!!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • mgo19991
  • betteirene
  • richkeck
  • debo
  • MakeThatMakeThis
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mgo19991 July 27, 2013
Katy your steak sounds great! I am in West Michigan. I will be spending a couple of days in Saugatuk , Douglas and South Haven. Where are you? Lake Michigan is one of the most beautiful places no earth.
betteirene May 1, 2011
Again, because I can never seem to keep a well-stocked pantry, I had to make do with what I had on hand, which was sirloin and Southern Comfort. It was excellent.

I served it with steamed first-of-the-season sugar snap peas with Maldon and butter, a lettuce wedge with gorgonzola buttermilk dressing, and baguettes halved and grilled cut-side down. Amanda, I would love it if you would suggest accompaniments to your recipes here, like the suggestions you provided in TENYTCB. I realize it would add another layer of work, but I had a hard time imagining what would taste wonderful next to this steak.

(BTW, the dressing is made from the dip recipe that accompanies this recipe submitted by lastnightsdinner. For salad dressing, I use just one clove of garlic instead of four.
http://www.food52.com/recipes/2704_buffalostyle_fried_chicken_livers If you haven't made this recipe yet, you should. It's really good, whether or not you love chicken livers.)
Amanda H. May 1, 2011
Accompaniments and menus are something we've been thinking about a lot -- totally agree with you!
richkeck March 16, 2011
The Best!!!! You haven't eaten a steak until you've tried a sugar steak. I was taught how to perfectly cook one of these a few summers ago. I learned using a Weber Grille which always helps deliver perfect meat. Katy is a great teacher and a lot of fun to be with on her deck enjoying a West Michigan Sugar Steak!!!
debo March 14, 2011
Katy Keck has been a friend of mine since we born.. She has been extremely successful as a chef in France, owner operator of New World Grill in NYC, television food artist and consultant, food photographer, owner operator of Savoir Faire Foods, cookbood editor and winner of numerous awards in the Food world.
I have been lucky enough to have experienced the amazing Sugar Steak on the grill at Katy's beautiful summer home in Michigan with our highschool girls only weekend of decadence 3 years running . It is an entree that will keep your guest coming back year after year, absolute mouth watering.
MakeThatMakeThis March 14, 2011
This is a such a great idea for flank steak. It's on the menu for the weekend. Thanks for sharing.
Lynnie L. March 13, 2011
Brings back memories of delicious summer evenings in Spring Lake (on Katy's porch) - Charcoal bonfire and all! Luv u KT!!
lovelilocks March 13, 2011
I've had the delectable pleasure of having Sugar Steak at Katy's... it was, without a doubt, THE best steak I have ever had.... whenever I go to grill steak on the BQ, I think of that night... delish!!
sadhbhín_connor March 13, 2011
Very excited to try this! You don't see steak served like that here in Ireland!
susan_levytsky March 13, 2011
I received a similar recipe when I first got married and moved to Michigan — 23 years ago! Our family recipe uses lots of brown sugar, bourbon Dijon mustard, sliced onions and Worcestershire sauce for the flank steak marinade. Always makes for a slightly sweet, slightly smoky, magnificently crusted family favorite. No leftovers ever!
carol_mahar_jesep March 13, 2011
Can't wait to make your version using bourbon. Sounds tasty. NY Foodie.
Candy2006 March 11, 2011
looks good. I have been living in Bloomington, IN since being dragged here from northern NY (Plattsburgh) . In our tenure here I have never seen sugar steak on any menu. But we do have some specialties, sauerkraut balls...odd but tasty and of course the Tenderloin sandwich. It is pork, they use loin cuts and pound them into submission. These are what Jane and Michael Stern wrote about for Gourmet. The place in Brown County where they had them closed but, happily, they are back.

I use pork tenderloins and panko to make them at home. Basically they are a pork schnitzel on a hamburger bun. The pork is enormous and the bun sits in the middle of a lake of breaded and fried pork. You kind of nibble your way around the thing until you get to the bun.
Teribelle March 11, 2011
:) i luv u, food loon.
Amanda H. March 11, 2011
Food loons, unite!
Danag March 11, 2011
I've had the great pleasure of eating sugar steak on Katy's porch and let me say...the original is delicious! Katy is an amazing and versatile chef with a heart of gold...and she is just as fun as she sounds!
Amanda H. March 11, 2011
Hilarybee March 11, 2011
Sugar steak was a big thing in Michigan where I grew up. I remember it always being served with tart cherry compote.

Like the bourbon idea, but I'd be hard pressed to convince my husband to sacrifice it for a good steak.
Amanda H. March 11, 2011
Ah, tart cherries. That sounds perfect!
Hilarybee March 14, 2011
Amanda, I'll try making a compote this weekend to go with the steak. I'll let you know how it goes.
Sarah P. March 11, 2011
I made this http://www.chow.com/recipes/11608-bourbon-marinated-flank-steak last year for a Kentucky Derby party, and added about 1/2 cup brown sugar, which makes it very similar to yours. Very yummy! It was the hit of the party, besides the races. ;)
Amanda H. March 11, 2011
Great idea for the derby!
MakeThatMakeThis March 14, 2011
It's a great idea for the Derby!
Kitchen B. March 11, 2011
She looks like your TWIN..............wow. And that steak looks stunning. Saying that I'm in Texas (first US trip) and I have enjoyed great Texan hospitality and lots of delicious steak. In my bag is a coffee rub, that I think would be great with some brown sugar and a dash of rum in this recipe. BTW, I made a trip to wholefoods and spent my $100 gift card winnings (from the swordfish contest) - some photos will follow. What I want to say after the preceding words is thank you A&M and fellow food52ers, thank you
Amanda H. March 11, 2011
Hey -- congrats on your trip. Texas is a great place to start in the US. Looking forward to the photos!
boulangere March 11, 2011
Wow, Amanda! I'm going to try this will a bison top round.
Amanda H. March 11, 2011
Sounds like a terrific idea. Please report back!
drbabs March 11, 2011
Oh, baby, there's a flank steak in my freezer with your name on it.
Amanda H. March 11, 2011
Rhonda35 March 11, 2011
Right up my alley, Amanda! Might have to make the original version of the sugar steak while sipping on the bourbon.
Amanda H. March 11, 2011
Yes, note to all: you know what to do with the leftover bourbon...
mrslarkin March 11, 2011
Yippee! It's like Recipe Redux all over again, sort of! Thanks, Amanda. They both sound super yummy. Could we request something non-meat for next Friday? (it being Lent and all.)
Amanda H. March 11, 2011
Yes, and thanks for the reminder.