I know what you’re thinking. No, sprinkling sugar on your steak will not make it taste like candy or obscure its meat flavor. Instead, it delivers a fleeting moment of sweetness followed by a flood of meaty flavors.
The editors of Cook’s Country first heard about sugar steak on a research trip to Denver back in 2015. They visited Bastien’s Restaurant, a historic family-owned eatery that claims to be the home of the sugar steak. Whether or not that’s true (a little research turned up recipes from New Orleans, Kansas City, and California), the dish has been the signature and customer favorite for decades.
That’s because sugar steak is phenomenal. The coating is actually a combination of salt and sugar. When grilled, the sugar caramelizes and produces the ultimate charred crust, and the salt does its job seasoning the meat. I don’t prepare a lot of red meat but this might be the best steak I’ve ever cooked.
- Start with thick steaks. One-inch-thick strip steaks are thick enough to give the crust time to form over the grill without risking overcooking the interior.
- Use the right ratio of sugar to salt: 4 parts sugar to 3 parts salt creates the delicate crust and clean sweetness without any bitterness.
- Sprinkle, rest, then sprinkle again. Salt pulls moisture from the meat, which dissolves the sugar. So apply the rub in two steps: First before a one-hour rest at room temperature, and again right before the steak hits the grill. The moisture that’s drawn out during that rest will help the second coat adhere beautifully to the meat.
- Move the steaks around the grill as they cook. Rotate the steaks once they start to caramelize and swap their positions over the single-level fire. It sounds fussy, but keeping them moving prevents the sugar from burning.