My cousin used to always eat her steak with ketchup (she might still—hi, Elizabeth), which used to mystify me, but now makes complete and utter sense. Ketchup provides the acid—albeit with a ton of sugar—to cut through the richness and ironiness of beef. Or, as Samin Nosrat has taught us, ketchup provides the acid to the steak’s salt, fat, and heat.
There are sauces for your steak, and then there’s steak sauce—which, in my humble, steak-loving opinion, is A.1., period. As Steven Raichlen tells it in Barbecue Bible, in 1824, King George IV tasted a sauce of Henderson William Brand’s creation, and deemed it “A.1.” A literal royal stamp of approval! No wonder the name stuck.
While the back of the bottle states that A.1. is composed of “tomato purée, raisin paste, distilled vinegar, corn syrup, salt, crushed orange purée, dried garlic and onions, spice, celery seed, caramel color, potassium sorbate, and xanthan gum,” all I really taste is Worcestershire and ketchup. (Do any of you pick up on the “crushed orange”? If so, I applaud you and your impressive taste buds.)
This version keeps the tangy sweetness and thicker body of King George’s beloved original, but gets a much-needed umami oomph with the addition of light soy sauce. Not to be confused with “lite” soy sauce—which is soy sauce that’s lighter on sodium—“light” or “white” soy sauce is made with soybeans and wheat that’s been toasted a bit less than shoyu. —Coral Lee
Coral Lee is an Associate Editor at Food52. Before this, she cooked food solely for photos. Before that, she cooked food solely for customers. And before that, she shot lasers at frescoes in Herculaneum and taught yoga.
When she's not writing about or making food, she's thinking about it. Her Heritage Radio Network show, "Meant to be Eaten," explores cross-cultural exchange as afforded by food. You can follow her on Instagram @meanttobeeaten.